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18 Oct 2019, Edition - 1557, Friday

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Coimbatore

Campaign to clear Thadagam Valley of kilns, illegal sand mining

Ajay Menon

Young activist and politician Ashok Srinidhi has launched a campaign to save Thadagam Valley. He has presented petitions to authorities with pictorial proof of the plunder. He hopes to take his fight forward involving people and also take recourse to options the law can offer.

After campaigns against financial frauds and saving the water bodies in Coimbatore, Achamillai Coimbatore, headed by Ashok Srinidhi, has embarked on a drive against burgeoning brick kilns and illegal sand mining around Coimbatore on grounds of pollution, illegal use of land and posing even threats to elephants.

Ashok told The Covai Post that he had been researching on the matter for quite some time and found that there were scores of illegal brick kilns in the panchayats of Thadagam, Pannimadai, Nanjundapuram, Veerapandipudur and Somayampalayam.

The District Collector and the Tahsildar had been informed about the matter through two petitions. A political activist too as leader of the PMK youth wing, Ashok said the petitions were with pictures as proof. It was only to make them aware of the illegal activities going on around the place and requesting them to initiate action.

He admitted that it had been going on for years. But environmental concerns forced him to keep the authorities posted of such activities.

Global warming and the resultant climate change is a serious threat. His party has sought declaration of `Climate Emergency’. It was part of this that the petitions were dashed off to authorities.

There have been many reports and complaints that about illegal sand mining and operation of brick kilns in Thadagam area. There were more than 200 brick kilns operating in the five village panchayats of Thadagam, Pannimadai, Nanjundapuram, Veerapandipudur and Somayampalayam. This was causing air pollution in the areas leading to residents developing respiratory illnesses, asthma and other health issues.

Top soil in these areas was being excavated for making bricks, rendering several agriculture lands unfertile and degrading the quality of the soil there. Soil extraction was beyond permissible limits. This had led to creation of big ravines which have been photographed and attached in the petitions. Alongside illegal sand mining too was happening which was causing huge loss to the exchequer.

A lot of firewood and biomass were being used as fuel. This would also mean denuding of forests, he pointed out. The kilns are fired up to 700-1,100 degree Celcius. Suspended particulate matter, including gaseous sulphur, carbon and nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide were being released into the atmosphere, leading to not only to pollution, but also causing health hazards.

The excessive mining had led to formation of ravines. This had led to destruction of the elephant corridor, forcing them to take different routes. It was a tragedy that four elephants had died in the last two months because of such ravines, Ashok said.

Regulatory authorities appeared not to have any idea about what was happening in these areas since no action had ever been taken.

He wanted the Government intervene in the matter and take appropriate action. He warned that the petition was only the first step. He has already filed a request under the Right to Information Act to get details of the number of kilns operating in the area, the amount of sand being mined, etc.

As a next step there would be a mass protest. He admitted that there would not be much political backing as several leading political parties were hand in glove with these owners.

Ashok said the next step would be to take the legal recourse. A petition would be filed soon after gathering more details. It had to be noted that action would have to be taken against erring officials.

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