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Madras High Court decree to shut all Tamil Nadu sand quarries within six months

Cites widespread ecological damage, raps govt for not checking rampant, illegal mining

Published: 30th November 2017 02:15 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th November 2017 09:44 AM   |  A+A-

Image used for representational purpose

Express News Service

MADURAI: Coming down heavily on the State government for letting rampant and illegal mining reach a level wherein it has become difficult to even assess the excess quantity of sand and minerals quarried, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Wednesday ordered the closure of all sand quarries/sand mining activities and granite quarries across Tamil Nadu within six months.

Quoting Stephen Hawking, a renowned theoretical physicist, who said, “The planet — Earth — will become a sizzling fireball in less than 600 years,” Justice R Mahadevan, in his 77-page order, observed that illicit, indiscriminate and haphazard sand mining led to the deepening of riverbeds, widening of rivers, damage to civil structures, depletion of the groundwater table, degradation of groundwater quality, damages to the river system and reduction of biodiversity.

Allowing a petition filed by M R M Ramaiya, who sought clearance for import of construction sand from Malaysia to Tamil Nadu, Justice Mahadevan held, “Now-a-days, sand — a kind of mineral — has become a rare commodity because of mindless quarrying and policies, thereby continuing to degrade the environment, affecting the agricultural activities and also in the process resulting in scaling up of price and now, we are these days importing sand/river sand from abroad like other commodities.”

13 directions for a better tomorrow

A week after TN govt decided to open 70 additional sand quarries across the State to meet the ever-increasing sand demand, a petition filed in the Madurai Bench of Madras HC by a private firm nailed the operation of sand quarries and illegal mining. On Wednesday, Justice R Mahadevan gave 13 directions to the State while citing SC observations

Judge cites Kerala ban on mining in six rivers

  1. Besides ordering the closure of granite quarries and other mineral mines, except jelly, the judge pointed out that Kerala had already banned mining across six rivers and the governments of Kerala and Karnataka were contemplating importing sand The State shall stop all sand mining/quarrying activities  in Tamil Nadu within six months from today and shall not open any new sand quarries/mines in future
  2. The quarries of granites and other minerals, except  jelly, have to be periodically closed to maintain ecological balance
  3. The State should issue appropriate directions to the authorities concerned enabling the importers to transport and sell the imported river sand with appropriate directions to the importers to produce all the import related documents and maintain proper records reflecting the quantity imported, sold, stock in hand and other necessary particulars before the Mines and Commercial Taxes Departments to check evasion of taxes
  4. The State shall depute a team with experts from the Geological Department to identify, process and import the sands and minerals from countries which permit export and display them for public and the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry shall cause to effect a publication as to the countries which permit export of sand and the procedures thereof to be complied with
  5. The State shall also take a decision to import river sand by the State owned Corporation itself to meet out the short-supply of sand within the State, if there is no other legal impediments
  6. The District Collectors and the Superintendents of Police of all the Districts concerned, in consultation with the officials of the Commercial Taxes Department, shall issue appropriate directions to their subordinate officers, to distinguish what kind of minerals, are permitted to be transported, interstate or intrastate and what are the documents, required to be possessed and displayed to the officers at the check posts, if any
  7. The State shall establish permanent check-posts within the State with the officers equipped sufficiently to curb and prevent illegal mining and transportation of sand; the check-post officers shall maintain the record of all the vehicles crossing by; the State shall also fix camera at the check-posts and connect the same with a common server to ensure that illegal mining and transportation is curbed
  8. The State shall initiate appropriate and immediate action against the persons involved in illegal mining, transportation and storage in the State and proceed for the permanent confiscation of the vehicle involved in the illegal activities and cancellation of the Registration Certificate of the vehicle, without any scope for the owner of the vehicle to plead ignorance
  9. The State shall constitute a committee to ascertain the loss caused to the Government and take steps to recover the same from the companies, individuals including the erring government servants, whose hand, if found, be immediately suspended and prosecuted as per law
  10. The imported sand must be tested before the goods are cleared, if Quality Certificate is not produced by the importer and for that purpose, scientific methods for testing be deployed
  11. If any sale related to imported sand is proposed to be carried out, the same has to be done by strictly following the provisions as well as the Rules of Local Enactments, ie, under the GST laws
  12. The State shall be at liberty to bring in an enactment to regulate and handle such imported sand within the State, maintenance of records, etc
  13. The State shall issue appropriate guidelines specifying the quality of sand and its use so as to enable the importers to get appropriate sand with certificate from the exporter/authorities in foreign soil, so that the life and property of the common public is not jeopardised and the natural wealth of the State is preserved
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