The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court has ordered permanent closure of 16 sand quarries functioning in Tamil Nadu's Cauvery and Kollidam rivers. In the case of ten other quarries, the court has directed the government to obtain clearance from the Environmental Impact Assessment Authority in three months. It has also instructed the state government to fill in all pits in the river bed with sand, besides banning gravel roads on the river beds. It has recommended use of sugarcane wastes on river beds for movement of vehicles transporting sand.
The petition was filed by the Cauvery Water Resources Protection Committee alleging indiscriminate sand mining in the region resulting in destruction of the river.
Sand quarries in Tamil Nadu are operated by the state public works department and petitioners had alleged that the state government had not obtained the mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment Clearance from the Centre. An amended notification by the Environment and Forest ministry makes its clearance mandatory for quarries mining minerals and sand.
Sudalakannu, petitioner and founder of Cauvery Water Resources Protection Committee told NDTV, "the committee is quite happy about the verdict though we expected the court to ban sand mining in all rivers in the state; perhaps the court had public interest in mind in giving time for the state to set right violations." Two years ago the same court had banned sand mining for five years in River Thamiraparani in Tirunelvelli district following a petition by the farmers group.
Minister for Public Works, Mr KV Ramalingam told NDTV that "the state government would not mine sand at areas the court has prohibited. However only after studying the reasons the court has cited, we could decide whether or not to appeal the order".