Manufacturers Demand Reopening of 186 Brick Kilns in Tamil Nadu's Thadagam Valley

Reported by

Hariprasad Radhakrishnan

Legal Data by

Anmol Gupta, Mukta Joshi

Edited by

Moushumi Sharma

Updated by

Published on

March 24, 2022

March 24, 2022

Updated on

March 24, 2022

Location of Conflict

Thadagam

Coimbatore

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Environmental/Ecological Damage

(

Eco-Sensitive Zone

)

People Affected by Conflict

Households Affected by Conflict

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

ha

Starting Year

1988

State

Tamil Nadu

Sector

Land Use

Brick manufacturers in Thadagam valley are demanding the government to reopen the 186 brick kilns that were shut down by the district administration for flouting environmental norms. The kilns were allegedly involved in rampant earth mining in the eco-sensitive valley in Coimbatore district and were operating without proper licences as per norms laid out in the Tamil Nadu Minor Mineral Concession Rules. In April 2021, the Madras High Court ordered the state to take immediate measures to crack down on illegal brick kilns.  

According to S. Gopi, organiser of Coimbatore District Brick Manufacturers'’ Welfare Association, the closure of the brick kilns has affected the livelihood of nearly 1.5 lakh people.

Over the years, there have been reports of brick kiln owners resorting to threats and violence. On January 2, 2021, a 17-year-old girl, activists G. Mohanraj alias Mac Mohan and Thadagam S. Ganesh and his eight-year-old son were attacked by brick chamber owner V.K.V. Sundararaj and a few of his men when the former visited the Anuvavi-Karupparayan stream on the northern side of Kalaiyanur village 'for research purposes'. They were allegedly gheraoed when they started looking for their drone camera, which they reported to be 'missing'. Sundararaj and his men accused them of taking photographs of the closed brick chamber and reportedly attacked all four. When the girl's father later reached the spot, he, too, was attacked. Later, the police registered a case against Sundararaj and his men for rioting, voluntarily causing hurt and intimidating but also booked the four victims for trespassing.

In 2019, TMS Rajendiran, a 70-year-old farmer, alleged that a brick kiln owner had issued death threats to him and his family after he filed a writ petition at the Madras High Court asking for the closure of over 200 illegal brick kilns operating in Chinna Thadagam and surrounding villages. Rajendiran was supported in his petition by Ganesh, who also alleged similar threats.

The petition stated that at least 4,000 truck loads of red sand were being illegally removed every day across Coimbatore. “Around 4,000 tonnes of wooden branches are being burnt along with bad quality coal, rubber, cashew, coconut and palm tree leaves. The toxic fumes have affected health. Further, the dust from the trucks collecting red sand has been settling on the trees and houses and causing breathing issues among residents. The illegal operations of these brick chambers have also affected the drinking water in the villages,” the petition said.

In a hearing on September 22, 2021, the National Green Tribunal directed the Coimbatore Collector, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and the Department of Mining and Geology to file independent statements regarding the action taken against the violations.

Ganesh, coordinator of the Thadagam Valley Mineral Wealth Protection Committee, told LCW that over 9,500 acres of land were exploited by illegal mining. “This is thrice the area of Bhavanisagar dam. All the rainwater gets stagnated within these illegal mines. As a result, only limited water reaches the reservoirs, and agriculture is affected.” He further said that animals, including elephants, have started entering into residential areas as their habitats have been destroyed. “Hundreds of heavy vehicles plying between the illegal mines and the brick kilns led to a lot of dust pollution in the locality. But with the brick kilns closed now, we are able to breathe freely,” he added.

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Opposition against environmental degradation

Complaint against procedural violations

Other Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand by manufacturers to reopen brick kilns as 1.5 lakh workers affected by their closure

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Common and Private

Type of Common Land

Forest and Non-Forest, Non-Forest (Other than Grazing Land)

Total investment involved (in Crores):

Type of investment:

Year of Estimation

Page Number In Investment Document:

Has the Conflict Ended?

No

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Legislations/Policies Involved

Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957
Section 21(4) [Tahsildar of district to seize all goods of the brick kiln unit if the unit is found to be contravening any provision of the Act]
Rule 19(2) [Brick manufacturing units to apply to District Collector with prescribed forms and consent letter from the pattadar/land owner prior to setting up brick kiln]
Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006
Section 19 [State government to declare certain areas as air pollution control areas and prohibit use of fuel/burning of material in such areas]; Section 21 [Industrial plants operating in air pollution control areas to seek consent of State Pollution Control Board prior to operating the plant]
Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
Section 19 [State government to declare certain areas as air pollution control areas and prohibit use of fuel/burning of material in such areas]; Section 21 [Industrial plants operating in air pollution control areas to seek consent of State Pollution Control Board prior to operating the plant]
Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
Section 25 [No person, without prior consent of State Pollution Control Board, to establish any industry that is likely to discharge sewage or trade effluent into water body]
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    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

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    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

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    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

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    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute

Yes

What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community?

What was the Decision of the Concerned Government Department?

To seal 186 brick kilns that were operating in violation of the law.

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Violation of environmental laws

Legal Status:

In Court

Status of Case In Court

Pending

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

No

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

National Green Tribunal

Case Number

Main Reasoning/Decision of court

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) took cognizance of the issue on its own through a newspaper article on April 14, 2021. On June 4, 2021, the Tribunal appointed a Joint Committee to look into the issue and submit a report. On September 22, 2021, the NGT took up the matter at length and considered the Joint Committee report, along with reports by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, District Collector and other government officials . The NGT also stated that it was concerned with the payment of environmental compensation to be imposed for damage caused to the environment. On February 2, 2022, the Tribunal took stock of a parallel litigation taking place in the Madras High Court. However, the cases filed before the high court either had the court dismissing the matter as infructuous or directing the parties to approach the Tribunal. Such cases had been filed primarily by individual brick kiln owners who were aggrieved by closure orders issued by the state government. The Tribunal directed that newly added parties were to file their independent reply. The matter is next slated to be heard on April 8, 2022.

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

Blackmail/threats/intimidation

Physical attack

Whether criminal law was used against protestors:

Yes

Reported Details of the Violation:

A 17-year-old girl, two activists and an eight-year-old boy were reportedly attacked by brick chamber owner V.K.V. Sundararaj and a few of his men when the former visited the Anuvavi-Karupparayan stream on the northern side of Kalaiyanur village 'for research purposes'. They were allegedly gheraoed when they started looking for their drone camera, which they reported to be 'missing'. Sundararaj and his men accused them of taking photographs of the closed brick chamber. When the girl's father later reached the spot, he too was attacked. In 2019, TMS Rajendiran, a 70-year-old farmer, alleged that a brick kiln owner had issued death threats to him and his family after he filed a writ petition asking for the closure of over 200 illegal brick kilns operating in Chinna Thadagam and surrounding villages.

Date of Violation

January 1, 2022

Location of Violation

Thadagam

Nature of Protest

Campaigns (grassroots organisations/press releases/media)

Complaints/petitions/letters/memorandums to officials

Protests/marches

Development of a network or collective

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Coimbatore Local Planning Authority, Forest Department, Revenue and Disaster Management Department, Geology and Mining Department, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority, Hill Area Conservation Authority, Water Resources Department, Public Works Department, District Rural Development Agency

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?

Communities/Local Organisations in the Conflict:

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:
Large craters are found in places where red earth was mined by brickmakers in Thadagam valley

Large craters are found in places where red earth was mined by brickmakers in Thadagam valley

Image Credit:  

Thadagam S. Ganesh

Large craters are found in places where red earth was mined by brickmakers in Thadagam valley

Image Credit:  

Thadagam S. Ganesh

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