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Monday, October 28, 2013

rampant illegal sand-mining and bullock carts arrested ..... !!!!

This newsitem in NewIndianExpress made an interesting reading… it as one of law enforcement – right outrightly… but then why did it make an interesting read >!>? ~ when you pass by a river, you may not find water….but for sure would find busy transportation of tractor trailers and lorries….

They would be carrying sand – more specifically river sand for construction activities. Sand mining is  the method of extracting sand – from dunes, dredged beds of water bodies….as the Society develops,  more buildings are constructed ….  leading to a demand for low-cost sand. Another reason for sand mining is for the extraction of minerals such as rutile, ilmenite and zircon, which contain the industrially useful elements titanium and zirconium. Sand mining causes erosion and also impacts the local wildlife; many a times it is done illegally.

Today’s NewIndpress reports that at least  three bullock carts with sand were seized in Kanai hamlet near Villupuram, in a crackdown on sand smugglers, after Express reported that a ban on mining in the district had failed to curb illegal sand mining. Police said the persons who were riding the bullock carts were also detained. “The bullock carts would be released after a fine is paid. If they are found engaging in sand smuggling again, legal action would be taken against them,” the SI of Kanai police station said. Express, had reported on Saturday that although a ban has been in force since October 13, many bullock carts were seen transporting loads of sand in the heart of the town. The district authorities, in a bid to control sand mining, temporarily banned all such mining activities and issued instructions for all earthmovers and tipper lorries to be removed from sand mining yards.

In the recent decades, environmentalists have been crying hoarse on the possible change in ecological impact arising out of the indiscriminate mining of sand in the river basins, coastal areas and hill regions of Tamil Nadu. The threat to the livelihoods of local communities from this mindless commercial activity seems to be more real now than ever before.  The Campaign for the Protection of Water Resources-Tamil Nadu has identified 15 adverse consequences of sand mining which include : depletion of groundwater; lesser availability of water for industrial, agricultural and drinking purposes; destruction of agricultural land; loss of employment to farm workers; threat to livelihoods; human rights violations; and damage to roads and bridges.

There has been a significant increase in sand mining since the beginning of the 1990s following a boom in the construction industry, and the activity reached alarming proportions in several areas.  Isolated attempts by local communities to seek legal remedies did succeed to some extent, with courts issuing directions to the State government to regulate sand mining under the provisions of the law. The Campaign presented a background note before the Court  providing vital information on the Palar river basin. The Palar is the longest of the rivers in the districts bordering Chennai and has been a major source of drinking water for the State capital and its suburbs. Until a century ago Palar and its tributaries, were perennial rivers, but now the water flow is confined to the monsoon months. Because of this and also the thick layer of clay in the riverbed, the possibility of flooding has become minimal. This has attracted sand miners.

Last month, the Tamil Nadu Government suspended sand mining on the beaches of the state. The Government  ordered a probe into operations of 71 large quarries. Chief Minister Ms. J Jayalalithaa issued an order suspending operation of these quarries till the probe is over. The order was issued immediately after receiving a report submitted by a special team led by revenue secretary Gagandeep Singh Bedi, which probed into indiscriminate mineral mining in six lease areas in the southern district of Tuticorin. These quarries are engaged in mining sand and major minerals such as ilmenite, rutile and garnet.

Today’s Express also reports of Sand mafia allegedly trying to kill the tahsildar of Alangudi when he tried to intercept illegal sand-laden vehicles; later  the driver of a tractor was arrested and the vehicle seized. According to the report, K Govindarajan, tahsildar of Alangudi and other revenue authorities were conducting vehicle checks at Keelathur near Alangudi following a tip-off when they tried to intercept two tractors loaded with sand. The drivers of the tractors did stop their vehicles and moved ahead, knocking down  tahsildar on the road. Subsequently, the revenue authorities chased and seized the tractor, which knocked down the tahsildar. The other vehicle managed to escape.

Going by an earlier report in Times of India, the illegal mining is rampant.  The quarries are under government control and outside involvement is limited to getting contractors to dig up sand at a pre-determined rate of Rs 220 per truck load. So, close to five dozen quarries mined about 8,300 truck loads per day in TN in the last financial year would put a figure of 188 crores as revenue to State Government while contractors are estimated to have made about Rs 15,000 crore.  The report stated that if there is a trade as fetching as the monopoly retail sale of liquor in the state, it is managing and operating licensed sand quarries of the public works department (PWD).  TOI opines that though  the state has control over sand quarries, it has not been able to stop illegal mining by contractors. While it has fixed 220 per truck load (400 cft) as fees for their services, enforcement is lacking. They fleece truck owners, who in turn fleece consumers. Sand prices will stabilize only if government deploys more people to manage sand quarries.

Elsewhere the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed the Deputy Commissionerand SP of Faridabad as well as Gautam Budh Nagar to ensure no illegal mining of sand takes place from land belonging to IAF in Faridabad.  The Bench instructed taking of effective steps to ensure that there is no illegal sand mining.  The bench was hearing a petition filed by NGO, Noida Lok Manch, which has alleged illegal sand mining is going on in IAF land- an air bombing and firing range -at Tilpat in Faridabad district of Haryana with the authorities doing nothing to prevent it despite complaints from villagers.  The over 4600 acres of Air Force land, which has seen no activity over the last 25-30 years, is situated on either side of river Yamuna and mining there is affecting farming activities of the villagers living nearby, the petition said.  It said removal of sand from the site in question is not only affecting farming activity but also causing lowering of the water table of the area. The petition also raised the issue of change in flow of the river if the mining is allowed to continue.

Man continues to cause harm to environment, which always protects and provides many healthy things to mankind

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

28th Oct 2013.

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