bdnews24.com senior correspondent
Dhaka, May 3 (bdnews24.com) – The government plans to enact a new law to administer and manage soil and sand extractions across the country.
Under the proposed law, the government will ban extraction of sand, mud and soil within one kilometre of important 'installations' including bridges, culverts, dams, barrages, roads, forests, rail tracks and human settlements.
It would also restrict extraction of underground soil, mud or sand, land ministry officials told bdnews24.com.
This proposed law - entitled 'Balumahal & Soil Management Law-2010 - is the first of its kind, and is designed to prevent environmental disasters, the officials said.
Extraction of soil and sand near any of these installations without due authorization would entail punishment of maximum two years imprisonment and Tk two lakh fine.
Land minister Rezaul Karim Hira told bdnews24.com that in pursuance of a directive from the Prime Minister, the new law is being drafted to protect environment, and prevent ecological disasters and river erosion.
The new legislation got the green signal from a cabinet meeting on April 19, he said, adding that a draft bill is likely to be placed in parliament during its next session.
But land secretary Ataharul Islam is understood to recently have said that district level administrators would be asked to stop extraction of sand even before the law is formulated.
Land ministry officials said there were around seven Balumahal or sand quarries in the country 50 percent of which have been leased out.
The lease of Balumahals would be valid for one year spanning from Baishakh 1 to Chaitra 30 in the Bangla calendar.
These would be leased through open biddings and if the situation demands, e-tendering system would be introduced.
The land ministry would be the lone authority to lease out sand or soil quarries from char or any land area or marketing sand/soil extracted from rivers, river ports, sea ports and canals. Earlier, Balumahals and soil used to be leased in line with Port Law 1908, Port Ordinance 1966, Inland Water Transport Authority Ordinance 1958, Mine and Mineral Resources (Control & Development) Ordinance, and under government circulars issued in 2004 and 2005.
With the enactment of the new law, all previous laws, ordinances and circulars would be null and void, officials said.
Under the new law, extraction of sand and soil from disaster-prone areas would be restricted. The authorities would also ban extraction of underground sand or soil using motor pumps or through dredging.
The lease holders would be required to be more cautious in preserving the geo-natural environment, plants and animals.