CHENNAI: The Public Works Department appears to be violating government norms in mining sand from the Kosasthalaiyar river bed. This could affect Chennai’s water security as the city depends on groundwater from the basin. The PWD started mining from June 2 to prevent unbridled sand mining by private players. However, Express found there may be violations against the Tiruvallur Collector’s permission order.
The order says the 14-acre mining zone can be excavated only to a depth of one metre. Express, on Wednesday and Thursday, found mining being done to a depth of two metres in multiple places. There were sections that could hide a six-footer. Officials claim mining to lower depths in other sections would compensate. “In some places we dig only 0.7m. So we have to compensate by digging deeper in others,” said K Vijayraghavan, Executive Engineer with PWD’s sand division, who is overseeing operations.
The order says only two-unit lorries could be used to transport the 12,584 loads of sand that could be mined. But, villagers claim six and eight-unit lorries are used. PWD officials concede bigger lorries are used, but claim the rules apply only for dispatching sand from godown to customers. PWD, then, could be mining three times the amount of sand permitted by the order.
Initially, mining started 472m from Bagasalai bridge, while the order said it should start 550m away to prevent structural damage. Vijayraghavan admitted it was a mistake and said the area would be filled with sand. CCTV cameras installed at a distance from the site did not seem wired. Drivers said lorries were not fitted with GPS-tracking systems. The order mandates both.