Stone Crushing is the process of reducing large stones into smaller stones, depending on their requirements. The crushed stones are raw materials for various construction activities and are used in the construction of roads, highways, buildings, bridges and more. They are also required for cement products such as concrete hollow blocks, well rings, door frames and road laying. Due to the soaring number of construction activities; Stone Crushing units are required in every major city. Following the high demand in the construction and raw material industry, the annual turnover of the Stone Crushing industry in India in Fiscal Year 2007-08 was estimated about 1 Billion USD (CPCB,2009).
Stone Crushing units entail a high number of labourers and the sector provides employment to uneducated and unskilled manual workers. The units are involved in mining, Stone Crushing viz. size classification and transporting the raw materials to construction sites. These operations release fugitive dust particles which are harmful to both the workers and the population inhabiting the nearby plant. These emissions cause chronic respiratory problems while hampering the aesthetics of the area. Moreover, these particles gravely affect the flora and fauna in the vicinity of the crusher, reducing the growth of vegetation.
Keeping in mind the after-effects of setting a Stone Crushing unit, certain safe zones need to be identified. These safe zones are identified using a set of guidelines, which are decided by the state government and its pollution control board. These guidelines are framed to minimize the effect of a Stone Crushing unit on the environment while focusing on sustainable development. Each state has their own guidelines keeping in mind the demand for raw materials and the geographical terrain.
Karnataka is one of the few Indian states which have heavy mineral depositories in the country. According to CSE India, Karnataka boasts of the largest iron ore reserve in India, accounting for 41 per cent of the total reserves in the country. Quarrying of stones in the state is a huge business as well. Quarrying of sand, clay, laterite and granite has overpowered Karnataka to become one of the biggest Stone Crushing hubs in the country. The extensive amount of quarrying, mining and crushing has brought forward many environmental problems for the state including land degradation, air and noise pollution and groundwater pollution.
The Karnataka Natural Resources Data Management System (NRDMS) programme was developed in 1992 to develop a spatial data management system for easy access to information. The Karnataka NRDMS programme received active support and funding from Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India, and the Government of Karnataka. The programme was aimed at using spatial data analysis in local area planning and development.
Keeping in mind the serious environmental issues involved in Stone Crushing, the Karnataka Government implemented the ‘Stone Crushers Act’ in 2012 which proposed a number of guidelines to set-up a Stone Crushing unit. The guidelines are as follows:
- There should be at least 50km distance between two safe zones
- Each stone crusher unit shall be located in a minimum area of one acre
- The safe zone should be at least:
- 500m away from the nearest link road
- 1km away from the nearest forest
- 5km from the nearest state highway
- 2km from the nearest National Highway
- 2km from the nearest habitat
- 2km from the nearest place of worship
- 2km from the nearest educational institution
- 2km from the nearest river
- 2km from the nearest Taluk HQ
- 4km from the district headquarters
- 8km from the boundary of Municipal Corporation
Due to these rigorous guidelines, identifying safe zones in coastal and malnad areas becomes difficult. Certain criteria were relaxed due to the geographical features of Shimoga, which comprises of vegetation and water bodies. The relaxed guidelines for the Shimoga district are as follows:
- The safe zone should be at least:
- 250m from the nearest road (Previously 1Km)
- 250m from the nearest river (Previously 2Km)
- 250m from the nearest forest (Previously 1Km)
- 1Km from the nearest habitat.
- No distance guideline for agricultural land
Karnataka State Council of Technology (KSCST) in association with NRDMS used GIS technology using spatial and non-spatial data, including the location of the stone crushers, forest boundaries, land cover and slope map. The GIS mapping of Shimoga district in Karnataka found out that despite the relaxed criteria, not many safe zones emerge once all the constraints are added to the GIS software (KSCST, 2014). This proved to be a boon for the Karnataka Government as it can help them take corrective measures in the necessary zones using spatial data in the future.
GIS is shaping spatial data management and applying it to every portion of daily life. Education, Health, Agriculture, Police and Law Enforcement and Tourism are only a few of the aspects GIS has been integrated into. NRDMS in association with the Karnataka Government is working towards implementing GIS in managing elections, identification of locations for Stone Crushing units, telecommunication and crime mapping. GIS in today’s time and age has countless possibilities to assist the government in framing laws and policies for the betterment of its people. Shimoga district is one such demonstration that GIS is, in fact, a successful system to manage and analyze spatial data which can help government bodies apply the guidelines effectively.