TN govt delays opening of sand quarries after stiff opposition

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The Tamil Nadu government has delayed the opening of river sand quarries following stiff opposition from farmers and social activists.

The industries department had announced the opening of river sand quarries by the end of March. However, farmers’ bodies and activists from different parts of the state staged demonstrations against the opening of the new river sand quarries citing the flood situation witnessed in various parts of the state last year.

Another factor that has pulled the government back from opening the sand quarries is the order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) according to which, quarries that are above five hectares, to be opened only after conducting public hearings.

In January, the Tamil Nadu industries department had passed an order announcing the opening of 16 quarries for heavy vehicles and 21 quarries for bullock carts.

Incidentally, most of these quarries spread across Tiruchi, Karur and Ariyalur districts, are above five hectares. Therefore, the government officials are fearing a stiff public opposition during the hearing as it could result into law and order situation.

The Tamil Nadu agricultural farmers association has already petitioned the concerned district administrations against the opening of river sand quarries.

Praveen Sitharaman, an activist and president of River Protection Forum, an organisation against the destruction of rivers through illegal sand mining in Karur told IANS: “The river sand quarries will lead to further depletion of the rivers and there is no sand left in Cauvery and Kosasthaliyar river beds. It is to be recalled that during the last monsoon water went directly to the sea and rivers were tapering. The new sand quarries will ultimately kill the rivers and we will fight against this exploitation of natural resources.”

He also said that the previous government had imported sand from abroad and proposed the same to the present government instead of opting for more river sand quarries.

With opposition mounting against these quarries, the government industries department is now expecting to hold more consultations with the farmers’ associations and activists before implementing the project.

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