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FINAL-PUCL-Press Meet-Sand Mining in River Beds-9thOct2013

FINAL-PUCL-Press Meet-Sand Mining in River Beds-9thOct2013

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Published by Kumar Sundaram
Following is an interim report of Fact Finding Team (FFT) jointly conducted by Civil Liberties organizations, activists, professionals and students regarding River Sand Mining in the Palar and Cheyyar Basins in Kanchipuram District, Tamil Nadu. The team comprised of 1. Prof. G. Saraswathi, President, PUCL-TN & Puducherry , 2. Prof. S. Sankaralingam, President, PUCL - Chennai & Surrounding Districts , 3. Saravanan K, Treasurer, PUCL - Tamil Nadu & Pudhucherry , 4. K. Sudhir, Peoples Architecture Commonweal , 5. D. Leela, Peoples Architecture Commonweal, 6. K. Ragul, Student, School of Architecture and Planning, Anna University, 7. G. V. Kumaresan, Engineer, 8. Kanchi Kailasam, Student of Law interning at PUCL and 5 other student volunteers
Following is an interim report of Fact Finding Team (FFT) jointly conducted by Civil Liberties organizations, activists, professionals and students regarding River Sand Mining in the Palar and Cheyyar Basins in Kanchipuram District, Tamil Nadu. The team comprised of 1. Prof. G. Saraswathi, President, PUCL-TN & Puducherry , 2. Prof. S. Sankaralingam, President, PUCL - Chennai & Surrounding Districts , 3. Saravanan K, Treasurer, PUCL - Tamil Nadu & Pudhucherry , 4. K. Sudhir, Peoples Architecture Commonweal , 5. D. Leela, Peoples Architecture Commonweal, 6. K. Ragul, Student, School of Architecture and Planning, Anna University, 7. G. V. Kumaresan, Engineer, 8. Kanchi Kailasam, Student of Law interning at PUCL and 5 other student volunteers

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Published by: Kumar Sundaram on Oct 15, 2013
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PEOPLE'S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES (PUCL)-CHENNAI & SURROUNDING DISTRICTS
 
Hussaina Manzil, III Floor, 255 (old No. 123) Angappa Naicken Street, Chennai-600 001.Phone: 91-44-25352459
Prof. S. Sankaralingam TSS ManiPresident Secretary9443381160 9444905151
Date:09/10/ 2013 
Release of interim report of Fact Finding Team (FFT) on River Sand Mining in the Palar and Cheyyar Basinin Kanchipuram District, Tamil Nadu 
Constitution of the Fact-finding Mission
On the basis of complaints received of illegal sand mining in the Palar and Cheyyar  basins in Kanchipuram District, the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)-Chennai andSurrounding districts set up a fact-finding team (FFT) with the following members toinvestigate the same:1.
 
Prof. G. Saraswathi, President, PUCL-TN & Puducherry2.
 
Prof. S. Sankaralingam, President, PUCL - Chennai & Surrounding Districts3.
 
Saravanan K, Treasurer, PUCL - Tamil Nadu & Pudhucherry4.
 
K. Sudhir, Peoples Architecture Commonweal5.
 
D. Leela, Peoples Architecture Commonweal6.
 
K. Ragul, Student, School of Architecture and Planning, Anna University7.
 
G. V. Kumaresan, Engineer 8.
 
Kanchi Kailasam, Student of Law interning at PUCL and 5 other studentvolunteers
Terms of Reference
The team decided to look into
legal frame work related to river sand mining in Tamil  Nadu, mining procedures followed at quarries, the role of government at various levels, social, environmental and economic impacts of river sand mining including aspects of healthand impact on traditional governance of commons.
The ToR was broadly divided into miningrelated, executive role related and impact related sections (The detailed ToR will be includedin final report).
Schedule and Process followed by the FFT to Collate Facts
On 24
th
& 25
th
Aug.2013, the FFT visited sand mining sites/quarries and stock yardsin Palar and Cheyyar river basins and interacted with people of the area, took photographsand videos of the sand mining activity, spent quarries and stockyards and interviews of  people.On 30
th
Aug. and 2
nd
Sep.2013, the team interviewed various District officialsincluding the District Collector.
 
Apart from these visits and interactions, the FFT has been collating facts for the pastseveral weeks, from various replies to questions under RTI, Tamil Nadu Minor Minerals
 
2
Concession Rules (TNMMCR) 1959 (amended upto 2005), rulings of higher courts, relevantG.Os, mining permits given for quarries etc.It is to be noted that the visits were made after the ruling of National Green Tribunalof 05-08-2013 which ordered a halt to all illegal sand mining across India.
Quarries & Stockyards Surveyed
 Palar Basin
On 24
th
Aug.2013, the FFT visited Pazhayaseevaram, Pinayur, Pazhaveri quarries andthe spent quarries at Puliyambakkam and Angambakkam on Palar. It also visited thestockyards at Pazhaveri and Sankarapuram where quarried sand of Palar was stocked.
Cheyyar Basin
On 25
th
Aug.2013, the FFT surveyed the largely spent (i.e.totally depleted) quarries atMagaral, Kavanthandalam, Elayanar Velur, Sitthathur, Vayalakkavur and Pullambakkam onthe Cheyyar and Kavanthandalam stockyard where quarried sand of Cheyyar was stocked.The quarries and stockyards visited both in Palar and Cheyyar basins were spreadacross Kanchipuram and Uthiramerur Taluks of Kanchipuram District.
What we Saw, Heard and Recorded on the Ground
 During the visit to the sand mining sites at Pazhayaseevaram, Pazhaveri and Pinayur,the FFT members saw thousands of men and women with shovels, working at a frenzied paceto fill as many lorry loads as possible between sunrise and sunset. The sand was loaded intohundreds of tractor-trailers scurrying to and fro on the river beds transporting the river sandto the stock yard at Pazhaveri. On enquiry, the FFT learnt that the labourers were mostlymigrant workers from distant districts such as Dharmapuri and Cuddalore. In all the threeriverbed sites, almost uniformly, the labourers were digging, shovelling and loading sand atdepths of 25-30 feet (7.6-9.2 meters) below the river bed, in a landscape that resembled moreand more the vast, cratered and life-less surface of the moon.We saw the remains of centuries old flood and spring channels along the south bank of the Palar in Pinayur, gouged out and laid waste. The channels looked like small pondshaving some water as sand was mined from this part of the bank itself. We saw the forlornriver intake
wells of the TWAD Board’s water supply scheme
in Pazhayaseevaram whichserves as a water source to the southern suburbs of Chennai city, marooned on minisculeislands as sand is being mined around the intake wells in the midst of the river bed
 – 
thelargest only a hundred square meters in area.In Puliyambakkam, we saw the remnants of a social forestry project. Local peopletold us that the trees were felled and sand was mined in the site. We visited the stockyards atPazhaveri, Pazhayaseevaram and Kavanthandalam, with their man-made mountains of sandwhere monster trucks continued to be loaded with the mineral around the clock usingmechanised means. The heavy duty trucks tirelessly ply the roads to Chennai city, affectingthe roads. Many instances of workers, villagers and other road users falling victim to the proliferation and movement of these heavy vehicles, tractors and earth movers, were cited.We met several individuals and small and large groups of people from the villages onthe banks of the Palar and Cheyyar, many who had worked in the quarries themselves andmany who confessed to having received money for not opposing illegal sand mining.
 
3
In face the FFT heard from a number of local residents that the sand miningcompanies regularly paid monthly amounts ranging up to Rs.1,000/- to each household in thevillage as a means of copting them and purchasing their silenceDuring the 2 days of the field visits, the FFT did not come across any official meant tomonitor the sand mining activities eventhough all of the mining and sale activity is intendedto be conducted by and under the supervision of the Government.Very importantly, the FFT did not see any signs of quarry-boundary demarcation, benchmarks or other monitoring related infrastructure at the sites itself.
Norms versus Violations
There are detailed safeguards available in law
 – 
Tamil Nadu being the only state inIndia to have nationalised the mining of river sand in 2003
 – 
under the Tamil Nadu Minor Minerals Concession Rules of 1959, last amended in 2005
 – 
and the rulings of the higher courts seeking to remove lacunae in sand mining. These safeguards are dutifully reflected asconditions in all the mining permits issued in Kanchipuram District from time to time. Butthe FFT was confronted with the flagrant violation of these norms on the ground.
S.No Applicable Norms/Conditions Violations
1Palar at Pazhayaseevaram, Pinayur and Pazhaveri: The permits issued byDistrict Collector (DC)s were for 44.22 hectares in Pazhaveri (Survey No. 328, 26-03-2009, now lapsed) and4.85 hectares in Pinayur (Survey No.404, 26-06-2013) only.Rampant illegal mining across huge tracts of the Palar falling in the contiguous villages of Pazhayaseevaram, Pinayur and Pazhaveri onthe north and south banks of Palar 
 – 
 estimated at approximately 200 hectares.Locals said this has been happening over thelast 4½ years.20.9 meter is the maximum depth permitted for sand mining in a river  bed (Source: Mining permits by DCsdated 26-03-2009 and 26-06-2013 )Sand mined almost uniformly upto 7.7 and9.2m in Pazhayaseevaram, Pinayur andPazhaveri in the Palar.Sand mined upto depths of 9-12 meters instretch of Cheyyar surveyed, exposing theclay bed of the river.350 meter minimum distance to bemaintained from the banks (Source:Mining permits by DCs dated 26-03-2009 and 26-06-2013 )Quarrying of the near-entire width of theCheyyar 
 – 
varying from 130-450 metersalong the 15km. stretch from Magaral toThirumukkoodal.4500 meter minimum distance to bemaintained from water-bearing andother infrastructure (Source: Mining permits by DCs dated 26-03-2009 and26-06-2013 )Sand has been removed within 3-6 metersdistance and for depths of 9 meters, around 6
river intake wells of the TWAD Board’s
Taambaram-Pallavaram Kootu Kudineer Thittam and 3 others to the east of it.5Use of heavy machinery is banned andonly manual means to be employed inthe mining activity on the river bed asset out by a High Court ruling andHeavy machinery such as Poclains and 20-30 tonne trucks are being used to quarrysand at Kavanthandalam in Cheyyar.

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