Activists to Use Smartphones to Crack Down on Illegal Quarries

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Activists to Use Smartphones to Crack Down on Illegal Quarries
In their fight against illegal quarries, a group of environmental activists in Kerala are planning to use smartphones as a tool as part of their efforts to survey and map quarries operating across the state.

The members of Kerala Paristhiti Aikya Vedi, a state-based green outfit, and the Salim Ali Foundation have drawn up a plan to survey and map quarries in their fight against illegal quarries which pose a threat to environment, especially in the ecologically fragile areas.

The mapping programme was mooted following reports of indiscriminate mining activities and cropping up of a large number of illegal quarries across the state.

As part of the drive, trained volunteers will visit each quarry and upload its exact location, images, ownership details and so on to a common database using GPS and a particular mobile application.

Environmental activist V S Vijayan, one of the persons who conceptualised the drive, said the programme would help both general public and authorities get an exact picture of the operation of quarries in the state, especially the unlicensed ones.

"As of now, the government does not have any concrete data about quarries. According to our rough estimate, there are over 1,000 quarries in the state. But, as per official figures, there are only over 200 licensed ones. Nobody has its exact data," he told PTI.

The ownership details of the land where the quarries are functioning and the details of public agitation going on against its operation will also be recorded and uploaded on the data base, Vijayan, also the former Chairman of Kerala State Biodiversity Board, said.

He said as usage of smartphones are high in the state, people can easily use it as a tool for mapping quarries.

"In a state like Kerala, people are familiar using smartphones with different applications. The gadgets are useful for swift recording and sharing of data," he said.

Selected activists, who are involved in various environment-related campaigns and initiatives, have been selected as volunteers for the programme and their training in recording and sharing data using smartphones is going on.

Another activist, associated with both the Aikya Vedi and the Foundation, said the database is envisaged as a single, common website where even ordinary people, supporting the cause, can directly upload the details.

He also said even persons, who do not have technological expertise to download mobile applications or using smartphones, can also take part in the initiative.

"Techical expertise is not a pre-requisite to be part of the drive. When you reach a quarry site, you can directly upload its latitude and longitude in the database using GPS application in the phone," the activist, who likes to keep a low profile, said.

"Otherwise, the trained volunteers can directly make a call to a given number and share the details of the quarries they visit. They will get an identification number for further uploads," he said.

The activist, who has been associated with the agitations in connection with the conservation of Western Ghats, also said the indiscriminate operation of quarries may lead to acute water scarcity in the state.

"Kerala has an exceptionally sloppy landscape and a fast drainage system. But, unimaginable number of quarries check the flow of rain water. Rain water, accumulated in quarry pits, are lost forever. It naturally leads to water scarcity," he said.


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