Bench directs PWD to file a status report by April 24

A public interest litigation petition has been filed in the Madras High Court Bench here seeking a direction to forbear the Public Works Department (PWD) and Collectors of Karur, Tiruchi, Thanjavur, Nagapattinam and Tiruvarur districts from quarrying sand along the stretches of Rivers Cauvery and Kollidam.

A Division Bench of Justice R. Banumathi and Justice B. Rajendran, on Tuesday, ordered notices to the PWD Chief Engineer, Director of Geology and Mining and the Collectors of the five districts returnable by April 24. The judges also directed Special government Pleader M. Govindan to file a status report on the petitioner's allegations of indiscriminate quarrying from the rivers.

Quarrying done in an unscientific manner

A registered association tilted Cauvery Neervala Aathara Pathukaappu Sangam had filed the PIL petition through its secretary T. N. Mahendra Kumar (27) claiming that the PWD was quarrying sand at 42 locations along the two river courses.

He alleged that quarrying was done in an unscientific way by lifting sand up to a depth of 9 to 10 metres as against the permitted limit of three metres.

The petitioner's counsel M. Ajmal Khan contended that the PWD licencees had deployed four to five heavy machineries at all quarry sites on the two rivers.

He recalled that, in 2010, the High Court while regulating quarrying at River Tamirabarani had initially banned usage of heavy machineries and subsequently permitted their usage only for one year which expired in February this year.

He also alleged that the quarry operators in Cauvery and Kollidam had laid roads to a width of 10 to 20 feet across the river in a zig zag manner.

He claimed that around 2000 trucks were transporting sand from each quarrying site and the quarrying operations were carried out round the clock. He accused the operators of flouting the Minor Mineral Concession Rules 1959.

“The deployment of machineries has compressed the river bed affecting aquatic fauna and created an imbalance in the rivers ecology. It had spoiled the normal gradient of the river bed and had led to accumulation of silt and dirt affecting the water quality. It has aggravated drinking water problem and affected the water source to cultivable lands,” the petitioner's affidavit read.

It also stated: “Under the guise of engaging private contractors for loading and unloading the minerals, the Public Works Department has virtually handed over the entire mining operations along the stretches of Cauvery and Kollidam to some private operators for illegal gain. In fact, the customers should approach the stockyard maintained by private operators and pay Rs. 1,000 for every bucket of sand.”

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