CHENNAI: Residents of Sholavaram, Alamathi, New and Old Erumaivettipalayam villages claim that unbridled sand mining of Sholavaram lake is not only ruining the lake, but has also claimed lives of many villagers.
“The lake has been plundered for the last 15 years. There are now 10-15 feet gouges in the lakebed. This will exert pressure on the bunds and may result in a breach,” said Kothandan, a resident of Alamathi for the last 53 years. He has led protests on issue several times.
Once filled with water, these pits become difficult to spot. Over the last three years, at least five locals, including two 15-year-old boys who got into the water have lost their lives after misjudging the depth of pits. Around 15 buffaloes who came for a drink have died after being unable to make their way out of the muddy gouges, said the locals.
As on June this year, 540 hectares have been permitted to be mined where a truck is allowed 2 units of sand a day, according to the lorry permission slips. The authorised individual or company may take sand for a period of around 50-60 days. According to local residents, around 80-90, 10 cubic metre trucks carry sand during the permitted time, taking over double the permitted sand.
“It is only now that the 500-odd hectares have been thrown open to mining. Earlier, the permitted area was very less. Even then, sand used to be taken from anywhere,” Kothandan said.After the residents protested, the mining license was withdrawn briefly in 2016, but has since resumed.
“Licenses have been given for over 10 years and it has already changed the character of the lake. We ask that no more licenses be given to mine sand here, he added.When contacted, a Ponneri taluk official said that he will look into the issue. “I’m not aware of such an issue, I will ask my staff to check,” he said.