No more nod for new quarries, moots Kerala Assembly panel on environment

Kerala government's answer to landslides: Get more quarries
This hill from Thottapuzhassery panchayat in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala has been carved and dented beyond repair in a decade's time. Photo: Aravind Venugopal/Manorama

Thiruvananthapuram: Open quarries are equally dreaded by residents in the vicinity and environmentalists for its devastating impact. Kerala has been bearing the brunt of environmental degradation for long but the number of quarries in the state kept on increasing owing to the increasing demand of rocks for construction. The Assembly Committee on Environment, headed by Mullakkara Ratnakaran, has recommended no further nod for new quarries in the state.

The panel has also proposed that the minimum distance between quarries and residential areas should be increased to 200 metres from the current 50 m.

Also, the current validity of the environment clearance, which is five years, should be reduced, as per the report submitted in the Kerala Assembly. The report includes 32 recommendations.

If any of the current 723 existing quarries violate the Kerala Mines and Minerals Conservation Rules, then their approvals should be cancelled. Price should be regulated for quarry products.

Another recommendation is to levy additional tax along with the price of rocks from those who are building houses beyond the permissible limit.

Other recommendations

• Instructions should be given to the quarry owners to provide a fixed quantity of rock to nearby residents in the BPL category for building homes at subsidised rates.

• The house area should be regulated based on the number of family members.

• Quarry products should be made available to everyone at affordable rates.

• The amount levied from the quarry owner, under the corporate environmental responsibility, should be increased from the current 2 per cent.

• The use of chemicals such as ammonium nitrate at the quarries should be avoided. Instead blade cutting and non-electrical methods should be adopted. The licenses of quarries that do not make use of the non-electrical technology should be cancelled.

• Abandoned quarry regions should be protected and if not, fine should be levied from the quarry licensee concerned.

• Quarries should be brought under the control of the government with public ownership. Strict social restrictions should be in place for mining activities.

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