Natural resources such as minerals are gift from mother nature and minerals are required for sustainable development. Therefore quarrying must be done in a systematic and scientific manner, bearing in mind the conservation, environment and ecology, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has observed.
Disposing of a batch of public interest litigation petitions that complained of illegal and rampant sand quarrying in southern districts under the guise of quarrying ‘savudu’ sand, a Division Bench of Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and B. Pugalendhi issued a series of directions to the State to follow so as to curb illegal quarrying.
The court observed that it appeared that ‘savudu’ quarries were permitted without any lease agreement, without any mining plan and without any environmental clearance. Further, the court said the Department concerned did not take any steps to identify the mineral for examination with a laboratory to ascertain the contents / components of the mineral.
The court directed the State to constitute a high-level committee comprising geologists and other experts and eminent officers from the Public Works Department and Water Resources Department to conduct a detailed study / survey on possibility or availability of river sand on adjacent patta lands to rivers.
These places have to be notified and declared protected zones and there cannot be any quarrying operations other than by the government in the notified areas. There shall not be any grant of quarry lease without ascertaining the composition / component of the minerals and without obtaining a report from an authorised lab, the judges said.
‘Set up lab’
The court directed the Department of Geology and Mining to establish a lab on its own or to authorise any lab in this regard. Further, the judges said that there shall not be any quarry operation in the name of colloquial terms / local terms and any lease shall be in accordance with minerals notified under Section 3 of the MMDR Act.
The Department of Geology and Mining should furnish the details of all ‘savudu’ quarries in the State to the court within eight weeks and the details of these quarries shall also be furnished to the high-level committee which will inspect the quarries to ascertain availability of sand.
If the committee finds availability of sand in the quarries, it shall be reported to the Commissioner of Geology and Mining, marking a copy to the High Court. The Commissioner shall take necessary action against officials who granted quarry permits without ascertaining the composition of minerals, the court said.