Tuticorin District Collector Ashish Kumar, who is under transfer, on Wednesday said inspections done a day earlier had revealed large-scale illegal mining of sand along the district’s coastal areas.
He was speaking to reporters a day after he was shifted out on Tuesday night. The sudden transfer evoked suspicion that he was shifted for taking on a powerful sand mining lobby. But the officer himself discounted the theory.
Mr. Kumar, a 2005 batch IAS officer, got an order at 8.30 p.m. on Tuesday, posting him as the Deputy Secretary of Social Welfare and Nutritious Noon Meal Programme in Chennai. He is expected to demit office on Thursday.
When asked about his sudden transfer, he replied: “It’s the State government’s prerogative to transfer any officer and I will continue to do good work in my new assignment,” he said.
Before coming here, Mr. Kumar served as Kanyakumari District Collector for a short period of two months. He had a two-year tenure as Tuticorin Collector as he assumed charge on 28 July, 2011. Ariyalur collector M. Ravikumar will succeed him.
Special inspection teams which conducted raids on Tuesday at the sand quarry of V.V. Minerals, a company involved in mining operations in Tuticorin district, found large-scale illegal sand mining along the stretches of beaches at Vaipar, Vembar, Periyasamipuram and its surroundings in Vilathikulam taluk.
Two teams comprising District Revenue Officer, Special Deputy Collector (Stamps), Assistant Director of Mines, Revenue Divisional Officer-Kovilpatti, Pollution Control Board officials and other revenue officials conducted raids at the mining locations for over six hours on Tuesday. Fines would be imposed on the offender soon based on the findings of the final report submitted to the Collector.
Mr. Ashish Kumar said on Wednesday that around 81,000 cubic meters of raw sand had been mined illegally on more than 30 hectares of poromboke land at Vaipar, whereas miners were legally entitled to mine only on four hectares of leased land.
Of the mined beach sand, mineral quantity of 2,30,000 tonnes was measured.
The offence would attract punishment on charges of theft under IPC, provisions of the Tamil Nadu Public Properties Prevention of Damage and Loss Act, 1992, Illicit Mining and Minerals Act, Environmental Protection Act, 1986 and Coastal Regulation Zone notification, 2006.
Based on five complaints of illegal sand mining by fishermen in June and grievances aired by them at a meeting in July, preliminary inspection was done by a committee comprising Deputy Collector (Training), Assistant Director of Mines and District Environmental Engineer ahead of the raid on Tuesday.
The fishermen raised fears of sea erosion and environmental hazards owing to indiscriminate mining at beaches, the Collector said.
Red sand mining
In May, officials launched a crackdown on illegal beach mining of red sand in Beach Minerals Company (BMC) at Padugapaththu in Sathankulam taluk and a fine of Rs.3.10 crore was imposed on the offender following complaints of fishermen at the Periyathaalai coast.
Illegal mining of 4.91 lakh cubic metres of raw sand and mineral quantity of 2.82 lakh tonnes from the mined property was detected.
An evaluation report of the mineral samples was yet to come and its fine amount would be 10 to 20 times higher than the penalty levied for raw sand mining by the BMC, he said.
Such illegal operations were on in Tirunelveli district with 26 sand quarries and some in Kanyakumari district also, he said.