ARIYALUR: Officials from the district administration went back on their assurance made to residents of Thirumanur during peace meetings, as the Public Works Department on Friday commenced mining sand from Kollidam river amidst heavy deployment of police personnel.
The residents of Thirumanur and Kollidam as also activists were confident that the project would be scrapped as the excavators were removed a few days back. But on Friday, they woke up to the clamour of excavators, trucks, and fire ambulance an accompanied by nearly a hundred police personnel.
“We trusted the words of the District Revenue Officer, Revenue Divisional Officer and other officials during the peace meetings when they advised the PWD officials to pull back the machines until a solution is reached. But, today, the same officials have come up saying THAT IS IT, PROJECT IS COMMENCING. We have been served an injustice. But, we will fight till the end’ said ‘Varanavasi’ Rajendran, one of the coordinators of Kollidam Neeradhaara Paathukaapu Kuzhu (Kollidam Water Resource Protection Group).
The villagers and the activists resorted to a road roko in Thanjavur-Ariyalur state highway. But, with a hundred police personnel providing them cover, the PWD officials managed to roll their excavators through into the river bed and started to dig river sand. The excavators cleared the natural growth and made paths for trucks to pass through.
The villagers, anguished, started to occupy the burial ground sheds on the banks of the dried river and expressed their agitation. The opposition continued until Additional Superintendent of Police A Sujatha and Deputy Superintendent of Police V Mohandoss convinced the villagers to give up their protests temporarily.
The project has been proposed over 16 hectares of the area to mine at least 3.76 lakh cubic metres for a period of two years at an expenditure of Rs 2.22 crore. The proposed project had already made the people from Thirumanur, Manjamedu, Thirumazhapadi, Thoothur, Elakkurichi, and Kulamanickam anxious that the mining will reduce groundwater levels in Thirumanur and surrounding villages, which will affect their drinking water and irrigation. The pumping stations and collector wells in Kollidam river are reportedly supplying water to the thousands of households in several villages in at least eight districts.
It is worth mentioning that the villagers and activists have been conducting a series of protests, condemnation meetings, and human chains against the sand mining projects before a couple of peace meetings where a solution was failed to be reached. Speaking to Express, the Revenue Divisional Officer N Sathyanarayanan said, “The project has officially begun, and mining will continue in upcoming days. We have been instructed to carry out the project without any further delays.”
Asked about the assurances given in peace meetings to pull back the machinery until a compromise is reached, he said, “We had compromised enough and assured them that their drinking water resources would not be disturbed.”