CHENNAI: Villagers of Sivanvoyal, 15 kilometres from Avadi, have had to pay a heavy price to stop illegal sand mining in Pakkam lake, in their backyard. It is now, after years of plundering, that illegal mining has been forced to come to a screeching halt, albeit temporarily; but it has come after an accident.
Early in April, 54-year-old Radhika (name changed) was returning home at Sivanvoyal by foot when she was knocked down by a truck carrying sand. While she survived, her ability to walk still remains to be seen.
“She was returning on time from work after visiting her daughter in Chennai. She goes there on weekends and comes back early on Mondays. That was when the accident happened,” said her nephew Arun. Her family, although furious, has chosen to react discreetly.
“They have agreed to pay for the hospital expenses. That’s why we’re able to treat her well, we would otherwise have to treat her at a Government hospital. They told us we must not make noise about it. So, we did not,” said Arun.
The narrow streets of Sivanvoyal is no space for coexistence of man and machine. “The lorries keep coming one after the other every day. We have completely lost our space, our peace of mind,” said Vijaya Devi, a resident. Even in Radhika’s case, it was when one lorry was trying to overtake another in the already narrow lane the accident occurred, said residents.
Even as residents said they have always firmly believed the extraction of sand from Pakkam lake was illegal, district officials confirmed it. Tahsildar of Tiruvallur and a senior mining official said that no quarrying rights had been awarded for the lake. “We have not granted quarrying rights at the Pakkam lake. Any sand that has been taken out of there in the last many months, is illegal,” said a senior official in the mines department at Tiruvallur.
When Raghu first came to Sivanvoyal, life was as simple as he had known it to be — water was aplenty at Pakkam lake, rains were frequent and welcome and a proposal to pursue farming would not have met with ridicule. “I was a newly married man when I moved here in 1987. It was a great place to settle down,” he said.
After the illegal mining began, their houses had to be constantly guarded at all times and their children could not come out to play.
Residents are not about to get used to the new quiet that has descended upon them for a month since the accident. “For now, they are silent because they don’t want to get into trouble. Sand mining will start again soon,” said Raghu’s wife.