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Satnews Daily
January 6th, 2015

Checking Out The Forests Via Satellite Is The Indian Intent

[SatNews] India's ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) wants its own dedicated satellite to keep an eye on India’s forest cover.

Forest division officials in the ministry say a dedicated satellite will improve the management and monitoring of India’s forest cover. Not just that, it will hasten forest clearance procedures, given that industry projects often get delayed because of the non-availability of accurate data.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has been kept busy after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s directive to all ministries to harness space technology to speed up economic development.

“ISRO officials have also been consulted. A dedicated satellite is needed because at present we get the data from other agencies,” a senior forest division official at MoEF said on condition of anonymity. “Many a times there are differences between data supplied by ISRO, for instance, and our own data. Our own satellite will give us our raw data which will be then analyzed by our experts. So, it will not only stop duplication of data, but there would then be one uniform data,” the official added.

The official explained that with a forest satellite in place, the ministry would not have to wait for biennial reports of the Forest Survey of India to gain an understanding of the health of country’s forests.

“It will improve the overall monitoring and management of forests. It will get us a real-time picture of our forests. Also, industry, which applies for forest clearances seeking diversion of forest areas for their projects, can rely on much more accurate data using that. It is because projects many a times get stuck in absence of data regarding density and quality of forests,” the official added.

Environment minister Prakash Javadekar is taking a special interest in the project and already several meetings have taken place to discuss it. Photo is courtesy of PTI.

When asked about the plan, India's Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar confirmed the move but declined to elaborate, saying the details will be revealed at an appropriate time. The environment ministry says state governments and other institutions can also make use of the forest satellite.

“We want to make it a cost-effective product. So, we can also look at commercializing a part of it so that it covers our running and maintenance costs. We are trying to give a final shape to the plan and discussing the details with ISRO. But at present, the cost of the satellite has not been finalized,” the environment ministry said.

The final cost and launch details will be finalized after the environment ministry zeroes in on the specifications of the satellite.

Story by Mayank Aggarwal, LiveMint