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CHENNAI: The Sholavaram reservoir is being methodically plundered. Each night, tonnes of sand from one of the city key water reservoirs, now practically dry, are carted away to feed the burgeoning construction industry .
Villagers of Nallur in Tiruvallur district, where the 850-acre lake is located, say repeated complaints to the authorities concerned have failed to galvanism them into action.
From 11pm, a resident told TOI on condition of anonymity, trucks and earth movers start roaring into the quiet village and the illegal activity goes on until 3am. "By then, about 1,500 tonnes of red soil, on average, are dug out by earth movers," the resident added.
Trucks then carry the sand to secluded areas abutting the defunct Sholavaram air strip and within a two km radius of the reservoir. It remains there before being taken to construction sites for land filling or laying roads. It is also used in gardening.
When this reporter visited the spot on Wednesday, earth mover tracks were clearly visible on the lake bed, signs of the previous night's plunder. Five ft deep pits had been gouged out.
The mining has been going on for the last couple of months and has intensified over the past few weeks, a few villagers said. Unscientific mining can affect the stability of the nearly 150-year old reservoir with a capacity of 881 mcft (million cubic feet), warn experts.
Former Central Water Commission chairman A B Pandey said mining deep below the ground level of reservoir was dangerous. "If a free run is allowed, it may cause a lot of harm," he said. There are also larger fears about the risk to the environment.
A few villagers said the frequent movement of heavy vehicles through the area at odd hours robbed them of their sleep. Trucks access the reservoir through a narrow road leading to Nallur from the national highway (GNT Road).