In a major victory for the environmentalists and defeat to the State Environment Minister Alexio Sequeira, Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) has turned down Goa government’s request to exempt sand mining activity from the purview of Coastal Regulation zone (CRZ) violations.
State Environment Minister Aleixo Sequeira had put up the case before a high level committee in Delhi recently seeking relaxation to sand mining activity in the new CRZ notification 2011.
As per the minutes of the meeting, which was held on February 24, in New Delhi, Sequeira sought relaxation with regards to mining of sand in the water bodies influenced by tides.
The high level body, which is represented by all the coastal states and senior MoEF officials, refused to concede the request of Goa.
“This request was not agreed since sand mining in water bodies has serious impact on the shoreline causing erosion”, the minutes of the meeting read.
The committee also ruled that “it (sand mining) also destroys the flora and fauna which directly impacts the breeding, spawning and migratory routes of fish and shell fish”.
Even as sand mining has been considered as paramount for the construction industry, the MoEF has suggested that Goa should start utilizing crush rock and other alternative construction material and reduce their dependence on sand.
The meeting was held to discuss the issues relating to CRZ notification 2011. The State representatives from Gujarat, Daman and Diu, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal were present for the meeting.
Goa was represented by Environment Minister Sequeira, Secretary V K Jha and Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) member secretary Michael D’Souza.
Discussing the issue of CRZ violations along State’s 105-km-long coastline, Sequeira stated that the action has been initiated to identify the violations and report have been submitted to the High Court after studying the satellite images.
Sand extraction business in the State has remained a much unsuspected and less bothered trade although it has changed the geology at several places in the State.
Sand extraction, a trade which happens right in the river basin, is responsible for increase in salinity of water in Mandovi, Chapora and Tirakhol Rivers. The overexploitation of sand has caused serious environmental impact.
The experts in Goa feel that “considering the pace of construction activity happening in Goa and the neighbouring States, sand will be a scarce commodity in the near future”.
Keeping all these points in mind, the State Government in a fresh notification issued on March 4 had banned transportation of ordinary sand outside the State boundaries. The notification has come as a major blow to the sand mining contractors.