Illegal sand mining is happening in broad daylight in the river basins of Palar and Cheyyar, according to a fact-finding team of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).
The team presented to media on Wednesday the video and photographic evidence, showing heavy and persistent movement of several tractors transporting sand in broad daylight in Pazhayaseevaram (Palar basin), hundreds of people working in the basins loading sand, mining to a depth of up to 9 feet and mounds of sand in private quarries.
The videos and photos were taken on August 24 and 25, and the team corroborated their evidence, interviewed district officials, including the Kancheepuram district Collector, and got official responses before presenting interim report to the media.
“At the mining sites at Pazhayaseevaram, Pazhaveri and Pinayur alone, we saw thousands of men and women with shovels working at a frenzied pace to fill as many lorry loads as possible. The activity is happening from dawn to dusk,” said K.Sudhir, one of the members of the team.
The team contended that the permits issued by the Kancheepuram Collector for the Palar river basin – covering Pazhayaseeveram, Pinayur and Pazhaveri – was only to a region of approximately up to 50 hectares. But the mining operation across huge tracts of Palar river basin could extend up to 200 hectares. The team estimated the monetary losses due to illegal mining for the period between April 2009 and July 2013 to Rs. 5,875 crore. (This has been calculated for an estimated volume of 665 lakh cubic metres or 235 lakh units of 100 cubic feet at the prevailing market value of sand at rate of Rs.2,500/ unit)
B. Gunaseelan, a resident of Pazhayaseeveram village, said the villagers had been complaining continuously to the district and revenue officials for the past four years. “We must have sent close to 100 representations to various government departments. But we have not even received a single reply so far.”
The PUCL has called for an immediate ban on river sand quarrying not just in the Palar and Cheyyar basins but across the State till such a time a transparent system is in place for the activity. They have also called for a CBI probe into the issue.