Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India, 26 October 2006 – The Forest Department of the State of Kerala will soon use satellite imagery to pinpoint ganja (cannabis) plantations inside deep forests in the State. The department has sought the help of the Indian Remote Sensing Agency for this purpose, according to Chief Conservator of Forests (Vigilance) R. R. Shukla.
Using remote sensing technology, satellites could pick up the distinct radiation emitted by ganja plantations to identify their exact location. Forest enforcers would use global positioning equipment to reach the identified areas, he said.
Over the past 11 years, there has been a systematic decline in the number of “detected” forest and wildlife offences. However, the rampant cultivation of ganja, particularly in Attappady, and felling of valuable sandal trees in Marayur remain a matter of grave concern. Recently, the department had seized 36 kg of ganja in Mukkali Forest station limits. This was but a fraction of the drug cultivated in Kerala forests, officials said.
Often ecologically fragile `shola’ forests are destroyed for planting different ganja varieties identified by local names such as `Chadayan,’ `Tapasy’ and `Neela Chadayan.’ The plants are harvested within five months of planting. A mature plant yields up to 1 kg of the drug, which could fetch more than Rs.5,000 (USD 112). At least 1,600 kg could be harvested from an acre and the profit is up to Rs.40 lakh (USD 8,879).