Public hearing to be held even if mining area is less

With many quarries using the 10-hectare limit to escape holding public hearings for getting environmental clearance, the State Expert Appraisal Committee on granting the approval may lend its ears to public complaints about environmental hazards caused by mining.

Since the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority has made the hearing mandatory only for quarries with mining areas above that limit, no application showing a higher area has reached the committee for clearance, a panel member says.

Encroachment

But the committee has received a few complaints against quarries in Kottarakara, Neyyattinkara and some other parts of the State. Besides complaints about environmental hazards, some of these units have allegedly encroached on government holdings. In such cases, the committee is likely to hold public hearings before considering their applications for environmental clearance, another member says.

Social auditing

Social auditing needs to be carried out in case of the mines facing public complaints. The panel will move in that direction and listen to the voices of the public, he adds.

The committee has received 110 applications from miners seeking environmental clearance. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has directed that all quarries should get environmental clearance from the committee before December 31.

The responsibility of holding the public hearing rests with the District Collectors. Recently, some of the panel members were blocked by people as they reached a quarrying site near Thiruvananthapuram for inspection, the member says.

In some cases, quarry owners have filed separate applications for contiguous plots to come under the 10-hectare limit after splitting the mining area.

As the contiguity of such plots can be identified from the maps submitted along with the applications, those were rejected or delisted, he says.

Owners’ plea

Registered metal crusher unit owners say the legal provision for public hearings has become void following a recent order of the National Green Tribunal. alathingal Abdul Razak, coordinator of the Registered Metal Crusher Unit Owners’ Association, says the tribunal has clarified that the order for public hearing is applicable only for sand-mining and not for quarries and crusher units.

Barring a few mega granite mining units, the operations of most quarries were restricted to five hectares or below. The association will demand that the tribunal order be implemented in the State, he says.

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