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Sand Mining: Overview and Sources in India


Recently, Bihar police arrested sand smugglers in a major crackdown against illegal sand mining.


GS II: Government Policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Sand Mining: Overview and Sources in India
  2. Factors, Consequences, and Challenges in Sand Mining
  3. Initiatives to Prevent Sand Mining in India

Sand Mining: Overview and Sources in India

Definition: Sand mining involves the extraction of primary natural sand and sand resources, including mineral sands and aggregates, from various natural environments such as terrestrial, riverine, coastal, or marine areas. The extracted materials are often valuable minerals, metals, crushed stone, sand, and gravel, which are then processed for various purposes.

Threats and Impacts:

Sand mining, driven by various factors, poses serious threats to ecosystems and communities.

Sources of Sand in India:

Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines (SSMMG) 2016 identify the following sources of sand in India:

  • River: From riverbeds and flood plains.
  • Lakes and Reservoirs: Extraction from water bodies.
  • Agricultural Fields: Sand sourced from fields.
  • Coastal/Marine: Sand extracted from coastal and marine areas.
  • Palaeo-channels: Historical river channels.
  • Manufactured Sand (M-Sand): Artificially produced sand.

Factors, Consequences, and Challenges in Sand Mining

Factors Contributing to Illegal Sand Mining:
  • Inadequate Regulations and Enforcement: Weak regulatory frameworks and enforcement mechanisms.
  • Construction Industry Demand: High demand for sand in the construction industry.
  • Population Growth and Urbanization: Rapid urbanization and population growth drive construction needs.
  • Corruption and Sand Mafias: Influence of organized sand mafias and corrupt practices.
  • Collusion with Authorities: Collusion between authorities and illegal operators.
  • Limited Adoption of Alternatives: Insufficient adoption of sustainable alternatives like M-sand.
  • Ineffective Implementation of EIAs: Lack of effective Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs).
  • Limited Public Awareness: Insufficient public awareness and monitoring mechanisms.
Consequences of Sand Mining:
  • Altered Riverbeds: Changes in riverbeds, increased erosion, and disruption of habitats.
  • Stream Channel Instability: Loss of stability in stream channels, threatening native species.
  • Flooding and Sedimentation: Increased flooding and sedimentation in rivers and coastal areas.
  • Impact on Aquatic Ecosystems: Altered flow patterns and sediment loads negatively affect aquatic ecosystems.
  • Groundwater Table Depletion: Deep pits from mining can cause a drop in the groundwater table.
  • Water Scarcity: Affects local drinking water wells, contributing to water scarcity.
  • Habitat Disruption and Biodiversity Loss: Disruption of habitats leads to significant biodiversity loss.
  • Inadequate regulations, corruption, and lack of awareness contribute to the persistence of illegal sand mining, exacerbating environmental and societal consequences.

Initiatives to Prevent Sand Mining in India

Mines and Mineral Development and Regulation Act, 1957 (MMDR Act):
  • Legal Classification: Sand is categorized as a “minor mineral” under the MMDR Act.
  • State Control: Administrative authority over minor minerals, including sand, rests with state governments.
  • Preventing Illegal Mining: Section 3(e) of the MMDR Act focuses on preventing illegal mining, empowering the government to implement measures against illicit practices.
  • Recent Amendment: The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2023, further strengthens regulations.
2006 Environment Impact Assessment (EIA):
  • Approval Mandate: The Supreme Court mandates approval for all sand mining activities, even in areas under 5 hectares.
  • Ecosystem Protection: Aimed at addressing the severe environmental impact of sand mining on ecosystems, including plants, animals, and rivers.
Sustainable Sand Management Guidelines (SSMG) 2016:
  • Issued by MoEFCC: Guidelines issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • Objectives:
    • Environmentally sustainable and socially responsible mining.
    • Conservation of river equilibrium and natural environment.
    • Prevention of pollution in river water.
  • Avoidance of groundwater depletion.
Enforcement and Monitoring Guidelines for Sand Mining 2020:
  • Uniform Monitoring Protocol: Provides a consistent protocol for monitoring sand mining activities across India.
  • Coverage:
    • Identification of sand mineral sources.
    • Dispatch procedures.
    • End-use monitoring.
  • Technology Integration: Recommends the use of advanced surveillance technologies like drones and night vision for effective monitoring.

-Source: Indian Express

February 2024