‘Fine levied is not enough of a deterrent’

The Legislative Committee on Environment has urged the government to impose stiff penalties, including imprisonment, to discourage illegal rock quarrying in the State.

The seventh report of the committee presented in the Assembly on Wednesday prescribes legal provisions to imprison those accused of running illegal quarries. Observing that the fine levied for unlicensed quarrying was not enough of a deterrent, the report calls for stern action.

Criminal laws

The committee, headed by C.P. Mohammed, recommended that quarry operators be held liable to compensate for the damage to property in the neighbourhood.

It also called on the government to prosecute the operators under criminal laws for damaging public property.

The panel suggested that the National Centre for Earth Sciences (NCESS) be commissioned for an environment impact assessment study related to quarries.

The committee also proposed a special squad to enforce licensing and safety norms for quarries.

The report holds the Pollution Control Board responsible for ensuring that all metal crusher units abide by the pollution norms. It moots expert workers to handle explosives.

Water storage

The committee recommended restoration of spent quarries, with a water storage reservoir covering 10 per cent of the area and greening of the remaining portion.

The eco-restoration plan makes it mandatory for the operator to plant 10 times the number of trees axed for quarrying.

Quarries will also have to ensure steps to minimise noise and dust pollution.

Eco police force

The panel urged the government to expedite the formation of an environmental police force to identify and stop the operation of unlicensed quarries.

According to the report, there are 505 unlicensed quarries in panchayats in Kerala and six in municipalities and corporations. Kannur district has the highest number of illegal quarries (81), followed by Thrissur (76).

The report was prepared on the basis of feedback received from the public and discussions held with officials of various departments and agencies.