CHENNAI: Villagers in and around Tamaraipakkam have been waging a battle against sand mining in the Kosathalaiyar River bed with a series of protests for the last one week.
The villagers said the indiscriminate mining of sand over the years from the river bed had led to depletion of ground water in several of the agrarian villages located along the river in the Tiruvallur district. “The sand was accumulated over centuries and preserved the ground water table. But for a few people to make money, it is being taken away in a matter of a few years,” said Balaji, who is leading the struggle group to stop sand mining.
Even Metro Water pumps ground water from these villages to meet the demands of the Chennai city. “Also, for most of village panchayats in and around Tamaraipakkam, the ground water is drawn from borewells in this river bank. If the sand is taken away, ground water will get depleted and we will be left with no water for agriculture and drinking,” said Balaji.
The protests erupted after the Tiruvallur district administration gave permission for sand mining in the river bed at Punnapakkam, and the National Green Tribunal on September 3 disposed of the petition challenging environmental clearance. “The tribunal disposed the petition saying that the sand mining must be carried out complying with the conditions set by laws. But the miners don’t follow any of these. They indiscriminately take away the sand,” said G Sambath, a local councillor, who filed the petition in the green tribunal.
Since September 3, the villagers have held peaceful protests against the entry of the lorries into the villages. They have raised black flags in the house and staged a hunger strike. On Friday, the villagers staged a massive protest preventing lorries from entering the river bed. “The police arrested 17 persons leading the protest. However, we refused to give up the protest or asked the police to arrest all the protestors. So nearly 500 of us courted arrest,” said Balaji.
Sambath said the protest would continue until the district administration revoked permission granted for sand mining.