New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal has issued a slew of directions to the chief secretaries of the states and union territories, and the Environment Ministry on a batch of applications relating to updation of enforcement and monitoring mechanism to control and regulate illegal sand mining, including riverbed sand mining.

Some of these applications have been pending for about seven years while others have been tagged to the pending matters later, from time to time, in view of common question of illegal sand mining.

Unsustainable sand mining practices are rampant in India.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel directed all the states and union territories to strictly follow the Sustainable Sand Management Guidelines, 2016.

"We further direct that periodic inspection be conducted by a five-members Committee, headed and coordinated by the SEIAA and comprising CPCB, State PCB and two expert members of SEAC dealing with the subject."

At the national level, a review needs to be conducted at least once in a year by the Secretary of Environment in coordination with the Secretaries Mining and Jalshakti Ministries, the Central Pollution Control Board, the bench stated.

All the states and union territories are further directed to publish their annual reports on the subject and such annual reports may be furnished to the Environment Ministry by April 30 every year, giving the status of the issue till March 31.

Based on such reports, the ministry has been asked to prepare a consolidated report and publish its own report on the subject, preferably by May 31 every year.

"We direct the Secretary MoEF to convene a meeting in coordination with the CPCB and Mining and Jalshakti Ministries of Central Government and such other experts at National level and representatives of states within three months... holding of such meetings will provide clarity on enforcement strategies and help protection of environment," it said.

In January 2020, the environment ministry came out with 'Enforcement & Monitoring Guidelines for Sand Mining 2020' to regulate sand mining and check illegal mining.

This comes four years after the government's 'Sustainable Sand Management Guidelines 2016', which was unsuccessful in putting an end to rampant illegal sand mining across the country.

The guidelines suggest the use of technologies like drones with night vision for surveillance of sand mining sites, steps to identify sources of sand, procedures for replenishment of sand, post environmental clearance monitoring of sand mining sites, a procedure for environmental audit of such areas and steps to control the instances of illegal mining.