In a first: Satellite-based monitoring system to check illegal mining
Srinagar, Feb 7: For the first time, a satellite-based monitoring system will be introduced in Jammu and Kashmir to check illegal mining activities. Despite the court ban, the practice of illegal sand mining has been going on unabated in J&K. With an aim to clampdown more severely against the growing sand mafia, the Department of Geology and Mining Jammu and Kashmir is coming with the IT based mining surveillance system under the new guidelines issued by Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to check illegal sand mining. The guidelines were released last month to focus on the effective monitoring of sand mining from the identification of sand mineral sources to its dispatch and end-use by consumers and the general public and looks at a uniform protocol for the whole country. In J&K, the surveillance system will enable the department in getting a satellite view of quarrying sites and any illegal activity taking place. An official of the Geological and Mining Department said the move is aimed to curb illegal mining without human intervention and subjectivity. “This will be done through constantly monitor mining with drones, aerial surveys, and setting up dedicated task forces at district levels,” he said. The official noted that IT based mining surveillance system has capacity to check any unusual activity such illegal mining at a region of 500 meters around the existing mining lease boundary. “Data from the satellite is super imposed on a digital map of mining lease area in regular intervals to detect activities outside the mining lease area. This way, we will get to know if any excavation has happened within 500 meters of the mining lease boundary,” said the official. However, the environmental experts of the valley said technology alone cannot help in curbing illegal sand mining. Senior Professor at University of Kashmir wishing not be named said that technology is not 100 percent foolproof. “Sometimes even a high resolution satellite image can’t give you an exact idea on how much of the sand material whether it is gravel or bajra has been extracted. One has to physically go to the site and verify. Second, in order to understand a satellite image, a technological expert is required, he said. The professor said in the later stage someone has to validate the finding of the picture. “This can be done by going to the area of sand extraction. So, it is important that monitoring of the mining activities be done both manually and technologically,” he added. Despite calling repeatedly, Director Geology and Mining, J&K, Vikas Sharma was unavailable for the comments.