5924 quarries function in Kerala despite disasters

Biju Paravath

Quarry in Koottickal Kottayam, a landslide in the area took the life of a native I Photo: Shivaprasad| Mathrubhumi

Thiruvananthapuram: Acclaimed ecologist Madhav Gadgil, who formulated the Gadgil report, has warned the state of the long-term consequences if they are not ready to rectify mistakes that are already made. The remark was made pointing out at the number of quarries that are currently functional in the state causing severe impact on the environment.

According to the latest reports, there are 5924 quarries in Kerala, including in the most ecologically fragile zones and along with the watershed areas. Surprisingly, not even one third of these active quarries were sanctioned by the government. Meanwhile, the government also approved 223 new quarries since the 2018 floods. The state government struggled a lot to get approval from the centre to sanction quarries in the close vicinity of forest areas.

“When explosion takes place in quarries, it affects the structure of the rocks in the surrounding hills. The area itself gets weakened as it disintegrates the rocks. This is how quarrying should be viewed,” Madhav Gadgil pointed out.

According to the central act, the quarries in the state can function 5 kilometres away from forest area. In order, to allow more quarries in the state, the government had to reduce the distance limit for quarries near populated and forest areas. For this, the state approached the Center to reduce the distance to 100 meters. When this was finally approved by the central government, 223 quarries were sanctioned in all the districts except Alappuzha.

There is also a provision for starting the quarries within 50 meters without the use of explosives. The government also opposed the direction of the court to increase this distance. Quarries are also not permitted by the Department of Mining and Geology in ecologically fragile areas. The permission was granted in such places before the area was declared ecologically vulnerable by the authorities. However, this license has not been renewed.

The government has decided not to allow quarries without a site inspection and an environmental permit. However, most of the quarries function without much objection despite lacking renewed permits.

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