Indian authorities used Google Maps to expose illegal sand mining activities

  • The quarry exploitation took place at the sand quarries in Karur and Cuddalore districts and was expanded to its neighbouring states.
  • When the CAG saw the coordinates of the approved area on Google Maps, they realised that the mining was actually being done in a different area.
  • The estimated penalty for the act is about ₹5.053 billion.
Google Maps has come to the aid of law enforcement in India. The Android maker’s mapping application was used by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), Rajiv Mehrishi, to expose irregularities in river sand mining in the southern state of Chennai.

The illegal mining took place at the sand quarries in Karur and Cuddalore districts. A quarry at Neyvasal, Cuddalore was expanded to the neighbouring district Ariyalur district.

According to CAG report submitted on Monday (9 July), the State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) had given environmental clearance for about 19 hectares for a quarry at Neyvasal. However, when the CAG saw the latitude and longitudinal coordinates of the approved area on Google Maps, it realised that the mining was actually done in a different area. Only about 4.23 hectares of the actually used land was under the river bed. The rest of the area was private lands.

Furthermore, the total volume of sand dug at Neyvasal and Ariyalur district was 1.334 million cubic meter, however, the permitted quantity was 1.9 lakh cubic meter. The estimated penalty for the act amounts to ₹5.053 billion. In the records, the total value of sand seized by the enforcement authorities during 2014-15 to 2016-17 was merely 311,000 hectares and the penalty collected was ₹17.5 million.

The sand quarry operations wing of the Public Works Department (PWD), which monitors river sand mining in Tamil Nadu, had found this kind of exploitation at the Neyvasal quarry earlier as well. A joint inspection with the Geology and Mining and revenue departments back in August 2017 had revealed that the depth and areas mined were more than the approved limit.
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