The protest against the illegal mining of beach sand minerals in coastal Tamil Nadu is gaining strength with people from three villages in Tirunelveli district submitting a petition to the state government to act against private miners.
"Around 50 women from three villages - Idinthakarai, Koottapulli and Kuthenkazhi - today (Wednesday) petitioned the district collector to take action against illegal mining of beach sand minerals in Tirunelveli district," P. Sundari of Idinthakarai village told IANS.
According to the petition, mining companies draw seawater without permission through pipes to process beach sand minerals and let out effluents, turning the sea water red.
The resultant pollution has affected people's health, marine life and the livelihood of fishermen.
"Once upon a time there were big sand dunes in our areas but now there are only deep pits due to mining," Sundari said.
Idinthakarai is the epicentre of the anti-Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) protest led by People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE).
M. Pushparayan, a PMANE leader, said: "Villagers perceive the plant as a threat to their lives in the wake of the Fukushima accident in Japan."
Villagers from Idinthakarai, Koottapulli and Kuthenkazhi villages are also planning to meet the special team that is probing illegal mining of beach sand minerals and urge it to expand the scope of investigation to include Tirunelveli district.
The Tamil Nadu government Aug 9 ordered stopping of beach sand minerals mining in Tuticorin district by six leasees and constituted a multi-departmental committee to inspect and verify whether any illicit mining activity was being done.
The government's decision comes after Tuticorin district collector Ashish Kumar sent a report to the government Aug 6 stating that inspections of some of the leased areas for mining and minerals - garnet, ilmenite and rutile - in the district were undertaken and instances of large scale illicit beach sand mining had been detected.
The report also recommended detailed field inspections by special teams comprising officials from the departments of revenue, police, environment and forests, geology and mining.
Kumar was transferred and posted as deputy secretary, social welfare and nutritious meals department and M. Ravikumar, district collector, Ariyalur, will replace him at Tuticorin.
Officials of Tuticorin district administration inspected sand quarries in Vaippar and Vembar villages in the district Aug 6 on complaints that a mining company with a permission to mine in four hectares has been mining in 30 hectares.
"On the basis of complaints from the fishing community, we inspected the mining areas in Vaippar village. The leasee has been given permission to mine in four hectares. We found the mining was being done in 30 hectares," Kumar told IANS Aug 9.
"Around 230,000 tonnes of beach sand minerals have been quarried in Vaippar village without permission from the government. We have sent the report to the government and action will be taken," he said.
"We have not quantified the quantum of loss to the government," he added