The 14-km road on Kollidam River used for transporting sand

Despite the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court giving a categorical direction to remove gravel roads immediately to avert any change in the course of the Kollidam river and also to prevent creation of any artificial dam or lake, situation has not improved, laments T. Shanmugham, organiser of the Makkal Sakthi Iyakkam, Anbil, Lalgudi taluk.

Mr. Shanmugham is one of the petitioners who moved the court against sand quarrying in the Cauvery/ Kollidam and High Court has responded by banning the operation of sand quarries that were functioning for more than five years.

While a few more were allowed to operate only after obtaining environmental clearance from the State-level Environment Impact Assessment Authority, those under operation were permitted to continue subject to the condition that they should get environmental clearance within three months. In addition, the court has come out with a number of guidelines to grant permission for fresh quarry operation.

Mr.Shanmugham alleges that the 14 km gravel road, laid to a width of about 15 ft by private quarry operators from Tollgate (Thalakudi) to Thohur right in the middle of the Kollidam River, has not been removed even 20 days after the judgment was pronounced.

This road connects the quarries at Kondayampettai, Kilikoodu, and Koiladi Sukamber and is used for transporting sand. For laying this road, big pipes have been used.

He contends that this road would prevent the natural flow of water.

Ayilai Sivasuriyan, district secretary of the Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangham, alleges that there are attempts to quarry in Natham region, near Anbil, and Sirugamani area in Andanallur union for which roads have been laid. He has also urged the District Collector to remove the roads laid in the Cauvery/Kollidam.

Thanks to the sand lorries, the Lalgudi-Sengarai road has been badly affected .

However, on behalf of district administration, it has been submitted that “only the riverbed level has been raised with river sand and spreading sugarcane leaves (karumbu thogai), reed grass and filling up by sand.” Only a “filmy layer of gravel” has been spread to facilitate movement of lorries.

In its judgment dated August 3,2012, the High Court has observed: wherever sand quarry is permitted in the river and roads are formed either temporarily or semi-permanently, the District Collector/Public Works Department (PWD) should ensure that the roads are formed only by laying of sugarcane leaves and bio-degradable materials and if they find any other gravels are used, the District Collector/PWD is directed to remove the said roads immediately, so that the course of the river is not affected and also directed to ensure that the roads are not running across the river, so as to create artificial dam or lake.

The court has also said: the PWD is further directed to level all the roads/pathways to let the river assume its normal course without any artificial obstruction to the extent possible. Besides, the sand piled along the quarried pits is to be re-dumped or refilled in the pits restoring the river’s normal water course.

Official sources, who requested anonymity, said all the guidelines prescribed by the High Court are complied with and the removal of the said temporary road is also not far off. Meanwhile, steps have been initiated to re-lay the Lalgudi-Sengarai road which is likely to cost a few crores of rupees. “The Detailed Project Report is under preparation,” they said.