The stone quarry in Perumbavoor where an accident occurred has been operating without environment clearance.

The quarry did not have the clearance of the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA).

“The quarry operator has not applied to us for environment clearance. The blame therefore rests with the panchayat as it was their duty to ensure that the quarry operator secured the environment clearance,” said P. Sreekantan Nair, secretary, State Expert Appraisal Committee, which recommends environment clearance on application from quarries, told The Hindu.

Even if the licence for the quarry was issued before the environment clearance was made mandatory, the local body should have ensured that the quarry operator secured the clearance before renewing the licence, he said. The licence has to be renewed annually. “Anyway we don’t grant environment clearance to quarries with a slant of more than 45 degrees,” he said.

Earlier, clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) was not mandatory for stone quarries operating in less than five hectares. However, the Supreme Court in February last year overturned this while making environment clearance mandatory even for such quarries.

Mr. Nair said the MoEF order issued on May 2012 following the Supreme Court verdict made environment clearance mandatory wherever mining was undertaken.

Environment activist C.R. Neelakantan said hundreds of stone quarries operating across the State with scant regard for law presented ecological, economical, and social dangers.

“It took solar scam to reveal that a quarry operator like Sreedharan Nair owes crores of rupees to the exchequer,” he said.

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