Hyderabad: Following an uproar on over-exploitation of river sand in Andhra Pradesh, the state government on Sunday announced a new policy banning inter-state sand transport.

Acting on court orders, the government formulated the policy under which sand reaches would be allotted for mining through draw of lots. The policy has also banned the use of poclains on river beds and fixed sand price at Rs.325 per cubic metre.

Minister for Mines and Geology Galla Aruna Kumari told reporters on Sunday that the new sand quarrying policy was prepared keeping in the mind observations made by the courts and concerns of affected people.

The policy is expected to ease the shortage of sand, which has badly affected the construction industry in the state. The minister said the government, if necessary, would treat sand as an essential commodity.

Under the policy, formulated on the recommendations of a seven-member cabinet sub-committee headed by the minister, sand would be supplied free of cost for the Indiramma housing scheme for the weaker sections of society. Priority would also be given to meet requirements of concerned sand mining areas.

The minister said the entire money earned by the government through royalty would be deposited in the accounts of concerned zilla parishads. The mining department would also take steps to promote use of rock sand.

The minister said the policy would also apply to those already quarrying the sand. She warned that if anyone was found violating the regulations, the department would cancel the mining license and seize the machinery.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court in March had stayed sand mining and auction of sand reaches in the state. The Supreme Court had also rejected the state's petition to vacate the lower court's order. The state government subsequently approached the State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority of the union Ministry of Environment and Forests, which granted permission for mining in 36 sand reaches in four rivers.

Some people had moved the high court, alleging that there was a strong contractor-politician-bureaucrat nexus in sand mining, and that mine lease holders were violating rules and regulations. Some environmentalists too had gone to the court, contending that over-exploitation of river sand was creating environmental imbalance.

They argued that the sand mining should not cause water and sound pollution and that the government should not allow quarrying in the absence of Environmental Impact Assessment. Andhra Pradesh has 47 major sand reaches and needs an estimated two crore cubic metres of sand a year.

The court stay on sand mining had hit hard the construction industry with the price shooting up from Rs.500 a tonne to Rs.3,000 a tonne.


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