Thiruvananthapuram: Over 300 illegal quarries in Kerala stand to benefit as the state government declared that areas beyond the 1 km radius of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries are not eco-sensitive.
The Union Forest and Environment Ministry had barred quarrying activities within the 10-km radius of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. With the state government reducing the distance to a mere 1 km radius, the quarries beyond that region would now be on the right side of the law.
These quarries have been functioning without the permission of the National Board for Wildlife and in violation of the Supreme Court's order. While pointing out that this was contempt of court, the forest department had earlier sought for their closure.
Mining and Geology director K Biju had issued stop memo to 57 quarries a month ago.
Meanwhile, the quarry owners allegedly tried to dilute the norms on distance limits. A top quarry owner from the Kerala capital is allegedly pulling the strings. The quarry owned by this businessman had also received stop memo.
Stop memo only on paper?
Earlier, when Chief Wildlife Warden Surendra Kumar had sought to shut the quarries in the 10 km radius of forest region, the geology director had sought for a map that clearly marked the quarry limits. However, when this became controversial, an order to shut down the quarries was issued.
Based on this, the geology department had sought from the forest department the list of quarries. However, this couldn't be made fully owing to non-despatch of information from several areas.
After geologists of four districts had drawn up lists, stop memos were issued to 57 quarries. Twelve quarries in Thiruvananthapuram, 17 in Palakkad, 22 in Thrissur and six in Idukki were issued memos. Though the provision of pass to these quarries was stopped, they continued to function.
Without the official pass, these quarries have been selling granite and other materials, worth lakhs of rupees, daily.
Relief with relaxed traffic fines
The Kerala government's recent decision to relax the penalty for traffic violations would mostly benefit tipper lorries of quarries. As per the government order, the maximum fine for overloading was cut down from Rs 20,000 to Rs 10,000.
However, in reality, the old rule stipulated the minimum fine for overloading as Rs 20,000. And an additional Rs 2,000 was also levied for each extra tonne. But now, for every extra tonne only Rs 1,500 is levied with the maximum fine of Rs 10,000.
Most cases of overloading are found on lorries associated with quarries.