Staff Reporter

MADURAI: The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has directed the Tirunelveli Collector to ensure that quarrying sand on Pachayaru, a perennial river running through Sengulam panchayat in the district, does not adversely affect the groundwater level in the locality.

Disposing of a public interest litigation moved by one of the villagers, a Division Bench comprising Justice D. Murugesan and Justice P. Murgesen said that the Collector was bound to take action if any private individuals were found to be quarrying sand in the area. Besides, the official was asked to take sufficient safeguards in advance to prevent overflowing of water during rainy days.

However, the Judges refused to quash an order passed by the Collector granting permission to the Public Works Department for quarrying at the site.

According to the petitioner, K. Ayyai Durai, the perennial river was the only source of water for more than 4,000 families residing in Sengulam panchayat. The local body comprised many villages, including Keela Omanallur, Perinbapuram, Kumpathur Kulam and Kuravar Kulam. Most of the residents were farmers and hence dependent on the river water.

The State Government, in 1990, decided to grant licence to private individuals for quarrying sand along the riverbank. Shocked at the move, the villagers registered their protest and gave several representations to the district administration. Still, quarrying operations continued unabated until the Government brought all sand quarrying sites across the State under its control. Even recently the villagers insisted the Collector to desist from permitting quarrying of sand along the riverbank, but the efforts ended in vain, the petitioner alleged.