VELLORE: Failure of officials to control stone quarry contractors has emboldened the latter to plunder the natural resource in and around Musiri and Thenkadapanthangal villages in Walajapet. Residents of the villages allege that contractors, who were granted permission between 2008 and 2011 to carry out stone quarrying for a period of ten years, are violating norms and quarrying beyond the permissible limits.
Responding to a query by U Sagayam, Legal Commissioner appointed to inspect mining activities in the State, on a complaint of indiscriminate stone quarrying lodged by B Srinath, a farmer in Walajapet, the district administration has submitted that contractors have cut stones beyond the permissible limit and quarried in non-permitted areas and that Collector R Nanthagopal had directed the Ranipet RDO to initiate action against violators.
While sources said the Collector had slapped penalty of over Rs 42 crore on contractors of 10 stone quarries in Ananthalai village and Rs 86.52 lakhs on a contractor in Senkadu, Sabas Babu, the district president of BJP charged that no further action was taken and not even a single rupee has been collected so far. “Officials are hand in glove with the contractors and under valued the loss to government in the quarrying,” he alleged.
On Friday, the party staged a demonstration to highlight the violations and plundering of natural resource. Villagers who participated in the protest condemned the district administration and police for failing to take action against the erring contractors and said authorities were mute spectators to indiscriminate explosions carried out to break stones.
Further, villagers complained that indiscriminate quarrying had caused irreversible damage to the environment and affected farming activities in Musiri, Anathalai and Thenkadapanthal. “More than 60 acres of land have been affected directly due to the stone quarries. Water source has depleted and many wells went dry years ago,” said B Srinath, a farmer who has six acres of land a few hundred metres away from a quarry. He further said that many springs originating in the forest and hilly areas in the vicinity and a water canal were destroyed by the quarries. “The contractors have extended quarrying activities into the forest area adjacent to their site,” he noted.
Officials in the Department of Geology and Mines, Vellore, said they have conducted inspections for nearly six months from September 2014 and assessed the level of environment damage and violation. “Based on the assessment, we recommended the RDO of Ranipet to issue show cause notices to 11 quarries in April 2015. But the contractors have approached the court and the case is pending,” said an official.Collector R Nanthagopal was not available for comment.