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Indian Rocket scientists propel rural growth

Vadodara, May 20 If you thought the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was all about rocket and rocket scientists, think again. ISRO, Ahmedabad has pioneered a number of projects for propelling rural development.

In one such projects, the organisation has used remote sensing satellites for monitoring natural resources and waterbed formation in far off places.

“While the manual process was tedious, interpreting satellite imagery through remote sensing of wasteland, water resource and forestland gave accurate and in-depth analysis of the area with less cost and man power,” said Dr S K Pathan, head of the Geo Informatics and Data Division, ISRO.

Village Resource Centre (VRC), a project under ISRO, has been undertaking tele-medicine and tele-education programmes all across the country involving 15 villages from Kutch, Saurashtra and Anand regions. “The villages, which are far from proper connectivity are chosen for these programmes for the uplift of the rural people,” said Pathan.

He further explained that satellite Cartosat-II, which was launched in March last year, had been the prime link in the project. Cartosat-II, which is among the newest satellites launched by the ISRO, which is at a height of 700 kilometre above the earth surface, has a capacity to capture images at a high resolution of 1 metre and can provide image mapping on 1:7920 scale.

“The tele-medicine and tele-education programmes have to be enforced so as to provide medical help and education to the backward communities, which are not in touch with the mainstream life,” he added.

ISRO is also involved in land and water mapping in villages using remote sensing and geographic information system. The project, known as Watershed Project is also called Natural Resource Programme. “We do a cadastral mapping of parcel level information for land and water bodies using remote sensing,” said Pathan.

The process uses satellite Resourcesat-I for mapping the land, which gives a detailed mapping of the land and waterbed of the area. He further explained that the mapping was an integral part of farming and other agricultural activities.

“It also gives a detailed analysis of the quality of the land, the level of water bed which is useful for agricultural activity. This also helps determine crops that can have maximum yield in that particular soil condition,” said Pathan.

The project is undertaken by NGOs in various villages with technical assistance from the ISRO. The Sadguru Foundation, which is one of the NGOs registered with the ISRO, has been a part of the project for many years.

“After the initial use of the technology, we have taken it forward to various other states. We have been using watershed project in 1,100 villages in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh,” said Harnath Jagawat, director of the Dahod-based Sadguru Foundation. “Remote sensing and GIS have been profusely used for planning, monitoring and evaluation of the land and waterbed in the villages,” he added.

“In the last few years, the production in these villages has increased by about 20 to 25 per cent. We have also installed various methods of irrigation of farmland,” Jagawat said.