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What Does Space Technology Offer to Society?

All development, particularly those activities related to land and water, are planned on information, which in the past was not easily available, or in most cases outdated. Integrating

Various resources information to avoid any adverse impact was also not well understood at the time of planning. This essay highlights the concepts that have been evolved in consultation with the Department of Space, Government of India. Called the integrated mission for sustainable development, the programme covers 157 districts as projected by the Planning Commission. Studies in 21 districts, taken up in the first phase, showed encouraging results, but how far these results are sustainable, and to what extent they are successful, is yet to be seen. The main purpose is to highlight how remotely sensed data can contribute to planning for sustainable development and how far it can be implemented. Remote sensed data by itself cannot provide very detailed information for micro level planning and development, as yet.

 IN the recent past, particularly in developing countries, nothing has received closer attention than those commonly mentioned under the concept of ‘sustainability’. Bruntland Commission states that development should be sustainable, meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to 110 meet their own needs.

In another publication, Harvey Brooks says ‘world conservation strategy should include management of use of resources so it can meet human demands of the present generations without decreasing opportunities for the future.

 As for agriculture, research organisations lay emphasis on agricultural systems and technologies that minimise environmental outcomes. There is also emphasis on the need for house resources to promote long term productivity growth, along with maintenance of environmental standards. Since human needs keep changing, it is difficult to predict what the future holds and what steps can be taken to see that these needs are met satisfactorily. However, it can be presumed that sustainability is a characteristic of a system and not a technology. Development implies to some extent growth, which is quantitative in terminology. New frontiers in technologies now available are Biotechnology, Space technology, Information technology, Micro electronics and Management technologies.

 These technologies can be blended to apply to various situations. We shall talk about what space technology offers, and how remote sensing as a tool can provide the most up-to-date informs-_ Lion on natural and environmental resources. This could be integrated with other relevant information to provide a management strategy to plan alternative development paths towards sustainability concepts.

The integrated development programme now being carried out by the National Remote Sensing Agency, under the guidance of the Department of Space, consists of 157 districts. The main in-formation required about land and water resources is obtained from recent satellite remote sensed data (from IRS-IA/IB Satellites). This is integrated with various auxiliary and socio-economic data, to evolve alternative strategies for development planning. Attempts are being made to evolve site specific solutions according to land capability assessment, as terrain conditions are diverse in our country. Each of the land capability classes is further divided into several micro-level units, depending upon the soil limitations related to erosion, salinity/alkalinity, moisture holding capacity etc. for identifying suitable conservation/ management practices for their development, In addition to carrying out studies in these 157 districts, 80 more districts/ blocks have been identified for under-taking studies on a priority basis, based on special requests, and decisions made at the highest level.

 NRSA has prepared a manual, describing the methods to be adopted. A draft has been circulated to a number of agencies. The main action involved in this study is the creation of a data base of various natural resources forests, soil, water resources (both surface and ground water) natural vegetation, land use/land cover, both in visual map form, and perhaps in digital format.

 The 1: 50,000 scale typographical map of the Survey of India is being used as the cartographic data base on which other natural and socio-economic data can be superimposed, to observe the effect of integrating relevant themes depending upon terrain conditions. A slope map has also been prepared on the topographic maps on a 1: 50,000 scale. In preparing map information of the resources mentioned, care is taken to ensure accuracy and reliability through what is called ground truth observation or ground checks. Based on the generation and integration of such information, the production potential of the land is estimated, so that better p agricultural productivity, area u s ‘table for horticulture, fodder, pasture, etc. can be planned. Wherever computerised information is generated, use of suitable Geographical Information System can be developed to support the various decisions that may have to be taken.

In this effort, several agencies are involved, and the initial is being assigned to various State Remote Sensing Application centres already in existence, in addition to some of „I, Regional Remote Sensing Service Centres, under the Depart of Space.

The concept of such integrated resource development h many advantages, as these are now possible using satellite bas:;; remote sensed data, although the level, intensity and scale would-be only of the order of 1 : 50,000 scale, most suitable at district level.

Such a concept is not new, as can be seen from a publication called “Resources Analysis for Integrated Development, covering Sultanpur district in Uttar Pradesh, published by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, in 1986.

The major difference in what was thought of at that time and what is being undertaken now is that the information now available is almost near realtime and also amenable to computer processing. In the past, most of the information took time to obtain and to a certain extent, was not uniform. Also the cost of obtaining all such data was perhaps higher. Continuous up-dating of natural resources information became much easier now, using satellite Remote Sensing techniques than what was possible earlier.

 In one of the studies covering Jabua district of Madhya Pradesh, which had very low rainfall (about 600 mm average per annum) it was found that the productivity in the district was very low because of improper land use practices, inadequate fodder to feed a large cattle population, and extensive forest degradation. The results of the studies were discussed with local officials and it led to an action plan involving the improvement of the water conservation measures and ground water recharge measures. This way, land could be put to better use by developing silvopasture, agro-forestry and agro-horticulture. Similar studies carried out in certain specific blocks of Anantapur district, resulted in improved ground water availability and farm practices yielding better income to the local population.

Another study covering some of the districts of Himachal Pradesh, by the Regional Remote Sensing Service Centre at Dehra Dun, was mainly on soil conservation, slope protection and prevention of landslides, conservation and management of water resources, agricultural and horticultural development, and fodder resource development. The aim was to draw up specific plans by integrating natural resources     information with socio-economic data, which could meet the need of the people and may lead to a sustainable development process. Five districts (Chamba, Lahaul and ST n 1, Kinnaur, Kangra and Hamirpur) were taken up for study. The initial work of generating various information is nearly complete, and the final action plan is being generated in close association with the local authorities and NGO’s.

 Recently sensed data, thus, has helped in rapidly generating natural resources information. It has also enabled in continuous’ monitoring and recording of changes. With the use of computers and Geographical Information system, it has become much easier to integrate various interrelated data, including socio-economic, to arrive at optimum solutions and alternative strategies to meet the needs of the local people, and maintain sustainability as best as possible.

However, it is not enough if such integrated data alone is made available and various action plans suggested. The local authorities, people and non-governmental organisations should actively pursue the implementation of the action plan, so that there is a durable development activity that can be regularly monitored. Funding for this is made available partly through the Department of Space, Government of India, various State governments, and from the Union Ministry of Rural Development.

However, in addition to the availability of remote sensing and GIS technologies, local authentic information and cooperation from local officials and people is necessary to make the process successful. Whether sustainability will result in all cases is yet to be seen. With the availability of better quality and higher spatial resolution, Satellite Remotely Sensed data in the near future could lead to better and more detailed information systems, to enable micro-level planning.

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