: The Public Works Department (PWD) has denied misuse of a licence granted to it by the Sivaganga Collector on May 7 to quarry 2,29,400 cubic meters or 42,297 lorry loads of sand within a period of 282 days from 23.64 hectares of the course of river Vaigai at two locations situated in Thoothai and Kannur villages of Manamadurai Taluk.
T. Selvaraj, Executive Engineer, PWD- Water Resources Organisation, Saruganiyar Basin Division, had made the submission in a counter affidavit filed before the Madras High Court Bench here which was seized of a public interest litigation petition filed by Thiruppuvanam Union Secretary of Pattali Makkal Katchi against the quarrying operations.
The Executive Engineer refuted the petitioner's allegation that that riverbed was dug beyond the depth of one metre to quarry sand. He also denied as false the petitioner's claim that the PWD was quarrying illegally from Thoothai to Ladanendhal as well as on the Thiruppachethi canal entrance by misquoting the permission granted by the Collector.
However, he agreed that “as a matter of fact, some unlawful elements are indulging in illicit quarrying in the above said areas” and stated that such sand smugglers were being dealt with severely by the police and the revenue authorities. Illegal quarrying by anti-social elements could not be a ground to cancel the licence granted to PWD, he added.
Pointing out that there was a ban on sand quarrying in Madurai, Mr. Selvaraj said that the sand quarried by PWD from Thoothai and Kannur was at present supplied to the residents of Madurai, Sivaganga and Virudhunagar districts. He also stated that there was no threat to drinking water, agricultural lands or the ground water recharge due to the ongoing quarry operations.
Disagreeing with the contentions put forth in the counter affidavit, petitioner's counsel R. Alagumani demanded the constitution of a committee comprising experts from the Department of Geology and Mining and the Department of Environment to conduct an environmental impact assessment with regard to the ill-effects of indiscriminate quarrying.
He also stated that the Executive Engineer was not the right authority to file a counter affidavit on behalf of the Environment and Forest Secretary, Director of Director of Geology and Mining Department and the Collector. A Division Bench posted the matter for further hearing after two weeks.