Farmers having cultivable lands that are irrigated by the water from Karuppanadhi dam are the most worried lot as illegal sand mining is being reported in the dam area for the past several days.
Though this illegal activity has been suspended after Deepavali, the farmers opine that the menace will resurface shortly with the connivance of the official machinery.
After forming a temporary road along the southern side of the dam, the illegal sand miners, who take earthmovers, tractors and lorries via this stretch, have quarried sand from catchment area close to the western side of the dam.
Since pebbles and rocks abound in the sand in this area, they are separated from the sand either manually or using sieves before being loaded onto the vehicles. The sand mining has also uprooted several trees inside the dam.
The drivers of the sand-laden lorries, on reaching the main entrance of the dam, meet the ‘designated representatives’ of the official machinery in their office.
It is said that the personnel involved in this illegal sand mining claim to be taking sand only from the “patta land” for which they had obtained “proper permission” from the Departments of Public Works, Forest and Mines.
Since demand for this construction material is very high in this region, one lorryload of sand is being sold at Rs.24,000.
“If sand mining inside the dam is allowed to continue, it will certainly weaken the reservoir and the environment in this region. Above all, it will badly hit farming operations in the years to come,” said G. Arumugam, a farmer from Kadayanallur.
The illegal sand miners, who had employed a group of women for a similar exercise carried out till recently near Adavinainar Kovil dam near Maekkarai, take the construction material to neighbouring Kerala after packing it in discarded cement bags. “We were getting anywhere between Rs.150 and Rs.200 as wages based on the productivity,” said the women involved in sand mining.
When contacted, Assistant Director, Department of Mines A. Selvasekar said the public might have mistaken the sand-laden lorries and the heavy equipment that were involved in desilting the Karuppanadhi dam for those indulging in illegal sand mining. “Anyway, I’ll pass on this information to the Executive Engineer of the PWD and alert him,” Mr.Selvasekar said.
Though the Assistant Director terms the activity desilting of the dam, the miners have removed the sand from places where its deposit was high, while they have left intact places where clay deposit is relatively high.