Chennai

Concern over sand mining

A scene of the sand mounds that have been dug up from the Cooum basin. The road leading up to the sea was recently laid by dumping construction debris. Photo: V.Ganesan

A scene of the sand mounds that have been dug up from the Cooum basin. The road leading up to the sea was recently laid by dumping construction debris. Photo: V.Ganesan  

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On the afternoon of January 20, K. Saravanan, a member of the Urur Kuppam fishermen's panchayat and an RTI activist, spotted a road being paved using construction debris on the beach leading up to the Adyar basin. Now, mounds of sand dot the Adyar river mouth as the Public Works Department (PWD) gears up to mine sand from the Adyar and Cooum river basins.

While officials claim that it is routine removal of sandbars from the river mouth, fishermen and local residents allege that it is sand theft and could result in adverse ecological impact.

According to PWD sources, the sand is being sold to the Ennore thermal power plant at Rs.60 per 1,000 cubic metre. The power station which is located around the Ennore estuary, a wetland, is low lying and the sand is being used as land-filling material in order to raise the ground level of areas where water stagnates frequently. Nearly 1,000 truck loads of sand have been transported from the Cooum basin, and mounds of sand heaped on the Adyar banks are waiting to be moved.

Mr. Saravanan says that constructing a road to facilitate the movement of tipper lorries up to the beachfront is a blatant violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification. “No development work is permitted within a 200 metre zone from the high tide line,” he adds.

Nityanand Jayaraman of the Save Chennai Beaches Campaign says that altering the natural state of the beach is illegal.

“That is why beach beautification was stopped on the Elliot's Beach. Sand functions like a water holding sponge. Indiscriminately removing sand will have negative effects on the water table and can alter erosion patterns along the coast,” he adds.

K. Vijayakumar, superintending engineer, Water Resources Department, PWD, said that a government order was issued three months ago to supply one lakh cubic metre of sand to the Ennore thermal plant.

“Sandbars that form at the river mouth are regularly removed to ensure smooth flow and we are only giving this sand to the thermal power plant,” he said.

He added that the roads up to the river mouth were only “temporary and just to facilitate work,” and should not be considered as a CRZ violation.

D. Nagasaila, an advocate who works on environmental law, said that sub-section 10 of clause 3 of the CRZ notification 2010 specifically prohibits sand mining in CRZ areas.

“The only exception is if they are mining for rare minerals. Sand mining is banned even under the 1991 CRZ notification. Under the new CRZ rules, the State government is responsible for enforcing the law. It is ironic that the enforcer itself is violating the law,” she said.

She added that the CRZ has statutory authority and just because there was a government order, it does not make sand mining a legal activity.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 5:02:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/Concern-over-sand-mining/article15131860.ece

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