Friday, June 18, 2021

Supreme Court stays government’s plan to extract aggregates for export

The Supreme Court today issued an interim order to the government not to implement its policy to extract sand, pebbles and stones for export.

The environmentalists welcomed the decision as they have been opposing the government policy -- for the fiscal year 2021-22 -- to extract the sand, pebbles and stones for export. The apex court directed the government not to implement the fiscal policy citing the fundamental right of citizens to clean environment in Article 30 of the Constitution that reads every citizen shall have the right to live in a clean and healthy environment.

The Constitutional Bench comprising of chief justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana and justices Deepak Kumar Karki, Mira Khadka, Hari Krishna Karki and Bishwambhar Prasad Shrestha today issued the order to the government not to implement the decision until there is a final decision on the case. "It is not appropriate to implement point number 199 of the federal budget as using ordinance on issues like natural resources will have a long-term impact because that will interfere with the rights and effectiveness of the legislature,” the Constitutional Bench said.

The point number 199 of the federal budget reads, "Based on environmental impact assessment, mine-based stones, pebbles and sand can be exported to bridge the trade deficit gap."

But the Constitutional Bench also citing Article 51(g) -- which talks about policies relating to protection, promotion and use of natural resources -- said that while using the national resources of the country inter-generational coordination and environmental balance should be given due importance.

The apex court said that the government's decision violates Articles 30 and 51 of the Constitution. It also said that the decision is against the principle of ordinance. Article 30 relates to the environment, while Article 51 relates to the basis for the policies of the state.

As the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli dissolved the House of Representatives, his finance minister Poudel presented the budget through an ordinance. Though, finance minister Poudel defended the move by claiming that the government will not touch Chure region, the environmentalists and intelligentsia claimed that the illegal excavation of the sand and pebbles from any part of Nepal's young mountains will lead to environmental destruction. Recently, the nexus between politicians and illegal extraction industry has become a strong threat not only to the environment but also to the law and order.

Some seven different writ petitions have been filed at the Supreme Court, where the petitioners have claimed that extracting the Chure resources in the name of decreasing trade deficit with India will degrade the environment.

Following the petition, the apex court has ordered the government to furnish reasons behind the government policy within a week.

Earlier too, after a lots of debate and discussions, the government had banned the extraction of sand and stones in the Chure region since July 2014, also to protect the lives of more than half of the country’s population in the Southern plains. The government has also formed President Chure-Terai Madhesh Conservation Development Board with a master plan to conserve the Chure hills.

Sand is one of the rarest commodities in the world today, as it is the world’s most consumed raw material after water. India and China top a list of countries where illegal sand mining has become a major environmental problem, according to a report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). India and China has  become the largest consumer of sand in recent years also due to rapid urbanisation.

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