The mining activities in the seven panchayats of Kasargod district is causing widespread damage to the ecology of the hilly region here, which is part of the Western Ghats.
Owing to the indiscreet mining, these areas are fast losing their green cover.
Koliyar Hill and Panayar Hill here were once the source of various streams and habitat of a wide variety of flora and fauna but mining has destroyed these hills.
There are a hundred such hills here, which face the same fate of Koliyar and Panayar hills.
Kodom Belur, Kallar, Panathadi, Balal, East Eleri, West Eleri and Kinanoor-Karinthalam are the panchayats where massive mining takes place right under the nose of officials.
The destruction of water sources here has caused the drying up of rivers like Payaswini, Uppala, and Manjeswaram, even before the onset of summer.
As many as 208 quarries operate here without valid licence.
The environmental activists and organisations in the region had submitted various petitions highlighting the seriousness of the issue to the District Collector, Mines and Geology Director, Pollution Control Board and other local representatives, but to no avail.
Though mining over 6 metre depth is prohibited by law, the mining here has crossed over 75 metres, with the use of powerful explosives.
Though the Forest Department had banned mining here a few months ago following protests, it resumed after a few days.
In a response to the RTI application filed by P Krishnan, an environmental activist, it was revealed that of the 208 quarries functioning in the district, only seven have proper licence.
Now the residents have decided to end this menace and they are planning to approach the Green Tribunal against mining.
“We are tired of complaining against this to the officials concerned but they have done nothing. Green Tribunal is our final option and hope we will get justice from there,” said Krishnan.
He alleged that the officials work hand in glove with the mining mafia and do nothing to put an end to this exploitation.
He also said that if mining continued on this scale for a few more years, the Western Ghats would be destroyed completely.
The use of highly powerful explosives is also a cause of concern for the people here.
“Three people have died in the last one year after big rocks fell on them during explosion. The walls of all the houses here are ruined and many houses have even collapsed owing to powerful explosions,” said Kumaran M, a local resident of Kallar panchayat.
Meanwhile, the Mines and Geology Department has said that they were helpless on the issue.
District Geologist Muhammad Kunju said they were running short of staff and it prevented them from taking action against the people, who mine the fragile areas of the Western Ghats.
“We really want to take action but our situation is not at all conducive for it. In Kasargod district, there is only one office and two staff, including me. Until and unless our department is strengthened with enough staff, we will not be able to do anything,” said Muhammad Kunju.
He also said that all he could do was to inform the district collector, village offices and panchayat offices.
“We have brought this illegal mining to the notice of all the officials concerned a number of times, but nothing has been done so far,” Kunju added.
However, District Collector Muhammed Sagir, when contacted, said that the district administration had taken action against the quarry owners and seized their vehicles.
“We have done whatever is possible for us and will strengthen measures once again to curb illegal mining in the Western Ghats,” the collector said.