Drone-based survey to keep vigil on illegal quarries

Last year, the department collected a meagre Rs 37 crore as penalty from quarries for illegal lifting and transportation of minerals.

To curb illegal quarrying and transportation of building stone and also to check encroachments, the Mines and Geology department has initiated a drone -based solution to survey quarries across the state. The aerial survey is said to help monitor and quantify quarrying contracts.  

The department, which is going big on the digitisation mode to regulate quarrying activities, hopes to shore up more than Rs 1,000 crore annually in the form of penalty alone.

Despite strong lobbying and opposition to carry out the exercise - especially from political quarters - Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy is said to have asked the department to complete the surveying activities at the earliest.

Sources said the government was looking at the exercise as an additional resource mobilisation measure to overcome the farm loan waiver burden on the exchequer.

Last year, the department collected a meagre Rs 37 crore as penalty from quarries for illegal lifting and transportation of minerals.

The exercise will also put a stop to evasion of royalty, said officials. Last year, the department had collected Rs 2,700 crore in the form of royalty. This year, it is hoping to reach a target of over Rs 3,000 crore.

Before flying out the drones, the department is ensuring that boundaries of each quarry is fixed to conduct the Differential Geographic Positioning System (DGPS) survey.

Collection of royalty will be streamlined once digital boundaries are fixed, officials said. The first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)/drone-based photogrammetry survey was carried out in quarries in three villages - Animittanahalli, Kanagala and Haradakotturu in Malur taluk, Kolar district.

The pilot surveying was entrusted to Bengaluru-based Bitech Solutions in March. The drone-based survey ascertained extensive encroachment by 22 quarries in the taluk, which were subsequently levied a penalty of around Rs 95 crore.

Quarrying activities have come to a standstill here. The department is yet to survey 40-odd more quarries in the district.

Though the department hopes to complete the survey in the next two months, staff crunch has hit the exercise. The department has now decided to outsource the work.  

The survey is said to be nearing completion in districts like Ramanagar, Bengaluru Urban and Rural, Belagavi, Kalaburgi, Shivamogga, Mysuru, Chamarajanagar and Kolar. It is yet to pick pace in North Karnataka districts. There are around 2,350 minor mineral quarries and 378 major mineral quarries in the state.

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Drone-based survey to keep vigil on illegal quarries

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