Court bars export of sand, aggregatesRuling says the government is a trustee in the protection of natural resources.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the extraction of stones, aggregates and sand be done only for domestic consumption after having a law in place.
The full text of the verdict issued on the writ petitions filed against the erstwhile government's move to export construction materials says the destruction of nature shouldn’t be allowed in the name of boosting export.
In the national budget for the fiscal year 2021-22, the KP Sharma Oli government had come up with the idea to export stones, pebbles and sand. “Based on the environmental impact assessment, mine-based stones, pebbles and sand can be exported to minimise the trade deficit,” then-finance minister Bishnu Paudel had said while unveiling the budget.
The decision was challenged in the Supreme Court saying the move would destroy nature and increase the risk of natural disasters. On June 18 last year, the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court through an interim order directed the government not to implement its policy to extract stones, pebbles and sand for export.
The full text of the final verdict passed in May last year by the constitutional bench led by then acting Chief Justice Deepak Kumar Karki, was issued a few days ago.
“It is necessary to prepare an umbrella law after proper research and in consultation with independent experts to guide the extraction of stones, pebbles and sand only for the construction of the private and public infrastructure within the country,” says one point in the verdict.
Until the federal parliament prepares a law in line with the constitution and its spirit, no export of stones, pebbles and sand would be done from any part of the country, the decision further said. It has also directed the government to undertake strict surveillance to stop any such exports.
Senior advocate Dinesh Tripathi, one of the writ petitioners, said the court has clearly said that stones, pebbles and sand are not export items. “There is no law that specifically guides extraction of such materials,” he told the Post. “As per the court order, the incoming parliament must focus on preparing the necessary law at the earliest. Until then, the extraction must stop.”
Though the court’s spirit is to stop the export of such materials, it has allowed the legislature to use its authority to prepare a law with due focus on environment protection, Tripathi added.
The court has observed that an unchecked extraction of such materials adversely impacts the environment and nature, and is against the constitution.
Article 30 of the constitution states that every citizen has the right to live in a clean and healthy environment. The court has said being a trustee in the protection of natural resources, the government must take every decision only after proper study and impact assessment. The order further says the country must save nature and ecology for upcoming generations and it is their right to live in a clean environment.
The constitutional bench observed that a wrong perception has taken hold that the local governments have the prerogative to extract such construction materials from rivers and mines. “In our cooperative federalism, the local governments are meant to work hand in hand with the people in their need and development works,” reads the apex court’s ruling. “They were not created for extraction and export purposes, neither does the constitution give them with such authority.”
As matters stand, the local governments have been awarding contracts for the extraction of construction materials from rivers and mines.