Environmentalists warn of climatic changes in future

Indiscriminate quarrying of hillocks in Perambalur district might prove detrimental to ecology of the region in the long run, warn environmentalists.

Requesting anonymity, they pointed out that these stones are greenish in look and have a better “harness” (strength) than blue metal. They have a granite base and hence used as building material. These stones are used for making “artificial sand” also.

These stones have been formed millions of years ago because of rivers flowing from the Western Ghats and classified as charnockite rock.

Environmentalists say there is historical evidence that King Rajaraja Chola used the stones from the hillocks at Irur in this district for the Brahadeeswara Temple in Thanjavur.

“As he could not take three statues, he left them at Siruvachur village, also in this district,” they added.

The environmentalists are concerned that several thousand tonnes of these stones are being transported even to Nagapattinam for coastal roads, treating them on a par with blue metal.

According to them, if these hillocks were to be gradually removed after some time, that would lead to climatic changes.

They point out the plight of Pallavaram Hill in Chennai. This was one among the hillocks that was indiscriminately exploited for laying roads. Even the British carried out mining activities in this hill which was also made of charnockite rock that is believed to have healing properties. Its depth was as much as 40-50 metres, almost equivalent to the height of the hillock itself. After years of exploitation, it has been declared a “national monument.”

Official sources, which do not want to be identified, said that the quarrying has been going on in Perambalur district with licence, both in patta lands and poromboke.

However, they also admit that indiscriminate exploitation of these hillocks would prove detrimental to ecology of the region in due course.

Hence, environmentalists plead that there should be control over quarrying of such hillocks.

They said the Union Ministry for Environment and Forests is also apprehensive over the way minor minerals are quarried and prospected. Even the Supreme Court, in its order dated March 2, 2012, wanted the Central and the State Governments to implement within six months strict regulations to govern mining of minerals as recommended by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

This order was meant to impose some control over the construction sector which is using minor minerals such as sand, gravel and boulder. This directive is said to be applicable to all riverbed mining.

Hence, environmentalists suggest that sand and stones, considered “secondary minerals” under the Minor Mineral Rules and Minor Minerals Definition (MMR and MMD), be brought into the First Schedule of Minerals.

If it were to be done, there would be a mining plan before quarrying. There would be a mining engineer. Above all, the Director of Mines Safety would visit these quarries. They are confident that this could bring in some more checks and balances in quarrying operations.