CHENNAI: In a major boost to the state’s construction industry, which is facing sudden sand shortage following the high court’s ban on river sand mining, public works department has initiated bidding process to open sand quarries in the state, again. The move was taken after Supreme Court stayed high court’s order. “PWD has been preparing pre-requisite paper works to invite bidders to open mining quarries,” a PWD official said.
According to PWD sources, the department has been planning to bolster e-tender process for the first time to ensure transparency in the awarding orders to sand mining firms. “The e-tender move has been mooted to curb illegal sand mining and subsequent environmental impacts,” the official said. Madras high court upheld the Madurai Bench of Madras high court’ banning of sand quarries in January 2018. The injunction to close sand quarries severely hit the construction industry.
However, the Supreme Court had stayed the high court order, giving much-needed relief to the government and builders. The official also added that the department would open at least 30 sand quarries in the beginning of March and subsequently, 40 quarries will be opened in the next phase by the end of the March, the official added.
With the PWD going back again to river sand mining, M-Sand that had enjoyed recent demand is set to lose pace, the official pointed out. “The usage of M-Sand has seen a gradual rise after the ban on river sand. But the demand would dip again,” the official said. However, the M-Sand has been catering only 5,000 loads of sand need to the state’s construction industry against required needs of more than 30,000 loads.
Illegal mining rampant in Tiruvallur, say lorry owners
Despite the ban on sand mining along river beds, illegal mining is still rampant in neighbouring Tiruvallur district, alleges the Tamil Nadu state sand lorry owners’ federation. In their petition filed in the collectorate, they said that local enforcement agencies have turned a blind eye to the violations and requested a drone-surveillance project, similar to the one implemented in granite quarries and put forth several other requests.
“Not even one quarry is operating in Tiruval-lur district, but most sand mining happens in that area. Three petitions have been filed so far, but to no avail. The only action taken regarding the issue is that each year, an average of `5 crore is collected as fine for illegal sand mining,” rued S. Yuvaraj, president of the association, adding that people working under revenue officials including car drivers and subordinates are the ones who help in sand mining.
Stating what several sand lorry associations want, he said that there must be gunmen at all security check points installed with CCTV cameras, all lorries must be enabled with GPS systems and driving licenses of those flouting norms should be cancelled.
The quantity of sand mined illegally must be assessed and the driver has to be fined accordingly. In the petition, it was also mentioned that there has been an increasing trend of adulteration of river sand with sea sand and lorries from other states often go unchecked. “All areas banned for extraction of sand must be mentioned separately and village officers, revenue inspectors and others involved in helping illegal sand mining must be penalized. Government must provide proper receipts while purchasing sand online and stockyards must be implementing for safer handling of sand,” read the petition.