Depts fail to take responsibility of implementing guidelines for quarries

The strict guidelines set by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) for the operations of stone quarries have not yielded much result due to officials of MPCB and the mining department not taking any action but pushing the onus of implementing the guideliness on each other.

A Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 query filed by The Indian Express has revealed that both the departments have shrugged the responsibility of implementing the guidelines and have been pointing at each other.

Over 700 stone quarries operate in the Pune district. Environmentalists have been pointing out to environmental degradation, particularly soil, water and air pollution due to unchecked quarrying, most of which can be irreparable.

In order to mitigate environmental hazards of quarrying activities, in December 2006, MPCB had issued a series of guidelines to be followed. These guidelines, included methods to curb source-wise pollution levels. Other than asking for concrete roads, the guideline makes it compulsory for periodical sprinkling of water, compulsory plantation of trees along the hauling path garland to drain off water and maintenance of proper gradient along the quarry.

Newsline had filed RTI applications with both MPCB and the mining department of the district collectorate asking for details of implementation of the guidelines. The application had asked for details of the action taken against the the quarries where the guidelines were flouted.

In its reply, MPCB stated that neither do they inspect any quarry nor have they taken any action against any stone quarry. "Permission and inspection of stone quarries is not in purview of the MPCB," was the reply.

A D Mohekar, regional officer of MPCB, told Newsline, "The necessary guidelines for working of the mines are given by the revenue department and they also collect the royalty. It is the duty of that department to look after the proper implementation of the guidelines.

On the other hand, the mining department in its reply stated the issue of environmental clearance and implementation of environmental guidelines was the work of the MPCB and they were not responsible for the same.

Ganesh Patil, additional district collector, admitted that the department does not have necessary manpower to look after the implementation of the guidelines. "As these guidelines deal with technical issues which MPCB is well capable of handling, they should do the same. At our level, the tehshildar manages the necessary guidelines as per the Mumbai Minor Minerals Act, 1955," he said.

Environmentalist Parineeta Dandekar said unchecked quarrying can have severe consequences on the eco-system of the city. "The greatest damage quarrying does is to the watershed of the city. With Pune suffering from water problem, it is the need of the hour that the authorities start acting immediately," she said.

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