THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Stone quarry units in the district are putting people’s lives at risk by transporting large quantities of explosives via road. The police department, which had been monitoring various quarries, seized over 300 kilograms of illegal explosives which were being transported in a truck at Marayumuttom near Neyyattinkara last week. According to sources, over 100 quarries functioning in the district are illegally transporting and using explosives. Though the government and district administration have issued safety guidelines regarding ferrying of explosives, many of these quarries have been found to be violating rules. It is learnt, over 1,000 kilograms of explosives are being transported all through the district for use in the various quarry units. Since nearly a majority of labourers working in the quarries are from other states, they are either unaware or complacent about the hazards of using illegal explosives.
Stone quarries are supposed to be inspected at least once in every two months by any one of the monitoring agencies, including the vigilance monitoring committee and the police. However, this also has been not happening for a while. Similarly, the quarries are also supposed to appoint a person who has a ‘blastman’ certificate to handle and use the explosives. However, many of the quarries do not comply with this norm. The use of explosives like gunpowder, ammonium nitrate and electric or ordinary detonators to dig into or cut through the rocks puts the lives and property of people living nearby in danger.
As per the regulations of the Mining and Geology Department, the area near a quarry shouldn’t be inhabited. However, this norm is being blatantly ignored or violated by the quarry owners. A senior officer of the department said it is necessary to carry out a detailed study of the area before a land is marked for quarrying. The study also includes classification of the soil and its cohesion. An expert team of geologists has to carry out a survey before permission is given to quarry granite from the site. Workers engaged in the quarries should be provided with all the required safety equipment.
All the works taking place in the quarries should be immediately placed under the direct superintendence of the Geological Department, even if the land belongs to private parties. The area of quarries should be adequate and the depth should be limited so as to prevent subsidence of surrounding rock formations and soil. The slopes of the quarries should be maintained preferably be as steps not to exceed the angle of repose of the particular soil, with due consideration given to water pressure owing to heavy rains.
According to Rasalayyan, chief patron of ‘Save Sahyadri Movement’, there has been an increase in the illegal movement of explosives in the district since many of the quarries are owned by highly influential people. “It has come to my notice that many of the quarry operators are retired government officers. So they use their power and influence to get approvals, licence and slip past many of the rules and regulations. Also, many of these quarry owners are illegally storing a lot of explosives in godowns though they have procured a licence to store only a limited amount. I had lodged a complaint with the Controller of Explosives, whose office is in Kochi, against the illegal use of explosives. But the authorities are yet to take action against the violators,” he said.
Rasalayyan said the quarry operators transport the explosives early in the morning or on Sundays. They also pick the time when the Sunday mass is on to slip past the notice of the local residents. “A total of 36 quarries at Vellarada and the surrounding areas have been shut down,” he said. “Closure of these quarries has been a great achievement for us. At present we are working towards putting a stop to the transportation of hazardous explosives, especially through areas which have a high density of population. We will approach the authorities concerned in this regard very soon,” Rasalayyan said.
When T’Puram Express contacted Rural SP, P Asok Kumar, he said raids are going on in the district. Inspections are also being carried out at the quarries to check whether they are operating on valid licences and have permission to use explosives. “Since the accident which occurred at Marayumuttom, we have been conducting raids at various quarries in the district. We are leaving no stones unturned when it comes to unearthing violations of the rules under the explosives act. We have received information some quarry units are illegally storing explosives beyond their prescribed limits. If found guilty strict action will be taken against the owners of such quarries,” Asok Kumar said.
The Local Self Government Institutions which have a grassroots presence in all localities of the state will be designated as the terminal nodal point for ensuring compliance with all the statutes, prior to the grant of D& O licenses under the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act. Only after the applicant is able to make available the permissions or NOCs from the Department of Revenue or Department of Mining and Geology under the Mines and Mineral Concession Rules, the State Pollution Control Board, under the Air and Water Acts, the Revenue Department and from the Revenue Department or Controller of Explosives under the Explosives Act and Rules; would the D&O licenses under the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act be issued by the concerned LSGI. The LSGIs as well as the other concerned departments would take immediate action for closure of all unauthorised quarrying sites obtaining the assistance of the concerned District Collector and the local police station where necessary