Drone mapping finds unauthorized sand mining in Aravallis, India

Drone mapping finds unauthorized sand mining in Aravallis, India

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The first phase of drone mapping began in the Aravallis on Friday.(HT Photo)

The Gurugram forest department on Saturday completed the drone mapping of two villages in the first phase to check encroachment or illegal activities in the Aravallis, reports the Hindustan Times.

During the mapping process, which started on Friday morning, a team of forest, wildlife and technical officials, detected illegal sand mining in Sakatpur and Tikli villages.

Trucks, laden with sand, were spotted leaving these villages on Saturday morning, a forest official said. Before the mapping teams could get hold of the sand miners, they drove away, the official added.

“The mining surveillance system enables us to get a satellite view of quarrying sites and any illegal activity taking place in the Aravallis. We have formed teams to keep vigil, especially during the night. If any person is found to be indulging in any illegal activity, strict action will be taken. We can also file a criminal case as the recordings from the drones will be used as evidence against them,” Vinod Kumar, additional principal chief conservator of forest, Gurugram, said.

The officials have also decided to set up more teams to check the low line area where there is an urgent need to build more water pits for the local wildlife. A low line area is referred to as one where there is a scarcity of water and the pits need to be filled in time, so that animals don’t stray into civilian areas in search of water, Kumar said.

After the mapping was completed at 4pm on Saturday, a list of more than 10 natural pits that need attention was prepared. The department has also started constructing new water-holes in the Aravallis and the work will get over by the end of July, an official said.

Besides Tikli and Sakatpur, Raisina, Gairatpur Bas and Roj Ka Gujjar will also be mapped. The mapping process for five villages will take nearly a month, after which the officials will analyse the data and a report will be sent to the forest minister.

The two villages were selected in the first phase, as these have massive forest cover which is rich in wildlife.

According to the officials, the department is hopeful that the mapping will eventually help bring down incidents of man-animal conflict in these villages, as the animals will get sufficient water in their habitat and won’t need to stray into villages.

“Drone mapping is a great tool to assess the forest cover, water points and land use changes in high-resolution images. The mapping of Tikli will help us plan the layout of the proposed herbal garden. While survey mapping of Sakatpur will provide us an excellent 3D model of the Aravallis and help us determine its land use. It is an effective tool in identifying unauthorised construction in the prohibited forest area,” Kumar said.

In May, the department had bought two drones for monitoring wildlife, mapping forests and spotting and preventing non-forest activities in the Aravallis.

They were bought after green activists raised concerns over rising environmental violations in the Aravallis. In the last six months, nine cases of tree felling and illegal construction have been reported in the Aravallis.

Last month, following a petition seeking directions to ban construction in the Aravallis , the Punjab and Haryana High Court sent notices to the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change and the Haryana government for violating the provisions of the Aravalli notification as well as several Supreme Court orders.

Officials said rampant tree felling has been taking place in the Aravallis for the last six months and with the help of drones, those indulging in such illegal activities will be caught red-handed.

The drones are fitted with thermal and high-definition cameras and are also equipped with nightvision cameras. They can fly up to a height 250 metres at a speed of more than 60 metres per hour.