Museum spells trouble for GIS Lab

NEW DELHI SEPT. 6. The Geographic Information System Laboratory at the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies (NISTADS) here may be well known for its work, but now with the construction of the Dhokra Art Museum within the Institute's premises and closure of its Research and Development laboratory, scientists claim that undertaking major projects would become near impossible.

The trouble started in 1999 when the decision to construct the Dhokra Museum -- to showcase the ancient craft of metal crafting -- was taken. The space for it was to be carved out of the GIS laboratory, the Science Archives Centre and the Projects Monitoring and Evaluation Cell. And while the gesture may have been intended to boost the ancient Dhokra art, construction of the Museum spelt trouble for the GIS Laboratory and the Science Archives Centre.

"The Museum has very little use. What is a Museum doing in a Science Research Institute? No one can visit it without the Director's permission. It is kept closed at all times. Instead, it has just taken away space from other centres,'' complains a scientist at the Institute.

The Laboratory was, however, doubly affected as the GIS II room where research work was carried out, was also taken away around the same time. With these limitations on its space, the GIS laboratory is today finding it difficult to operate. Known for projects such as Spatial Data Technologies for Local Level Planning and Land Information System - both sponsored by International Development Research Centre (Canada) - and Natural Resources Data Management System by the Department of Science and Technology, sources state that due to shortage of space, work on such projects would now be impossible.

The lack of space has meant that some of its important equipment such as Plotters, Remote Sensing Machines and Pantograph can no longer be used. Also, several workstations are futile and cannot be operated. Reference material -- most of which was stored in GIS II -- has suffered the same fate. "Some of these machines cannot be used because there is no electrical connection where they are now kept. All the research work also has to be carried out here itself. It's not just a waste of money but also technology and brain power because all this is practically useless now. It is not possible to take up big projects anymore,'' said an official.

The other unit that has suffered due to the construction of the Museum has been the Science Archives Centre. While it had been shut for about three years now, according to sources, important documents were stored in the fireproof cupboards that had been especially bought for the purpose. Institute officials reveal that unpublished papers of famous scientists, notes of previous directors and irreplaceable pictures were stored at the centre. Material of noted scientists like Prof. M.G.K. Menon, Prof. A. Rahman, Dr. Varadrajan, Prof. Yash Pal and Dr. S.S. Bhatnagar formed a part of the collection. "Some of the material along with the cupboards has disappeared. We have no idea where it is,'' says a source.

And while the scientist community continues to criticise the decisions, the Institute's administration maintains a stony silence.

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