CHENNAI: The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court on Friday directed the State government to take immediate steps to remove the approach roads and close sand quarry sites in Cauvery river at Thiruvasi, Kiliyanallur, Unniyur, Kariamanikam, Alambadi and Manamedu in Tiruchy district.
The removal of the approach roads and closure of sand quarries must be personally monitored by the project director, a Division Bench of Justices K K Sasidharan and G R Swaminathan said. The Bench was passing orders, while disposing a batch of PILs from K Raja Sekar and 10 others. While Sekar sought to close down the sand quarry operations of S Ramachandran from Thiruvalasolai and Kondayampettai, others prayed for similar reliefs.
The Bench said the quarrying operations, even in those quarries where there are shoals of sand, must be undertaken only by abiding the norms and conditions of environmental clearance. The sites should be closed immediately after removing the available shoals of sand. The area and depth of quarries should be in accordance with the permission granted by environmental authorities. Such quarrying operations would be subject to the result of the Special Leave Petition pending before the Supreme Court, the Bench said.
The government must undertake a scientific study with the help of experts to identify the mineral deposits and its exact location. The State must excavate minerals only from the places identified by experts and by following the conditions imposed by environmental authorities. Interlinked roads inside the river must be removed to prevent illegal mining and transportation of minerals.
The levelling of roads inside the river shall be done in a phased manner. Sand mining should not be undertaken in respect of locations where illegal mining had already been done.
The State must ensure that the sand quarries adhere to the norms regarding extent and depth. The boundary of the quarry should be demarcated by following the procedure set-out under Clause 2 (ii) of the conditions imposed by the environmental authority. The project director must ensure robust monitoring of sand mining. In case of any violation of conditions prescribed by the environmental authority, the same should be reported by the field official to the project director, who must take immediate action for suspension of the quarrying pending enquiry.
The officers incharge of the sand quarries must be made personally accountable for violation of any of the conditions. Both legal and departmental action should be taken against them for indulging in illegal quarrying or excess quarrying in collusion with the lifting agents and transport operators, the Bench said.
The present procedure of engaging sand lifting contractors must be abolished. The contractors must be appointed through e-tender by following a transparent procedure.
The endeavour of the licensee must be either to hire or purchase necessary equipment for sand lifting from the quarry. The existing lifting contractors must be directed to back-fill the pits at all quarry sites to level the quarried area.
The court commissioners have observed that clearance from the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) has been routinely obtained for river sand mining without divulging the material factors like existence of bridge, water supply system etc.
The SEIAA without conducting field inspection and cross-checking the details permitted quarrying. There is no mechanism now to ascertain as to whether the conditions imposed by the SEIAA have been complied with by the licensee. This issue must be addressed.
Before granting permission for the sites, where sand is available, the SEIAA must visit the place indicated in the application for sand mining. The site boundaries must be shown in the mine plan and excavation must be within the boundaries. The project director must fix the pucca permanent pillar boundaries for excavation. He must ensure that stones are erected at 50 metre intervals along the boundaries with the marking of shoal height, river bed height and depth to be excavated.
The State must streamline the entire process right from site selection to operation of quarry and supply of sand in an ecologically friendly and environmentally sustainable manner
The entire quarry sites must have CCTV
There must be IP cameras set up in all the poclain machines for monitoring overloading
The State must include environmental experts from reputed Central/State institutions, preferably from
IIT, to be part of the district task force
It must be the responsibility of the district Collector concerned to oversee, monitor and streamline the functioning of the sand quarry
Officials of the Public Works Department and others involved in the process must be given training periodically in relation to environmental and legal aspects of sand quarrying
Centralised control room in Chennai and Tiruchy to monitor sand quarrying ops
Customer care to receive complaints and take action