The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has ordered the constitution of a joint committee to inquire into the alleged illegal mining of laterite at Bhamidikaloddi village in Sarugudu panchayat of Nathavaram mandal in Visakhapatnam district.
The order was issued this week, after an application by the tribal people seeking it was reviewed and admitted by Justice Ramakrishnan and K. Satyagopal, an expert member. As per the order, the committee will comprise a senior officer from the MoEF&CC, the District Collector, the District Forest Officer, a senior officer from the Mines and Geology Department of A.P., and a senior officer from the AP Pollution Control Board.
As per the order, the committee will examine the nature of land where the mining activity is taking place as per the original revenue records (prior to Independence), whether the respondent has obtained all permissions, including clearance under the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980, the manner in which the mining has been done, and whether it has affected the ecology and environment, whether excess mining has been done and, if so, the quantity of excess, whether the road has been expanded without obtaining the required permissions from the authorities concerned, and whether pollution norms have been complied with or not.
The committee has been asked to submit its report, including the action taken report, before August 31, and has directed the Department of Mines and Geology to provide the required logistic support.
The NGT has also asked the Principal Conservator of Forests to file an independent report regarding the nature of land and whether any permission under the Forest (Conservation) Act is required for carrying out such an activity, and whether violations have been committed under the forest laws and under the provisions of the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act.
The PCF has been asked to submit the report along with the action taken report.
Tribals in fix: Grama sabhas fabricated
The tribal people, who have been on the warpath over the laterite mining issue, had filed an application with the NGT. The applicants had alleged that unauthorised laterite stone mining activity was being done in the forest area without obtaining the required clearances from the Forest Department.
The permission for laterite mining was granted in 2012 for a period of 20 years over an extent of 121 hectares of forest land, they said. Further, it was alleged that a road, which was intended for the tribal people’s use, was expanded without getting clearances from the authorities concerned, including the Forest Department. It was also alleged that the gram sabhas were fabricated to obtain permission from the government.