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India reaps vast economic gains from remote sensing: report

Special Correspondent
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It has improved farm, fishing productivity and saved lives from cyclones

A symposium on Indian Remote Sensing Satellite (IRS) held at J.N.Tata Auditorium in Bangalore. From Left: , K. Kasturirangan, Member, Planning Commission, Prof. UR Rao, Chairman, PRL Council, K. Radhakrishnan, President, ASI and V.K. Dadhwal, President, ISRS.— Photo: K. Gopinathan
A symposium on Indian Remote Sensing Satellite (IRS) held at J.N.Tata Auditorium in Bangalore. From Left: , K. Kasturirangan, Member, Planning Commission, Prof. UR Rao, Chairman, PRL Council, K. Radhakrishnan, President, ASI and V.K. Dadhwal, President, ISRS.— Photo: K. Gopinathan

Earth observation from space, or remote sensing, has dramatically touched lives and yielded economic benefits worth thousands of crores of rupees across common users each year, according to Earth Sciences Department Secretary Shailesh Nayak.

Citing a recent survey done by the National Council for Applied Economic Research, Dr. Nayak said applications based on Earth imageries taken from remote sensing satellites improved farm and fishing productivity among others and saved hundreds of lives from cyclones.

Estimated fishing benefits

The survey has estimated fishing benefits at Rs. 24,000 crore over the years and farming at Rs. 50,000 crore. Farm output rose by seven per cent due to accurate weather forecasts and cropping tips based on remote sensing.

“We converted satellite data into a simple product for the fisherman and the farmer. No other country has done this,” Dr. Nayak told a news conference held in connection with 25 years of remote sensing in the country. In the 10 years since the first Oceansat spacecraft was launched, 90 per cent of fishermen were using a remote-sensing product developed for them to locate potential fishing zones. The fishing community gained by being precisely guided to zones abundant in fish even as they saved time, fuel and ecological damage.

For the past four years about a quarter of farmers have used an agricultural forecast application called FASAL which gives them information on weather, fertilizer and crop practices.

Indian Society of Remote Sensing (ISRS) President and Director of ISRO’s National Remote Sensing Centre V.K. Dadhwal said public and private sector agencies last year used 70,000 remote sensing data products to create maps, assess mining areas and plan urban infrastructure. Over a lakh of data products were bought or used every year. “The economic benefit will be 10 times the cost of the spend on remote sensing satellites but we should consider the vast economic returns rather than data sale revenues,” he said.

Coastal regulatory zones use imageries as archival reference while large infrastructure projects also need them while applying for clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

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