TAMIL NADU

HC for panel to curb sand quarrying

CHENNAI JULY 26. The Madras High Court has directed the Government to constitute a committee comprising scientists, geologists and environmentalists within one month for submitting a report on quarrying of sand from river beds and suggesting remedial steps within six months.

Passing orders on a contempt petition, Justice K. Sampath also said, ``the Government shall pass legislation based on the report. Also, the authorities should impose a severe penalty on illicit quarrying. The judge asked the Government to form a river protection force and empower officials to seize vehicles involved in illegal quarrying.

Highlighting the enormity of the menace, Mr. Justice Sampath said, ``no stone should be left unturned to end exploitation of natural resources''. He lamented that several judgments had gone unheeded earlier. Even the recommendations and resolutions of various national and international conventions were of no avail in curbing this exploitation.

In his petition, M.K. Janardhanam contended that revenue officials of Tiruvallur, including the Collector, had failed to comply with a February 2000 High Court order, directing them to ensure that illegal quarrying was stopped immediately on the riverbed of Kusasthalai in Ponneri taluk.

After a brief lull in the wake of the court directive, the illegal quarrying recommenced after a few days and continued unabated. Blaming it on the bureaucratic apathy, the petitioner sought to punish the Collector, the Revenue Divisional Officer, the Ponneri tahsildar and the Assistant Director of Mines in the district for contempt of court.

In his order, Mr. Justice Sampath complimented the petitioner on his efforts and directed the Government to bear the expense incurred by him and the advocate commissioner appointed by the court in connection with the case.

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