HC allows sand mining subject to outcome of plea in SC

Taking into consideration the need for river sand quarrying for the state's economic development, the Madras High Court today allowed sand mining, subject to the outcome of a plea pending in the Supreme Court on the issue.

The court also considered the fast approaching deadline of 2022 for authorities to complete construction of 8.30 lakh houses for houseless in the state under a central government scheme while passing the order.

It comes two months after the court directed the state government to stop all sand mining and quarrying activities in Tamil Nadu within six months and not to open any new sand quarries. The apex court subsequently stayed the order.

A division bench of Justices K K Sasidharan and G R Swaminathan today directed the state government to maintain a balance, taking into account the need to preserve the ecology and to cater for the economic development.

It passed the orders on a batch of PILs filed before the Madurai Bench seeking to regulate sand mining.

"The natural resources are valuable assets of the state. It is the primary duty of the state to conserve the natural resources for our future generation," it said.

The court said citizens must be in a position to enjoy the resources without causing damage to the environment and the ecology. There must be an institutional framework and enforcement mechanism to prevent illegal and excess quarrying.

Mining should be undertaken by the state without any adverse impact on the environment, it said.

State alone responsible for sorry state of affairs ..................................................

Observing that the Tamil Nadu alone is responsible for this "sorry state of affairs," the court said there was no proper mechanism to check illegal quarrying and excess sand mining.

"The authorities who are given the mandate to operate the sand quarry are not at all concerned with the environment and ecology. They are conducting mining activities in collusion with the mining mafia and looting the natural wealth," it said.

The court then directed that quarrying operations, even in those quarries where there are shoals of sand, must be undertaken only by abiding the norms and conditions of the environmental clearance.

The quarry site shall be closed immediately after removing the available shoals of sand. The area and the depth of the quarry shall be in accordance with the permission granted by the environmental authorities, it said.

The officer in-charge of the sand quarry must be made personally accountable for violation of any of the conditions.

Both legal and departmental action should be taken against the officials indulging in illegal quarrying or excess quarrying in collusion with lifting agents and transport operators, the court said.

It said the present procedure of engaging sand lifting contractors must be abolished and directed the state to appoint such lifters through e-tender.

The court has directed the government to install CCTVs in the quarries and IP cameras in the earthmoving equipment to check overloading and to establish control rooms in Chennai and Tiruchirappalli to monitor quarrying.

Lorries used for transporting sand were also directed to be installed with GPS devices to monitor illegal transportation of sand.

HC directs govt to pay Rs 26 lakh compensation .......................................

Passing orders on a plea seeking compensation for the death of a 19-year-old man who fell into a deep pit in a quarry, the court said the state was liable for the death.

The man died after drowning in a pit dig illegally to mine more than the legally permissible quantity of sand, in Cauvery at Karur, it said.

The court then directed the government to pay Rs 26 lakh as due compensation to the family of the man.

"This incident should be an eye opener to the state. The state must act as a responsible body to protect the life of the citizens," the court said.

The payment shall be made by the government within eight weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of the order along with interest at nine per cent from the date of filing the writ petition, the court said.

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