Pradeep Pattanayak

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday criticised the Odisha government over its failure in curbing illegal smuggling of sand from the Mahanadi river bed. The green panel has also imposed a fine of Rs38 lakh on the lease holders.

The tribunal has also directed that the fine money be deposited within three months.  

In this regard, advocate Shankar Pani said, “In May 2021 a petition was filed in the NGT in connection with the lease awarded for lifting sand from the Mahanadi river bed at Nuapatna. While hearing the petition, the NGT has imposed a fine of Rs 38 lakh on the lease holders towards environment compensation.”

The tribunal also directed the State government to take stringent measures to check illegal sand mining.

Moreover, the State government has been directed to install CCTV cameras at all the leased out sand mines along the Mahanadi river bed, ensure that the trucks engaged in transporting sand are fitted with GPS and take help of satellite pictures to zoom in on illegal lifting of sand. 

This apart, the panel directed the State government to allot permits for lifting of sand which gets replenished automatically. 

It is worth mentioning here that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had in January this year alleged that some Ministers and MLAs belonging to the ruling BJD were in cahoots with the sand mafia. 

The State president of BJP River Protection Committee Maheswar Sahu had then alleged that the illegal sand mining had caused a loss to the tune of Rs 14,000 crore to the State exchequer and caused extensive damage to rivers like Mahanadi, Baitarani, Brahmani, Subarnarekha and Rushikulya.