Of around 200 brick chambers near the Western Ghats, 165 have written to TNPCB, stating that they are ready to pay for operating license from the authority.

165 Coimbatore brick kilns accept illegal operations seek years time to get approvals Image for representation
news Environment Saturday, February 08, 2020 - 15:24

After months of denying allegations that they were operating illegally, it has come to light that most brick chambers in the border areas of Western Ghats in Coimbatore district admitted to the government that they do not have requisite permissions the departments of mining, agriculture, forest or the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB).

This was revealed following an RTI response by the TNPCB to environment activists based in Coimbatore. 

Coimbatore-based environment activists TMS Rajendran, and S Ganesh had petitioned before the District Collector of Coimbatore to conduct inquiry into the legality of the brick chambers, following which the District Collector served Show Cause Notice to the chambers. In the notice, the brick chambers were asked why they should not be lawfully shut down since they are functioning illegally. The brick chambers had submitted their responses to the Collector in November, copies of which was demanded under RTI by Rajendran. Meanwhile, the TNPCB and the Tamil Nadu Department of Geology & Mining had also conducted inspections in the brick chambers in 2019. 

According to a response by TNPCB to an RTI query by Rajendran, the owners of 165 brick chambers in five villages -- Thadagam, Veerapandi, Pannimadai, Somaiyampalayam and Nanjundapuram -- have written to the TNPCB requested a year’s time to obtain necessary approvals from government.

In their identical responses sent to the TNPCB, these firms have also stated that they are also ready to pay for the TNPCB license to operate brick chambers in the region after obtaining approvals from the mining, agriculture and forest departments. 

The 935-page response to the RTI application was received by TMS Rajendran on February 3. 

Speaking to TNM about the responses, Ganesh said, “The Collector’s notice said that there are 141 brick chambers in the region. But we have evidence of around 192 brick chambers here functioning without approval. We have done extensive groundwork to identify those chambers and take them to task legally. We have also filed writ petitions in the court seeking actions against the authorities who allowed these chambers to function for so long.”

Adding that these responses make it clear that the brick chambers are functioning without licenses, Ganesh said, “It is also evident that the government knows that these chambers are illegal. That is why we seek stringent action against the authorities as well.”

Further, the brick chamber owners, in their response to Collector’s show cause notice, uniformly stated that they have carried out alterations in their chimney structures as per TNPCB norms. “TNPCB had advised me to increase the height of the chimney to 101 feet and hence I have done that. I have also made arrangement below the chimney to collect ash, as per the norms,” one of the responses stated.

The response letter also added that the owner was ready to pay the fee to obtain the license from TNPCB to function, as per norms. 

The stand-off between the brick chambers and the residents living in the villages has been longstanding. While the residents and activists have continuously alleged that the brick chambers are functioning in the region without necessary permissions, causing health hazards and damage to the environment, the owners of the brick chambers have consistently denied these allegations. 

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