Illegal quarrying in parts of TN under scanner

Chennai, Oct 1 (IANS): Tamil Nadu's Department of Revenue has initiated steps against illegal quarrying in many parts of the state after several individuals, organisations and political parties pointed out the blatant embezzlement of mineral wealth without any license.

In Ariyallur district, two Village Administrative Officers (VAOs) were suspended by the Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) after it was found that they were hand in glove with an illegal limestone quarrying group.

There were reports of illegal mining also taking place in Karuppur Senapathy, Reddipalayam, Periyathirukkonam, Unjini and Thalavai.

The two VAOs were suspended after 11 trucks with illegal mines were seized. They merely mentioned that the vehicles were carrying materials beyond their capacities and that the vehicles were covered.

On proper investigation, the RDO found out that the limestone that was being transported was extracted from illegal mines and that the two VAOs were responsible for checking the legality of the quarries and mines in their jurisdiction.

Environmental activist R. Rajendran, who runs the Special Action Group in Tiruchi, told IANS: "The incident at Ariyalur is only the tip of the iceberg. Loads of trucks are transporting minerals that are extracted from illegal mines. They are destroying the environment and even paying any rightful taxes to the government. Unless stringent action is taken, nothing will stop these looters from getting away and it is unfortunate that these people have political patronage."

In Theni district, there have been widespread protests against illegal mining with truck loads of materials, including stones, being transported to Kerala.

Speaking to IANS, R. Ilavarasan, a social activist based out of Theni, said: "There is blatant mining taking place in these quarries. Most of them are illegal and in some cases, there is license for one quarry and with that paper, several others are functioning. We have given several complaints to many offices but to no avail. We are planning a 'road roko' agitation to bring the situation to the forefront and there could be major natural catastrophes in the days to come if we don't put an end to this illegal mining."

There are complaints from the Dindigul, Madurai, Tirunelveli, and Thoothukudi districts about illegal mining.

When contacted, a senior official with the Department of Revenue told IANS that a crackdown has already begun and that many vehicles transporting illegal limestones and other materials were seized in Ariyalur, Coimbatore, Dindigul and Tirunelveli.

He also said that special squads are involved in preventing illegal transportation and those mines and quarries that do not have licenses are being shut down.



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