15 May QUOTA-AND-LICENSE SYSTEM IN RIVER-SAND MINING:
QUOTA-AND-LICENSE SYSTEM IN RIVER-SAND MINING:
A NEED FOR COURT REVIEW
Dr. Thriivikramji, K.P.,
C-32, Sankar Lane, Sasthamangalam, Trivandrum 695 010
Fine aggregate, a chief ingredient of cement-mortar and cement- concrete, in the construction industry parlance, has been river-sand as several of its properties very well satisfied the stipulations in the specification guide. With the advent of modern construction In India, river-sand emerged as the chief component of cement mortar and concrete, and Kerala is no exception either.
However, in the erstwhile states of Travancore or Travancore-Cochin or later in Kerala, given the size of then economies, use of borrowed river-sand was at a very low level, especially due to the native or ethnic building technologies of the region emphasized use of locally and easily available natural materials like stone, rubble, mud, Laterite, timber and thatch or tile and relatively little or very little cement based materials..
Spread of modern steel-and-concrete based construction technology, especially outside the government sector, warranted use of large volumes river sand (for fine aggregate), placing huge stress on the physical and biological systems of the source-rivers.
Unprecedented demand for fine aggregate or river-sand, resulting from the housing boom in Kerala in the 80’s and 90’s, driven by newly acquired wealth of west-Asian guest workers, steadily transformed and endangered river health, viz., by inflicting nearly-irreversible-damages to the ecology and ecosystem, changing ground water regimen of the river basin, curtailing the duration of base flow and finally disfiguring the channel morphology in the plan-view and section-view.
Steady and intense opposition to “unwise” removal of river-sand and the strong desire and determination of various activist-groups to save the rivers, finally culminated in the issuance of a direction by the Ho’nble High Court of Kerala, requiring every panchayat with a river channel or shore to get a quota-estimate-of-removable-sand from the respective sites in the channel or Kadavu’s after a scientific scrutiny either by CESS, Trivandrum (for southern rivers) or by CWRDM, Kunnamangalam (for northern rivers).
However, the license-and-quota-regimen, instead of maintaining the river health, led to extreme degradation of the river system in its entirety, expressly due to the licensee hugely exceeding the sanctioned quota of sand volume.
Only solution available now to save the rivers from “total morbidity” is for the state government to move the Hon’ble High-court of Kerala through with a review petition seeking a review of the earlier decision on licensing and replacing the former by a total ban on use of river sand as fine aggregate in the construction industry.
Such a river-sand-holiday in the construction sector, if properly designed, implemented and monitored will certainly regenerate the past glory for the ecology and the physical system of the rivers.