From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : NA
Mains level : environment impact of sand mining
- From flora and fauna to human residents, no one has been left untouched due to the wanton extraction of sand mining from Yamuna River.
What is sand?
- Sand is a granular material made up of finely divided rock and mineral fragments. According to The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulations) Act of 1957, sand is classified as a “minor mineral”.
What is Sand mining?
- Sand mining is the extraction of sand, mainly through an open pit but sometimes mined from beaches and inland dunes or dredged from ocean and river beds. Sand is often used in manufacturing, for example as an abrasive or in concrete.
Sand Mining overview
- Least regulated: Sand and gravel are the second largest natural resources extracted and traded by volume after water, but among the least regulated.
- Uneven distribution: Sand is created by slow geological processes, and its distribution is not even.
- Desert sand: Available in plenty, is not suited for construction use because it is wind-smoothed, and therefore non-adherent.
- Environmental impact: While 85% to 90% of global sand demand is met from quarries, and sand and gravel pits, the 10% to 15% extracted from rivers and sea shores is a severe concern due the environmental and social impacts.
Concerns of excessive mining
- Deteriorating river banks: Their extraction often results in river and coastal erosion and threats to freshwater and marine fisheries and aquatic ecosystems, instability of river banks leading to increased flooding, and lowering of ground water levels.
- Critical hotspot: The report notes that China and India head the list of critical hotspots for sand extraction impacts in rivers, lakes and on coastlines.
- Broken replenishment: system exacerbates pressures on beaches already threatened by sea level rise and intensity of storm-waves induced by climate change, as well as coastal developments.
- Aesthetic sense is reduced: There are also indirect consequences, like loss of local livelihoods an ironic example is that construction in tourist destinations can lead to depletion of natural sand in the area, thereby making those very places unattractive and safety risks for workers where the industry is not regulated.
- No comprehensive assessment: Despite this, there is no comprehensive assessment available to evaluate the scale of sand mining in India.
- Damage to the environment: Regional studies such as those by the Centre for Science and Environment of the Yamuna riverbed in Uttar Pradesh have observed that increasing demand for soil has severely affected soil formation and the soil holding ability of the land, leading to a loss in marine life, an increase in flood frequency, droughts, and also degradation of water quality.
- Loss to exchequer: It is not just damage to the environment. Illegal mining causes copious losses to the state exchequer.
Innovative use of technology
State governments such as Gujarat have employed satellite imagery to monitor the volume of sand extraction and transportation from the riverbeds.
- Where to mine and where to prohibit mining: District Survey Report for each district in the country, focusing on the river as a single ecological system. ISRO, remote sensing data, and ground truthing are all used.
- Sustainable mining: It involves extracting only the amount of material that is deposited each year.
- District authorities’ participation in the process: The District Collector chairs the District Environment Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA). The District Collector will be assisted by the District Level Expert Appraisal Committee (DEAC), which is led by the Executive Engineer (Irrigation Department) and is tasked with granting environmental clearance for up to 5 hectares of mine lease area for minor minerals, primarily sand.
- Protecting sand mineral requires investment in production and consumption measurement and also monitoring and planning tools. To this end, technology has to be used to provide a sustainable solution.
Q. A growing global population increasingly living in cities has led to a spiralling rise in the extraction of sand and aggregates, with serious environmental, political and social consequences. Examine.