ACTING TOUGH: The Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board office in Ranchi
Ranchi, Aug. 11: The Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board today ordered its district offices to seal illegal sand mining and other polluting businesses and submit action reports on them within three weeks, displaying for the first time a willingness to crack down on operators with money and political muscle.
Illegal sand mining apart, the whip covers the entire gamut of illegal stone quarrying, crusher plants, industries, healthcare centres, hotels, vehicle service centres and other business entities running without consent-to-operate certification from the pollution board and environment clearance.
“We have asked regional pollution officers to serve showcause notices and stop activities with immediate effect. Deputy commissioners and police superintendents of respective districts have been directed to cooperate with the crackdown,” Jharkhand pollution control board chairman Mani Shankar said, adding JSPCB directives would be applicable to all establishments that require the board’s consent.
The board, in its circular, also cited the National Green Tribunal’s nationwide ban on illegal sand mining. The tribunal, following the uproar over the illegal sand mining along the Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh, recently imposed a stay on the practice wherever done without proper clearance.
Unchecked sand mining from riverbeds and coasts causes the natural barrier between a huge water body and the plains to erode and removes necessary minerals. Sand mining, carried by the influential construction industry, over a long period gives rise to floods and threatens aquatic life and communities residing nearby.
In Jharkhand, the proposed clean crackdown, however, bared the need for two things. One is the need for the pollution board, departments of mining and environment and forests, district administration and police to work in tandem. Secondly, records of mining and non-mining units and their certification status need to be prepared and updated regularly.
Shankar conceded they didn’t have established records of illegal entities functioning in the state but added they existed everywhere.
“Why illegal sand mining, stone quarrying, mining, digging without permission are rampant. But no matter what, the law of the land will prevail,” he said.
One of the board’s regional officers posted in Dhanbad, D.P. Singh said even showcause was not needed.
“Supreme Court restricted the functioning of entities without consent to operate from state pollution boards concerned. Now, the green tribunal has categorically stated such establishments should be sealed. I don’t think serving showcause or prior notice is needed,” he said.
Singh added the seizure order for 41 crusher units, 18 mines and 26 industrial units such as rice mills, ceramic units and cement plants had been prepared.
In Seraikela-Kharsawan and East Singhbhum, sand illegally mined from the banks of Subernarekha and Kharkai and loaded on trucks feeds the realty boom in Adityapur and Jamshedpur industrial hubs.
In Ranchi, stone quarrying and illegal crushing units are aplenty. “Unfortunately, we don’t have records but we keep seizing such units. From Monday, it will pick up pace again,” said a forest official.
In cities, hotels will also be under the scanner. Fresh central pollution control board guidelines classify hotels as green (up to 20 rooms), orange (21-100 rooms) and red (above 100 rooms).
“All hotels need certification from the state pollution board on the categories they belong to as they use natural resources such as land, water and fuel,” a senior board official said.
He added healthcare units, including pathology clinics, nursing homes or hospitals, especially waste disposal systems, came under their radar. “A crackdown on these units will reveal the true picture of operating units. If most public utilities are sealed due to lack of certification, a massive uproar may ensue,” he said.