Cancel Bhavanapudu Beach Sand Mining Project: HRF

Submissions made by Human Rights Forum (HRF) before the panel holding public hearing into the proposed Bhavanapadu Heavy Mineral Sand Project in the mandals of Santhabommali and Vajrapukothuru mandals of Srikakulam district by Trimex Heavy Minerals Pvt. Ltd.

The Human Rights Forum is a citizens’ forum established with the objective of working for the protection of the Constitutionally guaranteed/internationally recognised rights of the people, and for the right of the people to propose and strive for new rights not yet recognised in national or international law. The right to a wholesome and dignified life is the touchstone for the rights that may be aspired for. In particular the HRF works for the protection of the right to a clean and safe environment. HRF is a self-financed organisation whose members for the most part are from the professions of teaching, journalism and the law. 

We submit that the proposed project does not deserve environmental clearance for a number of reasons which we will elucidate below. HRF believes that there are serious social, environmental and health hazards that the proposed project entails. The process is detrimental to livelihoods and will cause irreversible changes in the ecology of the area.

We have a number of objections to the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environment Management Plan (EIA/EMP) report which will be listed out below. Without prejudice to the first submission we set out the rest of our objections:

Our fundamental submission before the panel is in fact an objection. It concerns the manner in which the public hearing is being held.  We are of the view that unless and until the issues which are relevant for the environmental clearance of the project are made public in a form intelligible and accessible to the people likely to be affected one way or other by the project, this hearing will be a mere formality, even a farce. For that, it is not enough if the requirements of S.O. No. 318(E), Ministry of Environment and Forests, dated 10/4/1997 are formally complied with. Those requirements are merely the minimum necessary to make the hearing transparent and fruitful. What must in fact be done by an applicant establishment would depend upon the circumstances surrounding the project. The S.O No.318(E) that mandates a public hearing is a statutory rule made under the Environment (Protection) Act, and the aim and object of that Act is the point of reference for deciding what are the full requirements for making the public hearing meaningful.   

The detailed EIA and EMP in English running into several hundred pages contains a wealth of details including charts, maps and tables all of which are missing from the Telugu summary which is a mere 17 pages. In fact, the report is an extremely complex and technical one that even a well-informed person will find difficult to comprehend and interpret. How can the local people, largely the fisher-folk, peasantry and the marginalised, be expected to understand it in a language alien to them?  The summary in Telugu merely gives a bald statement of opinions and views without any of the reasoning or information on which it is based. In fact, the Telugu summary is a mere translation of the executive summary from which an important number of factual details are not even contained. It can hardly be the basis of any informed objections.

Holding a public hearing on the environmental aspects of the project without making a copy of the full Environmental Impact report available in Telugu has thus reduced this hearing to a meaningless exercise. As very valuable rights including right to health and livelihood will be affected by the project, the local people have a right to have the report translated into Telugu in full with all the charts, maps and tables so that a genuinely informed discussion can take place. This is more particularly necessary in view of the severe hazards posed by beach sand mining.

The EIA/EMP for the proposed project is of very poor quality and riddled with a number of problems.

1. The EIA/EMP fails to assess the environmental impacts of several major facilities that would necessarily be associated with the proposed project.

The EIA only assesses the impacts of mining (mineral ore extraction).  The EIA describes the scope of the project as follows (on page 1):

“Trimex Heavy Minerals (Pvt) Ltd. has filed an application for grant of Mining lease over an area of 17.95 Sq. km.  … In order to obtain Mining Lease and to achieve the maximum production of 10.0 MTPA M/s Trimex Heavy Minerals (Pvt) Limited has applied to Ministry of Environment & Forest in January 2009.”

Page 10 of the EIA further explains:

“It is proposed to work this deposit by opencast mechanized mining method involving dry mining & dredging.”

However, the entire project would necessarily consist of much more than just mining, but would also include substantial mineral ore processing and water supply facilities, including the following:

A Pre-Concentration-Plant (PCP), as described on page 18 of the EIA/EMP:

“The raw sand (ROM) excavated either by dry or wet method, shall be pumped over a maximum distance of 3.0 km to re-locatable /floating Pre-Concentration Plant (PCP) situated within the ML area.”

A Mineral Separation Plan (MSP), as described as follows on page 21 of the EIA/EMP:

“The above mentioned mineral concentrates will be pumped to a mineral separation plant (MSP) for further processing and separation of individual minerals. By using electrostatic separators, the minerals which are primary conductors and non-conductors will be separated out. The primary conductor-minerals will pass through induced Roll Magnetic separators to separate the Ilmenite in three stages and the Rutile. The non-conductors will pass through high intensity roll magnetic separators and various other processes to liberate, Garnet, Sillimanite, Zircon, etc. The anticipated recovery of minerals through MSP is given in the Table 2.12.”

A 35-km water pipeline, as described as follows on page 23 of the EIA/EMP:

“Good quality of groundwater is available from the Vamsadhara river by establishing an infiltration gallery in the river bed. Distance between the river bed to the MSP and PCP of the proposed site is around 35 km and the water is to be carried by laying a pipe line of the same distance.”

However, the EIA/EMP does not contain any assessment of these three additional, major project facilities. The location of the proposed Mineral Separation Plan (MSP) and the route of the proposed 35-km water pipeline are not even provided in the EIA/EMP, rendering it impossible to assess the full environmental impacts of the proposed project.

2.  The EIA/EMP contains a survey on the presence of Olive Ridley Turtles that is at odds with published information in the scientific literature.

The EIA/EMP concludes that the project would have minimal impact on Olive Ridley turtles because specialists hired to survey found little evidence of Olive Ridley turtles in the project area.  Page 69 of the EIA/EMP states:

“The ENVID Group team members have visited the project area and carried out the surveys during the period from September, 2009 to August, 2010. The Olive Ridley turtle is only an accidental visitor to the study area and cannot be considered as a member of the native fauna. As regards to the impacts on the sea turtles’ nesting, no adverse impacts are assumed as the sea turtles visit the shores for a very brief time for nesting and the nesting incidence in this area is insignificant. Thus, the MLA is hardly a nesting beach as was evident from the frequency of nesting, which was as low as 0.16/km length of the coast.”

          This information is contradicted by published information in the scientific literature, including the following study that the EIA/EMP fails to reference:

Tripathy, B. (October 2003) “Important nesting habitats of olive ridley turtles Lepidochelys olivacea along the Andhra Pradesh coast of eastern India.” Oryx, 37(4):454-463.

According to this study:

“Because Rushikulya, the southernmost mass nesting rookery in Orissa, is only 50 km from the Orissa–Andhra Pradesh border, the Andhra Pradesh coast could be an important nesting habitat for Olive Ridley Turtles. The species is known to nest on the northern Andhra Pradesh coast (Raja Sekhar & Subba Rao, 1993; Priyadarshini 1998) and large numbers have been reported to travel through the shore waters of the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh to and from the nesting beaches of Orissa (Kar, 1983; Raja Sekhar & Subba Rao, 1993).”

“During January–March 2001 intensive surveys of seven beaches and monthly surveys of the rest of the coast provided a lower bound of c. 4,000 nests along the Andhra Pradesh coast. Nesting densities were higher at beaches near river mouths, at 60–100 nests km−1 in northern and central Andhra Pradesh, and 15–20 nests km−1 in southern Andhra Pradesh.”

In fact, some of the highest nesting densities were found between the rivers Vamsadhara and Nagavali from January to March 2001.  See Table 4 on page 459 of the study.

The study concludes: “The importance of the Andhra Pradesh coast also has to be considered in the context of the large numbers of turtles that nest in Orissa.”

This study demonstrates that the proposed beach sand mining project could have a substantial impact on Olive Ridley turtles notwithstanding the survey results included as Annexure V in the EIA/EMP.

3. The EIA/EMP contains an incomplete assessment of how the project would impact local availability of groundwater.

Satellite imagery of the Bhavanapadu mine lease area indicates that a substantial area of cultivated land is just adjacent to the project area seaward of Pundi Road. 

The EIA/EMP indicates that a substantial percentage of these cultivated areas depend on irrigation, most likely from groundwater sources. The EIA/EMP admits that the proposed mining would intersect the groundwater table, requiring mine dewatering.  Page 65 of the EIA/EMP states:

“The water table occurs at depth varying from 5-7 m from surface. Most of the mine workings will be above the water table and at few places only the water table is likely to be encountered, suitable pumping arrangements will be done to pump out the water towards the sea direction. Suitable drainage pattern around the mining area/pit will be provided to arrest the flow of the rain water into the mining area.”

Coastal aquifers are frequently vulnerable to mine dewatering, either by causing saltwater intrusion or lowering of the groundwater table.  If there would be any mine dewatering at all, then the EIA/EMP must provide a quantitative assessment of how such dewatering would impact the availability of groundwater to existing groundwater users.

4.  The EIA/EMP contains contradictory and incomplete assessments of how the project would impact the shoreline position.

Annexure VIII contains a brief report entitled “Shoreline change studies at Bhavanapadu area, Srikakulam District, Andhra Pradesh.” The report examines satellite images from 2002-2010 to arrive at the following conclusion:

“Results indicate that the shoreline is migrating towards land at the rate of 8.22% for the period of 8 years i.e. from 2002 to 2010.  .It is expected that migration of sea towards the land would be accompanied by permanent loss of rare minerals available along the shore.  Hence it is recommended that mining of rare minerals and backfilling of such mined-out areas with sand may be the best solution to prevent such loss.

This is an inept conclusion.  Mining of rare minerals and backfilling of such mined-out areas with sand would further accelerate the migration of sea towards the land that has been occurring since 2002, not ameliorate this situation.


The narrow strip of beach where the mining is proposed is critical to the ecological stability of the region. The beach sand area acts as a sea wall protecting the area from sea erosion and we have no hesitation in stating that the proposed mining will lead to land loss by the coast. Increasing rates of coastal erosion are a given in beach sand mining. Extraction of this exhaustible resource exposes the coast to the ravages of erosion. Once mined off, this area will take millions of areas to convalesce from the devastation. Thus, there are very serious implications for a fragile marine ecological system.

There are several examples of the environmental havoc that such mining has caused, both across the world (for instance in countries like New Zealand, Kenya, Australia and the Caribbean) and in our country, principally in the States of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The entire process of mining and refilling, despite glib assurances by the project proponents will undoubtedly result in not just beach erosion but also saline water infiltrating easily into the ground-water storage aquifers. Sea water incursion and saline incursion will affect farming and ground-water in the area. Consequences will not be limited to the mined area but will impact negatively communities and livelihoods upto several kms inland.  The proposed mining will not only contaminate but will salinate the groundwater, altering the drainage patterns, changing the water balance and drawing down the water table. Also, water requirements for the proposed project are considerable. There will be associated impacts on several water bodies in the region.

Large areas of vegetation will be affected. Contrary to assertions in the EIA/EMP report, the area is rich in coconut, cashew, paddy and mango and in several villages, farmers raise crops very close to the sea. These will be lost to the local communities.

A vibrant fishing community in the area will be hit adversely because of the many negative impacts of the proposed mining. The sea here is a productive fishing ground and thousands of traditional fisherfolk who operate up to 6-8 km offshore will be impacted by the proposed beach sand mining by decreased access to sea front as well as in the form of depleted fish stocks. The proposed mining will affect coast current patterns, thereby affecting fish population.  Needless to add, once uprooted from this milieu, the fisher-folk will find it extremely difficult to get by in another environment.

For all the above reasons, HRF demands abandonment of this extremely destructive project proposal.

VS Krishna 
(HRF State general secretary)                                                                          

KV Jagannadha Rao  
(HRF State secretary)

Komaralthada, Vajrapukotturu mandal, Srikakulam district

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