Sri Lanka to deploy military as loosening transport permits triggers illegal sand mining
ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s decision to liberalize the permits to transport of sand, granite and soil is being abused, with complaints of spike in illegal mining, co-cabinet spokesperson Minister Ramesh Pathirana said.
“We have received complaints that the recent liberalization of permits to transport minerals is being abused,” he told reporters in Colombo on Friday.
“So we will strengthen the process of only allowing permit holders to mine minerals,” he said.
“We want to minimize any environmental damages caused by illegal sand mining.”
Pathirana said the army will be deployed to monitor and investigate cases of illegal mineral mining, and the cabinet had approved the proposal put forth by Environment Minister S. M. Chandrasena.
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The cabinet on December 05 decided to remove the permits for transportation of minerals, saying the construction industry was facing short-supply of raw materials.
Environmentalists had warned at the time, the move would expand illegal mining as most illegal activity is detected through transport.
“I am of the position that it is better for the Government to reconsider this Cabinet decision because, otherwise, unauthorised mining will flourish” environmental lawyer and environmentalist Jagath Gunawardena was quoted as saying in RepublicNext, a news portal in December.
“Much of the illegally mined rock, sand and soil are caught while transporting in random searches.
“With this decision, unauthorised miners will be able to freely transport the material undetected.”
The Geological Survey and Mines Bureau (GSMB) issues mineral transport licenses. It also issues licenses for exploring minerals, mining minerals for artisanal or industrial purposes, and for exports.
According to GSMB annual reports, illegal sand mining in rivers, rock mining quarries and soil mining is prevalent, and the agency gets blamed for the resulting environmental and social damage, although inter-agency cooperation is required to reduce illegal mining and transport.
Kithmina Hewage- Institute of Policy Studies