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Fishermen seek permanent ban on beach sand mining

Madurai Bureau
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As a mark of protest fishing suspended in Tuticorin and Tirunelveli districts

Country boats that were anchored at Threspuram beach in Tuticorin on Friday.— Photo: N. Rajesh
Country boats that were anchored at Threspuram beach in Tuticorin on Friday.— Photo: N. Rajesh

Stressing the need for enforcing a permanent ban on beach sand mining as per the directive of the National Green Tribunal, fishermen from Tuticorin and Tirunelveli districts suspended fishing operations on Friday.

Fishing came to a halt as 5,000 country boats and over 500 mechanised vessels remained anchored at various coastal hamlets across the district, said A. Subash Fernando, convener, Tuticorin District Fishermen Federation.

Pointing out that vast natural resources along coastal areas from Tuticorin to Kanyakumari had been exploited, Mr. Fernando said indiscriminate mining operations on the stretches of beaches resulted in frequent changes in water currents, which drove away fishes. Ultimately, livelihood of fishermen was uncertain.

Initially, a government agency was involved in beach mining at Manavalakurichi in Kanyakumari district, but later it was given to private players, who he alleged, had indulged in gross violation in mining operation.

As per the Coastal Regulation Zone, mining should not be done in six kilometres towards shoreline along coasts. But the regulation was ignored by government authorities, though such violations were brought to the notice of the State government. Excess mining had turned the sea into red at Periyathaalai coast, where fishermen having access to the sea were vulnerable to skin diseases.

Despite representations, no action was taken by officials. Even after the former Tuticorin Collector Ashish Kumar’s action on August 6, when two teams inspected Vaipar, Vembar and Periyasamipuram in Vilathikulam taluk to check illegal beach mining that prompted the Vaipar Village Administrative Officer to file a case with Kulathur police on grounds of violation, the police were still reluctant to act accordingly, he said.

When contacted, Superintendent of Police, M. Durai, said the police acted as per the VAO’s complaint procedurally, but an FIR could not be lodged as beach mining was purely dealt with Geology and Mines Department. Only after ascertaining violation and a report based on findings by special teams, police action could be taken, he said.

Unlike river sand mining, the police could not file cases concerning beach mining, for which experts from the Mines department had been assessing the coastline.

To check beach mining violations, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had constituted special teams led by Revenue Secretary, Gagandeep Singh Bedi, who stepped up the drive at six coastal villages in Tuticorin district for three days from August 12.

The next phase of inspection would commence on August 19. The federation also organised a massive demonstration near Tuticorin Old Corporation office on WGC road here to enforce the ban and sought necessary action against the violators.

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