Action council to hold social audit of quarries today

The standoff between the residents of Pallichal panchayat and quarry owners at Mookunnimala took a rough turn on Friday when a group of women blocked lorries to the quarry in protest against rubble from explosions falling atop their homes.

S. Mohanakumar, joint convener of the action council that has been leading the agitation, said the women were threatened by people operating the lorries. They had told the protestors that they would not hesitate to drive the lorries over the women and even to burn both the lorries and the women, he said. The incident led the council advance a social audit of the quarries to Saturday.

The audit, he said, would comprise over 150 volunteers, including women, visiting the quarries and verifying the documents and permits. If violations were found, the council would take public action to take over these areas, Mr. Mohanakumar said.

More tension

Earlier on Friday, there was more tension in the area when quarry owners allegedly began reviving and developing an old private road leading to the quarries as part of an attempt to develop an alternative road to ply their lorries instead of the Arikadamukku-Mookunnimala road, along which lorries had been banned after a court order and directions later from the District Collector to maintain status quo.

The agitators said there were efforts from various quarters to ‘trivialise’ the issue as to one of ‘inconvenience’ caused to the public due to the plying of lorries, when the actual issue was much larger than that, involving environmental concerns over the gradual disappearance of the Mookunnimala due to quarrying, health hazards to children and other residents, and also pollution and depletion of water bodies in the region.

Mr. Mohanakumar said several paddy fields in the area were being bought by private parties who then sunk deep wells there. Water from these wells were currently being used to wash m-sand from the quarries but there were reports of large-scale mineral water production units in the area for which the private parties were offering whatever prices were quoted for the land by the owners, he said.

Whoever refused to sell their land were paying heavily with explosives being used to blast rocks close to their homes, with the rock splinters and debris falling atop their homes and dangerously close to their children playing outside their homes.

The agitation, he added, would only be intensified till the quarrying activity was completely brought to an end.