New Sand Policy
The much awaited sand policy was finally rolled out after an intense
CM Jagan led YSRCP government introduced the new sand policy on September 5. The old sand policy was scrapped and the Andhra Pradesh government replaced it with a new one. The newly enforced policy commissioned the Andhra Pradesh Mineral Development Corporation (APMDC) to run the stockyards.
Where was the need for a new Policy?
In December last year, a bench led by National Green Tribunal Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel dispensed orders to the Chief Secretary of Andhra Pradesh to disallow all free-for-all sand mining. The NGT also struck an interim penalty of Rs.100 crores for the state’s ‘inaction’ in thwarting illegal mining. This was however stayed by the Supreme Court.
In January 2019, a seven-member team from the Central Pollution Control Board and State Pollution Control Board visited eight locations, one of which is near the residence of Ex Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu. The team confirmed the mechanised and “unscientific excavation of sand” in Krishna river, based on which NGT slapped the fine. It also pointed out that about 2,500 trucks, Lorries and tractors are operated per day for transporting the extracted sand. The committee noted that this may lead to bank erosion.
Committee for New Sand Policy
Soon after coming to power, the government had set up a committee to frame the new sand policy with the intention of curbing the hoarding and black marketing of sand and to lower sand price. According to YSRCP, the sand policy under the TDP government was defective and encouraging ruthless misuse of sand reaches in river streams and rivulets. The government suspected that the policy was pro-middlemen and was detrimental to the interests of sincere consumers.
To address this, a committee was set up to finalise the modalities of a new sand policy that ensures “sustainable sand mining, in compliance to environmental regulations, ensuring affordable prices of sand and raising valuable public revenues to the state exchequer.”
What the new policy states
1.The state government has declared that the APMDC Ltd will act as a mediator to operate on behalf of the government, and to oversee “quarrying and supply to achieve the objectives of sustainable sand mining, compliance to environmental regulations, ensuring affordable prices of sand and raising valuable public revenues to the state exchequer.”
2. Centred on the volume of the water bodies (rivers, rivulets, streams and tanks), the state government has now categorised quarrying under I to V categories and higher. Sand mined under I II III – for housing schemes, for government-sponsored weaker sections – will be free of cost with minimal appropriate charges.
3. The state government also stated that the sand digging in river streams falling under categories IV, V and higher, will be subject to Andhra Pradesh Minor Mineral Concession Rules (APMMC) 1966. As per the new sand policy, a tonne of sand will be available for Rs.370 only at APMDC-run stockyards.
4. The APMDC also said that it will set up CCTV cameras at sand reaches, stockyards and weighbridges to monitor sand operations and vehicular movement.
Former Union Government Secretary and environmental activist EAS Sarma stated, “As far as the policy on the supply of sand, once mined, is concerned, AP’s new guidelines eliminate the middlemen and help ensure that sand reaches the genuine users at a reasonable price. Of course, the proof of the pudding lies in its eating. We should wait and watch as to how it works, as many political leaders on either side of the fence run sand mafias.”
– Harjeet Kaur