August 24, 2017 9:29:18 am
In an attempt to crack down on illegal sand mafia operating in and around the river beds of Sabarmati, Orsang, Tapi and Narmada, the Gujarat government, for the first time, will be deploying drones for surveillance. For its pilot project, the government will deploy drones to monitor the 60-km Sabarmati riverbed between Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad where illegal sand mining is rampant.
“We will begin from the Sabarmati riverbed. We have divided the riverbed into three zones, each 20 km long and two-km wide. It will be practically a 24X7 surveillance operation intended to curb illegal sand mining,” Roopwant Singh, the head of Commissionerate of Geology and Mining, told The Indian Express. “Many parts of the Sabarmati riverbed are inaccessible. There have been instances when our raid parties have come under attack. By using drone surveillance we plan to make our raids smarter and more effective,” Singh added.
On Tuesday, eight firms specialising in drone technology were at the Commissionerate of Geology and Mining in Udyog Bhavan in this regard. According to Singh, the government will not buy any drones for the project, but will hire firms that can provide drone surveillance services. The drones are expected to be in place in the next three weeks.
Interestingly, though a low value mineral, sand forms 25 per cent of the total minerals produced from Gujarat. It’s value is 10 per cent of the total royalty earned annually by the state government from minerals. There are about 1,200 legal sand mines in Gujarat, that are located mostly on riverbeds. The total quantum of sand mined from every year is about 5.6 crore tonnes. However, of the 25,900 illegal mining cases registered in Gujarat in the last four years, the instances of illegal sand mining constitute 10-12 per cent.
The state government is also considering introduction of “manufactured sand” as an alternate to natural sand. This will be manufactured from basaltic rock waste, also known as black trap. “This will ensure availability of sand through out the year and will help rationalise the sand market. Usually sand mining is not allowed during the four months of monsoon,” said Singh. The government is also considering to produce sand from dredging operations in ports and harbours and also using slag from steel plants, the officials added.
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