Sand quarries in the river Cauvery that are more than five years old have remained shut since Saturday following the Madras High Court directive.

Through Friday night, vehicles awaiting their turn to load sand were hurriedly cleared and excavators at the quarries withdrawn on orders from PWD officials. Field officials visited the quarries on Saturday and erected road blocks and dug trenches across the entrance to prevent truck movement.

The price of sand that was quoted at Rs. 3,000 a unit last fortnight has shot up to Rs. 5,000 now at Coimbatore and it has touched Rs. 4,500 a unit at Tirupur and Mettupalayam.

Engineers and constructors have expressed apprehension that the price might escalate further in the days to come. Builders feel the pinch as the alluring sale price and longer waiting time for each load dissuades the truckers from selling the load at a lower price to the locals, who have now taken recourse to cart loads from nearby river banks.

Prior to the directive of the High Court, a total of 29 sand quarries was in operation in Cauvery and Coleroon from Karur to Nagapattinam districts. Of them, 18 have been shut down as per the court order.

In Karur district, all seven functioning quarries have been ordered closed. Six quarries in Tiruchi district, two each in Thanjavur and Nagapattinam districts and one in Ariyalur district were also ordered closed.

Sources in PWD acknowledge that over 7,000 lorries would be loaded on any single day in the region but only 1,800 to 2,000 trucks are being loaded over the past two days.

“Now the trucks need to wait for more than two days and waiting time might extend to four days this coming week. Not just we would suffer but the consumer will be affected as sale price of sand in Coimbatore, Tirupur, Erode, Udhagamandalam, Madurai, Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli district will go up,” president, Tamil Nadu Sand Lorry Owners’ Federation Sella Rajamani says.

The sand lorry operators urge the government to take immediate steps to open enough quarries as per the court guidelines to meet the demand.

Staff Reporter from Namakkal writes:

Mr. Rajamani requested the government to put an end to this plight by identifying new sites suitable for mining sand through the PWD and Collectors of those districts. “The government can obtain permission for mining at the sites after getting approval from the State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority – as directed by the High Court – and start mining without delay,” he suggested.