A complete ban on sand mining in Palar has been in force since 2013. Though illicit mining has been on even during the past five years, environmentalists fear it could become rampant in the absence of a regulation.
Official sources in the department of geology and mining said the district collector had sent his views on the issue to the state government. “The decision on extending the ban or allowing sand mining would be taken by the industries and public works department secretaries,” a geology and mining official said.
The state government had imposed a blanket ban on sand mining in Kancheepuram district after the Madras high court ordered a CBI probe into the illegal sand stockyards in Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur districts in 2013. Later, the CBI probe was stayed by a division bench. The then Kancheepuram district collector, L Sitherasenan, was suspended for failing to act against illegal sand miners. Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu State Sand Lorry Owners’ Federation’s S Yuvaraj said the government should not reinstate the ban. “Opening up sand quarries in Kancheepuram district will help to reduce the cost of river sand. While one unit of imported river sand measuring 4.5 tonnes sourced from Malaysia is sold at Rs 10,350, sand available in the stockyards at Kancheepuram would be available for Rs 1,350 per unit,” he said. This would facilitate delivering river sand for just Rs 5,000 inclusive of transport charges at construction sites in Chennai, he added.
Besides, Yuvaraj said, permitting sand quarries to operate would help check illegal mining in the district.
Environmentalists stressed the need for regulation as groundwater recharge would take a beating. “Unregulated sand mining will have an adverse impact on subterranean flow of Palar river,” said Ramjee Nagarajan, an environmentalist.
Department of geology and mining sources said “More than 50 lorries were impounded in the last one month on charges of illicit sand mining.”
Kancheepuram district collector P Ponniah could not be reached for comment despite several phone calls and text messages.