Special Correspondent

Ombudsman directive to prevent illegal sand-mining from Vellayani lake

Thiruvananthapuram: Ombudsman for Local Self-Government Institutions M.R. Hariharan Nair has directed the Venganoor and Kalliyoor gram panchayats to constitute ward-level vigilance committees to check illegal sand-mining from the Vellayani lake at night.

The direction was issued after scrutinising a statement filed by the panchayats in a case registered by the Ombudsman. The District Collector, in his report, said monitoring committees had been set up at the district and taluk levels.

He also informed the forum that the district administration had launched a crackdown on sand-mining.

The order issued by the Ombudsman after the hearing on December 12 observed that the existing system was inadequate to check night-time sand-mining. It directed the Venganoor and Kalliyoor gram panchayat presidents to constitute ward-level vigilance committees involving panchayat members and residents in the neighbourhood of the lake.

The Revenue Divisional Officer has been directed to oversee the constitution of vigilance committees and furnish the names and phone numbers of the members within one month.

The police have also been asked to carry out operations against sand-mining.

Last November, the Ombudsman had directed the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation and the Venganoor and Kalliyoor grama panchayats to ensure that no licence is issued for sand-mining from the lake.

Media report

The case was registered following media reports about the death of a teenager who fell into an underwater pit caused by sand-mining from the lake. The order issued by the Ombudsman noted that the Vellayani Lake was a freshwater reservoir which provided drinking water to the people in Kovalam, Vizhinjam, Pachalloor,Vellayani and adjoining areas. For this reason, it said, sand-mining from the lake had to be stopped.

The order said the Corporation and the two panchayats were equally responsible for maintaining the ecological balance of the lake.

The local bodies had also been asked to conduct patrolling with the help of the police to ensure that sand-mining does not take place and to seize boats and sand collected from any location along the lake.