To take their agitation to the doorstep of the Tiruvannamalai Collectorate, residents, farmers and ward members of Venkodu, a tiny village near Cheyyar, walked around 30 km from the village to the Collectorate, highlighting their opposition to the preparatory works for the operation of private stone quarries in the village.
The residents said that for over a month, individual agricultural lands measuring around 20 acre in the village, have been cleared to set up stone quarries. As part of its preliminary works, including a series of deep bore wells were dug in open plots despite opposition from residents. “Giving permission to run stone quarries will end our livelihood, as everything in the village will get polluted. Give us a government health centre, libraries or a paddy procurement centre but not stone quarries,” said C. Perumal, president, Venkodu village panchayat.
Located close to Cheyyar town, Venkodu has around 300 families. Paddy remains the chief crop in the village. Cultivation mainly depends on farm well irrigation as the village has only a few ponds and lakes in its vicinity. At present, over 1,200 acres are under cultivation.
Besides paddy, sugar cane, banana, groundnuts and corn are also grown. Farmers also cultivate flowers such as jasmine, marigold and narcissus (December flower) to supplement their income.
Residents fear that setting up of the stone quarries would pollute waterbodies, especially farmwells and groundwater. Continuous movement of lorries and trucks to these quarries would also damage bitumen roads in the village. Noise and air pollution would affect residents’ health. Residents of the neighbouring Vayalur village have been facing these problems, since the operation of private stone quarries began two years ago.
Residents of the Venkodu panchayat passed a resolution on August 15 against stone quarries in the village in the gram sabha meeting. On Monday, they met the District Revenue Officer (DRO) at the Collectorate, and requested him not to give nod for the quarries. Officials of the Department of Mines said, at present, no plot owner had applied to the Department, seeking its permission for operating the stone quarries. However, a team of experts from the Department would visit the village to get a first hand report.
“We have also heard that some preliminary work on starting stone quarries in the village is being done in the recent weeks. However, we did not receive any applications from individuals to get our nod. The issue is with the Collector,” S. Perumal, Assistant Division Engineer (ADE), Department of Mines (Tiruvannamalai), told The Hindu.