Pushed to the wall by the Bombay High Court at Goa over the illegal sand mining, the mines department has decided to requisition patrolling boats of the Captain of Ports to check illegal sand mining in state rivers until the enforcement squad kicks in.
A senior official of the mines department said the ports department has been asked to provide functional boats to operate in all the six talukas of Pernem, Bardez, Tiswadi, Bicholim, Sattari, Ponda and wherever sand is excavated.
The decision comes in the wake of a directive of
the Bombay High Court at Goa on Monday that gave the department two extra days to form flying squad on rivers.
In August 2013, the mines department with the district collector had set up a flying squad. But it was not made functional due to the lack of boats.
“We will be reviving the flying squad to monitor illegal mining with the same composition and by taking assistance from other government departments,” said the official.
The High Court reprimanded the mines directorate strongly during the hearing of a writ petition filed by the ‘Federation of Rainbow Warriors’ against the directorate over the absence of a plan to control the illegal sand mining.
The HC pulled up the mining department for not having a patrolling plan in place and for only doing road surveillance and not monitoring the river as instructed.
The court said that a regulatory mechanism with functional boats and a complaint forum for observers of the illegal sand mining to register complaints must be set up to avoid any restraint order before the sand mining season starts on October 1.
The High Court also observed that it is obvious that the state will not be able to curb the illegal sand mining if it does not have an enforcement mechanism in the form of patrolling squad. The state also has not set up any helpline or a complaint platform to receive any information regarding illegal sand mining. In such a state of affairs, how it will deter illegal sand mining is difficult to discern.
A government counsel told the High Court that the director of mines and geology will create an enforcement squad and a communication to that effect will be issued by Tuesday.
The next hearing date is September 12, when the directorate of mines will have to apprise the HC of the progress made in the flying squad formation.
Speaking to ‘The Navhind Times’, the official of the mines department claimed that the 2013 patrolling boat cum flying squad operated at Camurlim.
However, from the court hearing it is evident that the flying squad never worked.
About 441 permits are issued by the mines department for sand extraction: the mines department earned royalty of about Rs 66 crore in 2016.
To keep a check on sand extraction activities, the department has asked the canoes to be fitted with GPS for patrolling in the rivers.
However, there have been several complaints against the illegal sand mining from villagers living along the rivers where sand mining takes place.
On the HC directive, the mines directorate said that it is in the process of forming flying squads and will do so by the next hearing date, viz. September 12.