CHENNAI: The Public Works Department (PWD) has received a clean chit from a National Green Tribunal (NGT) panel over an allegation of illegal sand mining in the guise of desilting at Srivaikundam in Thoothukudi. The five-member joint committee constituted by the NGT southern bench to probe the allegations has submitted its report and said that no evidence of any irregularity was found.
The committee report accessed by Express concluded, “There was no physical evidence for substantiating any environmental damage due to desilting and the process was done legally. As the result of the desliting the capacity of Srivaikundam anicut has increased, and the groundwater table got recharged in surrounding villages.” The report was considered by the NGT bench when the matter came up for hearing on Thursday.
However, the counsel for the petitioner R Nallakannu argued that the joint committee’s observations cannot be taken on face value as the panel visited the site nearly four years after the sand mining was alleged. The PWD had commenced the desilting in 2015 and continued with the work till August 11, 2016, until the NGT interfered after multiple petitions were filed alleging sand mining in the guise of desilting.
The joint committee, comprising Thoothukudi sub collector Simranjeet Singh, scientist from Union Environment Ministry R Sridhar, research officer KG Prijilal, Thoothukudi district environmental engineer from Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) S Sathiaraj and assistant engineer Senthil Kumar, inspected the site on October 8 last year.
“In the last four years fresh silt got deposited, erasing all physical evidence,” the counsel for petitioner added. The NGT panel then said that it would like to dispose of the matter and posted it to Friday for judgement.