Radhakrishnan Kuttoor

Residents seek action against unit

Crusher unit flouting pollution control norms

Officials indifferent to residents’ demand

PATHANAMTHITTA: Over 30 households at Chunkappara in the Kottangal grama panchayat in Mallappally taluk are seeking action against a granite quarry-cum-crusher unit for allegedly polluting the environment and causing health hazards to the local people.

The local action council leaders say that the terrain where blasting is under way is reportedly part of the Karavallikkad hills alias Avolimala which was identified as one of the 3,500 great trigonometrical (GT) stations in the country by the Survey of India.

The GT station was reportedly identified by a British surveyor William Lambton as part of the Great Trigonometrical Survey 205 years ago for mapping purposes.

Action council leaders V.N. Gopinatha Pillai, Tom Thomas Thumkuzhiyil, Muhammed Nazer and George Sebastian alleged that the crusher unit operators were flouting pollution control norms and mining regulations, posing damage to the environment.

Depletion of the groundwater table, drying up of wells in the vicinity and lung ailments posed by dust emanating from the crusher unit were the main causes of concern ever since the crusher unit started functioning in 2005, Mr. Sebastian said.

A 12-year-old boy was fatally hit by a flying granite piece while he was standing on his courtyard, about 300 metres from the blasting site on April 12 last year.

“The irony is that the unit got licence from the local panchayat on April 17,” Prof Sebastian alleged.

He alleged that the official machinery was indifferent towards the residents’ demands.

Mr. Gopinatha Pillai said the Forest Department too had written to the Kottangal grama panchayat that clearance for quarrying should not be permitted at the site bordering the forest area.

Denying the allegations, the crusher unit operators said they had obtained mandatory clearance from the Mining and Geology Department, Pollution Control Board, Inspector of Factories and Boilers, District Medical Officer and the local grama panchayat, besides licence from the Union Department of Explosives.

Sources at the office of the Deputy Director of Survey said Karavalikad had been enlisted as the 60th GT station by the Survey of India in Pathanamthitta district. The task of protecting the station had been entrusted with the local tahsildar, who is supposed to submit periodic status report to the Survey of India.

Ironically, the revenue authorities here appear to be ignorant of the strategic importance of the geographically important site.

The crusher unit site is a rubber plantation with reserve forests on its eastern and southern borders.

The action council has submitted a memorandum to V.R. Krishna Iyer, Kerala Law Reforms Commission chairman, seeking appropriate amendments to plug the loopholes in the laws with a view to ensuring effective protection of the environment in the backdrop of the rampant quarrying, sand-mining and demolition of hills taking place in different parts of the State.