The National Green Tribunal has rapped Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) over its "incompetence" to decide environmental impact of sand mining in a coastal village in Kollam district.
The NGT said the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) is entrusted with the statutory obligation to enforce the environmental norms which include application of 'Polluter Pays' principle.
"We are surprised that the Board should express its incompetence to decide the issue. If the Board has any difficulty in determining any particular question, it can always take the assistance of any department, including the mining department and expert body, such as the Central Pollution Control Board, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute etc," the NGT said.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel directed the board to consult the matter with concerned departments or experts and file a further report before February 10, 2021 by e-mail.
The KSPCB told the tribunal that it is not competent to assess the other legal aspects of mining, which come under the Department of Mining and Geology, Atomic Mineral Division, Government of India, and causes of beach erosion.
The accused companies raised objection that destruction of beach is not entirely due to the beach mining but there are several reasons for which they demanded an extensive study.
"Similarly the companies report that they are conducting mining as per the mining plans and Government lease issued to them. However the units, even though applied for, have not obtained Environmental Clearance, for beach mining," the board said.
The tribunal had earlier sought a report from the Kollam district administration after taking note of a news report about a 17-year-old girl's viral video on environmental impact of sand mining activity in her coastal village of Alappad in Kerala.
The tribunal's direction came after taking suo motu (on its own) cognizance of an Indian Express news report titled "17-year-old's video gets Kerala talking of impact of sand mining".
The news report mentioned about Kavya S, a class 12 student, who made the video about the environmental impact of the decades-long black sand mining activity in her village Alappad.
"The video, in which she relays a village's strong fears about falling off the map due to extensive dredging and excavation works by two public-sector firms, has become a huge talking point on television news channels, radio stations, and social media networks.
"Her video and word of the campaign have been amplified by Malayalam cinema's young actors like Prithviraj Sukumaran and Tovino Thomas," the news report said.
The report said that Alappad and several villages on the coasts of Kollam and Alappuzha in southern Kerala are rich repositories of black sand that contains important minerals like monazite, ilmenite, rutile and zircon.
"Sand mining activities began in Alappad in the mid-60s, mainly under the auspices of the Centre's Indian Rare Earths Limited and the state-owned Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited," it said.