August 14, 2008

No Sand Dredging Without NOC: Minister Halts Aug 14 Auction

By Prafulla Marpakwar

MUMBAI: Environment Minister Ganesh Naik on Monday stayed the proposed sand dredging operations in the entire Konkan-Thane belt, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts, saying that without a no- objection certificate from the environment department, there will be no sand dredging activity.

Konkan Divisional Commissioner S S Sandhu confirmed that his office had received an official communication from the environment department. "We have been asked to cancel the August 14 auction of sand dredging till an environmental clearance is obtained," he said.

Significantly, sand traders were shocked and surprised by Naik's order as it was for the first time in the environment department's history that the environment minister has stepped in to stay the sand dredging operations. "We are in the trade for several years, but this was the first time that the minister has stayed the auction," a sand dredger said.

According to reports, after a brief meeting, Naik asked Director of Environment G N Warade to issue orders to the Konkan divisional commissioner to cancel the auction. Accordingly, Warade issued an official order to the Konkan divisional commissioner as well as collectors of Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg. The commissioner had planned to auction sand dredging on the banks of River Savitri and Bankhod creek on August 14.

In his one-page notice, Warade pointed out that since the auction notice was issued without the clearance of the environment department, it should be cancelled forthwith.

Warade also stated that in January and June 2008, the environment department had specifically asked the competent authorities in Konkan region not to make the auction notice public without obtaining the no-objection certificate from the environment department.

Warade warned that if the auction takes place on August 14, then the state government will invoke the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act against the erring officials.

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