Revised permit method for sand mining
Circular being drafted following Task Force recommendations
By Buddhika Samaraweera
The Environment Ministry is to revise the method of issuing permits for sand mining and obtaining soil through excavation and the relevant circular is currently being prepared, The Morning learnt.
The revision is in accordance with the recommendations given by the Presidential Task Force which was appointed to study the exploitation of geological resources for prioritised development activities and to meet the needs of those who depend on such resources for small-scale livelihood activities and traditional vocations.
When contacted by The Morning to inquire about this, Environment Ministry Secretary Dr. Anil Jasinghe said that the Task Force discussed at length the current system of obtaining soil and sand for development activities. Following the discussions, a number of recommendations had been made to rectify some of the shortcomings in the system, he added.
Accordingly, the focus is on sand mining through a co-operative system to benefit low-income earning groups, he noted. He added that the programme is planned to be implemented under the supervision of the respective divisional secretaries while the sand will be transported to Colombo by train with the intervention of Geological Survey and Mines Bureau Technical Services (Pvt.) Ltd. (GSMBTS).
“Undue intervention of various intermediaries has been a major factor in the increase in sand and soil prices, so the GSMBTS’s intervention may reduce the impact of such intermediaries on sand transport,” he observed.
Dr. Jasinghe also said that the amount of sand available from any location will be assessed through the GSMBTS, and in the future, licences would be issued to obtain sand based on that quantity assessed by the GSMBTS.
Speaking further, he said: “Another important task is to restore the land after obtaining sand or soil. Landslides, in particular, can be caused by the non-restoration of excavated land. As a solution to this problem, a system is currently in place to obtain a cash deposit from the relevant persons when issuing permits for obtaining soil. If they don’t restore the land after the excavation work, the money will not be refunded.”
However, he said that due to certain reasons, this system is not working properly, and that therefore, the Ministry had planned to identify those problems and address them. He also said that the relevant legal provisions in regard to these matters would be made available soon.
In October 2020, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed a Task Force to study the exploitation of geological resources for prioritised development activities and to meet the needs of those who depend on such resources for small-scale livelihood activities and traditional vocations. The 18-member Task Force is Chaired by Ministry of Public Services, Provincial Councils, and Local Government Secretary J.J. Rathnasiri, and other members include the secretaries to several Ministries, the Agrarian Development Department Director General (DG), the Land Commissioner General, the Forests Conservator General, the Land Use Policy Planning Department’s DG, the Central Environmental Authority’s DG, the Deputy Inspector General of Police of the Environmental Division, the GSMB Chairman, the Urban Development Authority’s Chairman, the National Planning Department’s Additional DG, and the National Physical Planning Department’s Acting DG.