Illegal sand quarrying is being carried out under the guise of removing the topsoil layer from the lake, residents said
Farmers and residents of Thirukandalam village in Tiruvallur district have complained of indiscriminate quarrying operations in water bodies in their area, located 30 km away from Chennai. They fear that it may lead to groundwater depletion and affect agricultural activity in surrounding villages too.
Roads to the village are busy even during lockdown period, as soil-laden lorries from the Thirukandalam Eesa lake ply past the areas, often during night hours too. Spread over nearly 144 hectares, the lake is the main source for irrigation, and for the drinking water needs of the villages.
Residents alleged that illegal sand quarrying was being done under the guise of removing the topsoil layer from the lake. While permission was obtained for quarrying for a depth of 0.90 metre in the lake, a lot of soil was being removed, beyond the permissible limit.
T.R. Kathirvanan of Thirukandalam said about 1,000 acres of agricultural lands in villages such as Purivakkam and Neyveli were dependent on water bodies like Eesa lake for irrigation needs. Agricultural borewells are now sunk for a depth of up to 300 feet. Earlier, water was available at 100 feet.The water body also faced threat of encroachments by brick kilns in the vicinity, he said.
“A check dam across Kosasthalaiyar river is being built just half a km away from Thirukandalam. But unless waterbodies in the vicinity are protected, how can we ensure groundwater recharge?” he asked.
Several representations have been made to the government authorities on this issue.
M. Umachandran, a farmer from Thirukandalam, said some of the water bodies also served as main sources for Chennai during the summer. Only 4,725 lorry loads of soil were permitted to be removed during a span of 50 days till September. But nearly 1,000 lorry loads of soil are being transported daily beyond operating hours, he said.
This would have an adverse effect on the groundwater table and biodiversity and lead to water scarcity and affect the livelihood of several farmers, he added. Similar complaints were raised about Neyveli tank as well.
Officials of the Water Resources Department said permission was provided by the Tiruvallur district administration after obtaining environment clearance. Private firms were permitted to clear soil from some water bodies in the Uthukottai taluk based on a revenue generation model.
“We had given a ‘no objection’ certificate to remove top sedimented soil. This would increase the storage capacity of the water bodies and prevent further encroachments on the foreshore of the water bodies. The site will be inspected for violations of the permitted loads of soil excavation and action will be initiated,” an official said.
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