By Anuj Jindal:
The suspension of SDM of Gautam Budh Nagar has raised the issue of ongoing illegal sand mining in areas of Uttar Pradesh and the entire country in general. Sand mining comes under “minor minerals mining (which includes building stones, gravel, ordinary clay, ordinary sand other than sand used for prescribed purposes)”, regulation of which lies with the state department of geology and mines. But, as per recommendations of a committee setup by Ministry of environment and forests (MoeF) in 2010 and endorsed by the Supreme Court in 2012 and National Green Tribunal in 2013, mining of sand requires environmental clearance by the environment ministry. This had been done to regulate excessive sand mining which results in aquatic habitat destruction and fall in water table.
Though the media is covering illegal sand mining extensively due to the spat between ruling government of Uttar Pradesh and SDM Durga Shakti Nagpal, little attention has been paid to the recent dilution of rules by MoEF regarding clay and ordinary earth mining which is used in brick industry.
The reason provided for such easing of regulations is the impact on development activities due to strict clearance requirements. Also, environmental impact has been declared as not serious enough to bring clay mining up to 5 ha under strict regulations. Mining of sand has direct negative consequences on environment but clay and ordinary earth mining impacts the environment from two directions.
First of all, it destroys the top layer of soil which forms the most fertile and vital layer for agriculture and a healthy ecosystem. Heavy pressure on land due to population explosion and concretization has already resulted in a fall in soil quality and quantity for agriculture and ecosystem management. Further easing of rules will lead to unregulated clay mining.
Secondly, brick industry in India is one of the most polluting industries in the world. It has already been banned in many countries like United States of America and China. It has been replaced with a more environment friendly and efficient industry of AAC blocks which also complies with international standards related to earthquakes, heat and fire resistance.
Brick industry is also marred with labor exploitation on a large scale. AAC block industry overcomes this limitation by being an organized and well regulated industry. The question that remains partially unanswered is the reason for reliance on sand and clay mining when more advanced and environment friendly substitutes like glass waste, copper slag and autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) blocks are available and waiting to grow.
Given the fact that construction industry in India is in its developing stage, it is necessary to develop a futuristic and proactive approach to realize the aim of 12th five year plan which includes the creation of a sustainable environment.