In a rapidly urbanizing world, sand is becoming an increasingly scarce resource. The skyrocketing demand for sand to support urban development needs has sparked cases of relentless exploitation of sand in developing countries across the globe. The result is widespread ecological and environmental devastation, with significant revenue losses for countries.
The practice of illegal sand mining has gone unchecked in India for decades, with grave implications on the environment, and ecology of India’s rivers. A documentary by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in 2017 claimed that illegal sand mining operations in India fetched as much as $250 million (INR 1,611 crores) in profits every year. This figure though, is likely to be a significant underestimate, as there are no systems in place to effectively track and measure the volume of illegally mined sand. According to a report published by the Government of India, Ministry of Mines in March 2018, the annual demand for sand, categorized as a ‘minor mineral’, has been estimated at about 700 million tons a year and is growing by 6% to 7% every year. While the report does not provide an estimation of sand supplies, it acknowledges a mismatch in demand and supply. Fueled by this demand-supply gap, cases of unregulated extraction of sand are prevalent across the country.
In the state of Karnataka, the responsibility of sand availability for consumption is assigned to the Department of Mines and Geology (DMG) while district-level authorities are empowered to monitor sand mining operations and control the sale of sand. To ensure that sand is mined in an environmentally sustainable manner, legal permits are issued by district-level authorities to regulate the excavation and transportation of sand. Permit-holders are required to work within the provisions outlined in their permits, such as the depth and area of digging, and volume of sand extracted. Despite these directives in place, illegal mining operations were rampant in districts across the state – as Government Departments lacked visibility into the quantity of sand excavated, actual demand, amount of sand sold, details of consumers and the prices charged thereof. The lack of an automated permit issuing system for excavation and transportation of sand further challenged the Government in enforcing its sustainable sand management policies.
In 2011, the Government of Karnataka turned to Rane t4u’s Sand Management and Regulation in Transportation (SMART) System to address these challenges within the sand mining ecosystem across each the districts in Karnataka. The solution was first implemented in 1 of the costal districts in 2011, and has now scaled to 18 districts across Karnataka. Rane t4u’s SMART System is a robust IoT-enabled technology platform that connects all stakeholders in the movement of sand from source to consumer destination, providing end-to-end visibility in the movement of sand, transparency in issuing permits, and a reduction in illegally mined sand transportation incidents across the state. Annual data collated in the recent past across all districts with the implementation of this solution shows that over 10,000 sand carrying vehicles were registered on Rane t4u’s SMART platform and close to 2.5 Lakh legal permits were issued for compliance. Cumulatively, the revenue generated from sand mining operations across the 18 districts was close to INR 100 Crore during the same period. The schematic below provides a district-wise annual impact of Rane t4u’s technology platform on Karnataka’s sand ecosystem.