The Madras High Court has directed the Principal Secretary, PWD to evolve a scheme for the supply of sand depending upon the building plan approval and a price control mechanism as envisaged by the amendment (Rule 38-A) of the Tamil Nadu Minor Mineral Concession Rules, 1959 that was introduced to prevent illegal sand quarrying and ensure mining in a scientific manner.
The bench dismissed the plea after the monitoring committee formed by the court to check the veracity of the petition had recommended the removal of shoals in the lease area as that would facilitate the flow throughout the width of the Cauvery.The committee had also suggested granting permission to conduct the quarry operation in accordance with the conditions stipulated in the environmental clearance of the State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority dated Aug 10, 2018.
Based on this, the bench also directed the Project Director, Mines and Monitoring Division, Tiruchy, to work out the possibility of supplying river sand at the doorsteps of the common public as how the case now is with imported sand.
However, the bench on pointing that there are rampant illegal mining activities on one side and exorbitant sand pricing on the other side, said, “The illegal sand quarrying operations are not curtailed. On the other hand, the price of the sand is not affordable by the common public. The PWD is conducting the quarry operations, selling the sand in the yards for Rs 1,200 per unit. But the sand, when it reaches the common public, costs Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 per unit.”
Also, noting that the sand portal created by the government has failed in its objective, the bench said, “There is no mechanism to identify the eligible person for purchase of sand. Anybody can approach the sand portal, purchase the sand and sell for an exorbitant rate.” “As there is a huge gap between the demand and the supply, the price of the sand shot up to exorbitant levels and the black marketers and those lorry owners, who have enrolled with the PWD, alone are reaping the benefits. Whereas, the genuine common public, who obtain due planning permission and construct cannot purchase the sand through this portal without the mercy of the lorry owners enrolled with the department,” the bench added.