CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu is losing several hillocks to indiscriminate mining for MSand, say environmentalists, warning of an inevitable disaster in a water-starved state.
Against the backdrop of the Madras high court’s Monday ruling, directing the government to crack down on illegal quarrying, they point to how the scam-tainted granite quarries of a decade ago adversely impacted the ecosystem.
Government sources say the actual volume cannot be quantified due to the lack of a monitoring system, but estimate the 840 crushing units, sourcing raw material from 700 quarries, produce 2 lakh tonnes-4 lakh tonnes of MSand daily. Environmentalists say destroying hillocks will adversely affect the hydrological cycle and the biodiversity.
River sand mining is worse, but sand gets replenished naturally if left unmined for a few years, they say, adding that hillocks once destroyed cannot be recreated. Besides, private quarries fetch the state just Rs 600 crore in royalties annually.
In 2019, the Madras high court quoting records said Tamil Nadu’s ‘mountains and hillocks are being sold to other states.’.
G Sundarrajan of Poovulagin Nanbargal, an environmental organization, said indiscriminate mining of quarries for MSand was a scam. “You are destroying your natural resources and supplying to others,” he said. There is a need to revisit the construction industry from the environmental perspective and explore the possibility of using alternate material such as gypsum, he said.
Environmental scientist Ramjee Nagarajan said quarrying hillocks affects watershed and weathering process. “Biodiversity will be deeply disturbed due to such activities. Moreover, the ripples may affect the water courses leading to fluoride contamination of groundwater,” he added.
Construction and Real Estate Industry Coalition secretary S Yuvaraj said the number of crushing units increased in the past five years after the acute shortage of river sand in 2017. “But, the problem is we cannot quantify the volume of MSand produced in the state and supplied to Karnataka and Kerala.”
Public Works Department officials said river sand available for construction in the state can last three years in case MSand-producing quarries are shut, while government sources said steps are being taken to monitor quarries from district collectorates through CCTV cameras.