State orders more distance between stone quarriesUpdated: Aug 11, 2020 01:13 IST
The state has increased the minimum distance between stone quarries that do not require blasting and residential areas and public buildings to 100 metres (m) from 50m. However, environmentalists maintain the revised guidelines are grossly inadequate and do not address the issue of uncontrolled blasting, which can affects human habitation within a 500m radius.
The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) published revised guidelines on August 3, which were made available on its website on Saturday. These come after a February 2 order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), based on a petition against quarrying in Kerala. NGT directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to develop country-wide uniform guidelines for quarrying. “We have implemented exactly what CPCB has communicated to us,” said Sudhir Srivastava, chairman, MPCB.
MPCB’s circular states stone quarries may be set up at a minimum distance of 100 m (without blasting) from residential areas, highways, public buildings, railways lines, bridges, dams, monuments, heritage sites, canals, lakes, tanks etc. The minimum distance for quarries that require blasting of rocks remains the same at 200 m. “The regulation for the danger zone – 500m – as prescribed by the Directorate General (DG) of Mines Safety needs to be followed scrupulously,” reads the circular .
While the pan-India mandate remains 200 m minimum distance (when blasting is involved), the 500 m rule regulation would applicable wherever necessary and the state pollution control board would implement it on a case-to-case basis, said officials. “However, it is not a mandate and needs to be enforced only when required through controlled blasting methods and ensuring that human habitations and linear infrastructure is not threatened by the quarry’s functioning,” said Srivastava, adding that MPCB would ensure the 500m distance is maintained and noise norms are not violated by stone quarries.
Stone quarries emit particulate matter almost 100 times the safe limit, according to MPCB. “Apart from air, noise and water pollution, express guidelines for blasting and drilling have been issued. Such activities need to be done during favourable weather conditions [not during monsoon when there may be landslides] using permissible quantity of explosives so there is no impact to human habitation,” he said.
Stone quarries emit particulate matter almost 100 times the safe limit, according to MPCB. “Apart from air, noise and water pollution, express guidelines for blasting and drilling have been issued. Such activities need to be done during favourable weather conditions (not during monsoon that can lead to landslides), permissible quantity of explosives so there is no impact to human habitations, and vibrations need to be periodically monitored,” said Srivastava.
According to district survey reports from 2019, mining permits were issued to approximately 16 quarries in the Mumbai suburban district; 330 permits were issued in Thane; 52 in Palghar; 170 in Nagpur; and 30 in Sindhudurg.
Environmentalists said the revised guidelines are inadequate. “While none of the existing quarries are following this rule, the 500m distance has not been followed by CPCB or MPCB. Another issue is cluster mining, which is more dangerous. This is an ad-hoc measure to comply with the NGT order,” said Debi Goenka, executive trustee, Conservation Action Trust.
BN Kumar, director, NatConnect said, “Going by the example of Navi Mumbai, for over three decades, Vashi, Nerul, Belapur face loud sounds of the blasts leading to cracks on glass windows. Presently, the neighbouring Kharghar node is facing a quarry menace. The hills behind the Tata Cancer Hospital are being blasted. Several houses at Gholwadi village also complained of cracks on their walls and window glasses.”
CASE STUDIES OF QUARRY MENACE
Thane-Belapur Industrial Belt
“When there is uncontrolled blasting, the minimum distance has to be more than 500m and despite the advent of technology, most of these quarries are not installing better equipment for controlled blasting. We faced a horrible situation as the entire industrial belt was threatened by these activities until it was taken up with the state. Only then, most of these quarries were moved out. However, the threat looms for other industrial and residential areas where the 200 m minimum distance is insufficient,” said Jaydevan K, former additional chief secretary, Thane Belapur Industrial belt (TBIA).
Hillocks Being Flattened In MMR
Environmentalist Nandkumar Pawar, who has recently filed complaints of destruction of hills along the Dombivli-Ambernath MIDC road due to quarries that supply stones for housing construction projects in Kharghar, said, “These quarries are not even 50m away from the highway and there are villages less than 150 m where uncontrolled blasting had taken place before the monsoon season,” said Pawar.