PIL to forbear PWD from quarrying sand

A public interest litigation petition has been filed in the Madras High Court Bench here to forbear the Public Works Department from carrying out sand quarrying operations along the stretches of rivers Cauvery, Amaravathi and Kollidam flowing through Namakkal, Karur, Tiruchi, Thanjavur, Thiruvarur and Nagapattinam districts.

When the case came up for hearing before a Division Bench comprising Justice R. Banumathi and Justice G.M. Akbar Ali on Monday, the judges adjourned the case to July 9 as the lawyers representing the PIL petitioner, B. Juliaan (31) of Lalgudi Taluk in Tiruchi district, were not present in the court due to a boycott call given by one of the advocates’ association.

According to the petitioner, the Public Works Department was operating about 42 sand quarry sites in Cauvery and Kollidam rivers flowing across Karur, Tiruchi, Thanjavur, Thiruvarur and Nagapattinam districts ever since the government took over quarrying of sand from private operators in 2003 due to charges of over exploitation by the latter.

All the 42 licences had been granted by the respective Collectors. Though permission was granted to use only to earth movers in each quarry, the actual scenario was different as four to five earth movers were being used to scoop the sand from the rivers, the petitioner alleged. He also claimed that all other conditions imposed at the time of grant of licence were being violated.

“Further, no boundaries were fixed for the quarrying sites. The quarrying operations are being carried out within 500 meters radius from the existing wells and drinking water pumping stations maintained by the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board… In short, the quarrying operations are carried out in total violation of the Minor Minerals Concession Rules 1959,” his affidavit read.

Ecological imbalance

It also stated that indiscriminate and unregulated sand mining had caused serious ecological imbalance. Usage of machineries had spoiled the normal gradient of the river bed and had given chance for accumulation of silt and dirt affecting water quality. It had also destructed vegetation and aggravated the drinking water problem besides cutting off people’s access to the rivers.

“I state that under the guise of engaging private contractors for loading and unloading the minerals, the Public Works Department has virtually handed over the entire mining operations along the stretches of Cauvery and Kollidam Rivers to some private operators for illegal gain… the Public Works Department bills are given by the private contractors,” the petitioner alleged.

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