Pampa sand removal: MoEFC seeks Law Ministry’s opinion on NDMA overruling Forest Conservation Act

By Special Correspondent
File photo of sand being removed at Pampa-Triveni river in the foothills of Sabarimala (Source: The Hindu)

Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFC) has sought the opinion of the Ministry of Law on whether the National Disaster Management Act, 2005 (NDMA) has an overriding effect over the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 in the case related to the removal of sand from Pampa River pending before the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

The Southern Bench of the tribunal had constituted an expert committee after it took suo motu notice of The Hindu report ‘Forest dept. told to permit sand removal from Pampa’ published on May 30 last year. The State respondents were told to respond on the circumstances under which the NDMA was invoked for the purpose of desilting. The Opposition had accused the Left government of having used flood preparedness as a cover to bypass the Forest Conservation Act.

In its affidavit filed before the tribunal, the MoEFC stated that prior approval of the central government is required for carrying out any non-forestry activity on forest land. It is pertinent to note that the removal of sand or debris from the rivers, during 2019, was done after obtaining clearance under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. But the same clearance was not obtained for the removal of debris in Pampa and Kakki rivers in 2020, it said.

The Ministry pointed out that any decision on the use of forest land for non-forestry purposes is done on the basis of field data and other scientific/field reports/inputs on the area by an expert committee. It is true that both the Acts have non-obstante clauses, it said.

The tribunal had sought the view of the MoEFC as to whether permission under the Forest Conservation Act is required for such activities. It was also asked whether the Disaster Management Act will override the environmental laws.

The legal opinion of the Department of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice was sought in view of the ambiguity in considering the overriding effect between the provisions of both the Acts.

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