PIL against quarries flouting norms will be taken up by HC on June 18, says Nallakannu

“Almost all sand quarries in the State are in serious violation of government rules regulating sand quarrying activities and we now have photographic evidence of these violations,” said CPI leader R.Nallakannu. Inaugurating an exhibition of over 150 photographs depicting sand quarrying in various central districts and its effects on the river bed and groundwater levels, he informed media persons that a Public Interest Litigation filed against the quarries would be taken up by the High Court on June 18.

The exhibition, which was held at the Masurabhi Hall near the Puthur four roads junction, was open to public in order to raise awareness of the issue.

While a thermocol model that re-created quarrying activity beneath a bridge predicted that we would soon need camels to cross the Cauvery, rhetoric slogans put up next to the photographs questioned the lack of government action to prevent indiscriminate sand mining.

Taken by the members of the Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam with the support of local villagers, the pictures show the flouting of various rules: “Though quarrying can be done only between 7 am and 6 pm with the help of just two JCBs per site, it is obvious that they operate almost round the clock and use more than two JCBs,” said T.Indrajit, State joint secretary, Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam. He added that all the pictures on display have been submitted as ‘evidence' to the Madurai High Court with regards to the upcoming PIL.

The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, states that bridges should not be built across a river's path; that sand must not be quarried from near the shore; that the riverbed cannot be quarried beneath 1 metre depth; that heavy duty vehicles should not be used; and that there should be no quarrying for a radius of 500 metre near places that have been earmarked for government drinking water projects.

“We are demanding a ban on the use of JCBs, something that Kerala and Andhra Pradesh have already implemented,” said Mr.Nallakannu, who added that they were also demanding the setting up of a monitory body that involved members from local panchayats and farming community.

Alleging that a large portion of sand quarried from Tamil Nadu was being transported to Kerala via Kanyakumari, Mr.Nallakannu questioned why the government was not seizing these trucks that cross the border. “The government's claim that nearly 4,000 cases have been filed against those involved in illegal sand quarrying was not convincing enough.”

Warning that Tamil Nadu would soon degenerate into a desert if the situation goes unchecked, Mr.Nallakannu pointed out that the 73 per cent impermeable rocks in Tamil Nadu's underground composition would not let rain water percolate easily into the water table, either. “While we are battling for water from Karnataka and Kerala, we must not ignore the commercial companies that exploit the water resources that Tamil Nadu has naturally,” he said.