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THE USES OF SPACE TECHNOLOGY FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
INTRODUCTION: The Indian Space Programme, from its very inception, has been geared towards national development. It has harnessed space technology for the benefit of our society right down to the grassroots level.
DEVELOPMENT OF THOUGHT: The remarkable development in space technology and its application during the last three decades have firmly established its immense potential for the development of human society as a whole. Space platforms are now being extensively used for reaching global communication even into remote rural areas, for worldwide monitoring of weather and for conservation, monitoring and management of natural resources thus significantly contributing to the development of human society. With the rapid progress achieved, the remote sensing applications in India now cover diverse fields such as the agricultural crop acreage and yield estimation, drought warning and assessment, flood control and damage assessment, land use/land cover mapping, wasteland management, urban development, mineral prospecting, forest survey, etc., thus covering almost all facets of national development. Space Technology has also revolutionized communication, especially long distance telecommunication, nationwide TV and radio broadcasting.
CONCLUSION: With proper planning and optimum utilisation of space technology, it is hoped that by the time India enters the next century, it would have overcome the national problems of hunger and illiteracy.
The Indian Space Programme from its very inception, aimed at integrated development of space technology to harness its potential for the identified tasks of the country. Through a well-conceived path of development, starting with technology build up, experimental programmes, development of application areas, education of user agencies and timely operationalisation of space services, the Indian Space Programme has ensured that the vast benefits from the space reach the very grassroots of our society. Today, the operational remote sensing satellites like the IRS are providing vital inputs in a timely manner, on agriculture, soil, forestry, ocean resources, water and land resource, mineral exploration, wasteland development, drought and flood management. Likewise, the operational multipurpose 1NSATaeostationary satellites have initiated a revolution in the country particularly in the areas of communication. TV broadcast, education and disaster warning.
Remote sensing effort in the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) began in the early 70s with an aerial survey using a variety of multi-data instruments like the infrared scanners, multi-spectral scanners and radiometer for carrying out soil and land use studies and for monitoring different crops and crop diseases. Following the successful launch of the experimental remote sensing satellites Bhaskara 1 and Bhaskara 2, the ISRO entered into the operational era with the launching and commissioning of the state-of-the-art, Indian Remote Sensing Satellite IRS-1A in 1988 followed by IRS-IB in 1991, which have now become the mainstay of the National Natural Resources Management System (NNRMS).
Remote sensing is being operationally used to predict crop acreage and yield of major crops such as wheat, rice, sorghum, groundnut, cotton, mulberry, etc., at the national level. Methodologies are being developed for using the remote sensing data for timely detection of pests and diseases as well as for assessing the crop stress conditions. Fortnightly drought assessment bulletins at the district level, derived from space imageries, are now being issued on a regular basis in 12 States, to assist the district authorities and the agriculture resources planners to learn about the extent and the severity of agricultural drought conditions and effectively deal with the situation on a near real-time basis. Land use land cover mapping for the agro-climatic zonal planning has been carried out for the entire country, under 24 land use categories, on 1:250,000 scale.
Forest maps prepared using remote sensing data are now being operationally used to monitor forest cover and to make realistic assessments of biomass and biospecies at the micro level. The nationwide mapping of the wasteland through satellite imageries which have been used to identify and differentiate 13 categories of wasteland at village level has been accomplished. Considering that about 50% of the wasteland which amounts to 25 million hectares can be reclaimed for productive use with appropriate agricultural practices, the delineation of recoverable wasteland assumes great importance.
Under the national drinking water mission, hydrogeomorphological maps for the entire country, covering 447 districts, have been generated using satellite imageries to identify the underground aquifer potential for providing basic drinking water to the rural population. Based on the statistics of more than 2,00,000 wells, space remote sensing has established a success rate of over 92% for striking groundwater, as compared to less than 45% achieved using other conventional methods. Satellite remote sensing has become an invaluable tool for predicting, in advance, the snowmelt runoff from the Himalayas and also for obtaining real-time information on the flood-affected areas for initiating appropriate rehabilitation measures. More importantly, methodologies have been developed for flood prediction and control including the identification of flood risk zones, river migration patterns, embankments, water-shed prioritisation, etc. to minimise flood damage in the coming decades.
In collaboration with the Geological Survey of India, a mineral resources finding project, named Vasundhara, covering an area of 4,00,000 sq.km of South India, which envelops a wide geological column from Archaean to the present, consisting mainly of granulites, granite-greenstones and protozoic basins has been completed. A geographical information system has been developed for the creation of the digital cartographic database and geostatistical models. With the promising results obtained from this project, which has indicated new areas of mineralised zones, the project is now being extended to cover the northern part of India for similar mineral exploration using space data through digital analysis of the satellite data, land use and urban sprawl maps for major cities in India have been prepared. Vital inputs have been provided for the optimal location of industries, housing and infrastructural facilities in the new and upcoming extensions of Bombay and Delhi cities using space imageries. Satellite-based remote sensing data was used for city planning recently by conducting a survey for aligning the proposed ring road for the Bangalore Development Authority.
Space imageries have helped in preparing coastal maps of the country’s entire coastline on a 1:250,000 scale, and identification of brackish water and other water bodies suitable for inland fisheries. For a country having 15% of the world population and a coastline of over 7,000 km. the annual fish catch is just about 2 million tonnes, less than 2% of the world catch. Using the satellite data, methodologies for the identification of areas rich in fish through the estimation of phytoplankton density and ocean temperature distribution have been developed. Forecasts on fish school location are now being broadcast by the All India Radio to enable the fishermen in coastal regions to realise a substantially larger fish catch.
Satellite remote sensing has now established itself as the most powerful tool for carrying out an integrated sustainable development at the micro level, which is the only way to improve agricultural productivity in the country. The methodology developed involves the use of remotely sensed data for the preparation of a set of resource maps such as surface water bodies, groundwater potential zones, zones requiring groundwater recharge, type, salinity/alkalinity and erosion status, the existing land use and the distribution of wastelands. Combining the space-based information with the meteorological information and the socio-economic factors, the integrated land and water resources maps at the micro level are being prepared, highlighting the priority area for agriculture development, fuel and fodder development, soil conservation and afforestation, etc., for arriving at a package of practices and strategies to address the local problems leading to sustainable development at village/tehsil level.
The successful launch and operationalisation of the first generation. INSAT-1 B satellite in 1983 ushered in a new communication era in the country. The INSAT is a unique, multi-purpose operational geostationary satellite system which combines the multiple services such as the long-distance telecommunication, nationwide TV and radio broadcast, meteorological imaging, data relay, and disaster warning. The continued availability of the communication services to the country has been ensured through the INSAT – ID launched in 1990 followed by the recent successful launch of INSAT – 2A in 1992 and INSAT – 2B in August 1993.
The INSAT system, as of date, caters to over 5000 two way speech circuits covering 140 routes in the country, connecting for the first time, even the remote rural areas and offshore islands with the mainstream of the nation. The nationwide geographic research of the INSAT satellite is being advantageously used for a variety of applications ranging from administrative, business, computer communication through the 23 captive networks using small terminals. New specialised services such as the PTI news service, facsimile transmission of fully composed pages of the Hindu newspaper for printing at Delhi, and the emergency communication for post-disaster relief operations have been commissioned. Highly innovative, pilot rural telegraphy network in the hilly regions of the north-eastern part of the country with the hub station at Shillong and 50 rural the graph terminals has been implemented. The National Information Centre Network (NICNET), using the VSATs and the spread-spectrum techniques for providing data communication links between the state capitals, the district headquarters and the central government departments has already become a reality with over 450 micro terminals in operation. The Remote Area Business and Message Network (RABMN), the VSAT network similar to NICNET to provide data communication between the widely dispersed locations in remote areas is under the advanced phase of implementation.
Meteorological imaging from the INSAT, normally taken every half hour and at more frequent intervals during cyclones and hurricanes together with the availability of meteorological data from over 100 unattended remote platforms, including the one at Dakshin Gangotri, in Antarctica, has made a quantum difference in our ability for weather forecasting and by providing real-time information on upper winds, sea surface temperature, cloud top temperature and precipitation index. The INSAT being the only geostationary satellite over this region of the earth providing meteorological imaging has become indispensable not only to our country but also to the entire world. The 0600 hrs GMT VHRR image derived winds are regularly put on the Global Telecommunication System (GTS) of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and 0800 hrs GMT full disk IR pictures are transmitted as the radio facsimile broadcast every day for a reception in the neighbouring countries.
Innovative use of the INSAT has been under the implementation of the unique unattended, locale-specific Disaster Warning System (DWS) consisting of over 100 disaster warning receivers installed in selected, cyclone prone east coast areas of the country. Since the commissioning of DWS and its first operational use for the disaster warning in 1987, the DWS has become a vital disaster mitigation mechanism. The most dramatic use of the DWS system was during the cyclone that hit the Andhra Pradesh coast on 9 May 1990, enabling the Government to evacuate over 170,000 people, thus saving thousands of lives and livestock in this area. As the space segment capacity increases, the deployment of additional DWS units, as well as constant monitoring of the flood levels in various rivers, would be implemented in the coming years.
The most dramatic impact of the INSAT has been in the rapid expansion of TV dissemination in the country. As of today, over 540 TV transmitters have been installed in the country providing access to almost 80% of India’s population. The regional networking services have already been implemented in the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Orissa and West Bengal and are being further expanded to cover Gujarat and North-Eastern States. The use of transportable earth stations with five transportable TV up tinking stations now enables extensive coverage of all important events in any part of the country. The INSAT is being extensively used for educational TV broadcasting with about 100 hours of the programme per month to about 4000 schools and colleges.
The radio networking service via INSAT provides reliable, high fidelity, five channel national/regional feeds for retransmission by all the existing 108 AIR stations. With the addition of captive and transportable RN unlinking terminals, in addition to the national service channel radio transmitter at Nagpur, the cumulative monthly utilisation of the five RN channels has already reached about 2,400 hrs per month.
Direct relay of the video/audio programmes through small dish antennas, high definition TV, increasing use of the digital video and audio systems, computer interconnection, enabling the individual users to have an access to information, library services etc., are now possible due to the availability of large processing power, memory capacities and high degree of miniaturization. The coming decade will see in a revolution in the coding techniques and in the video compression techniques which can transmit video programmes at very low bit rates, for the most economical use of the space segment. With four more satellites of the INSAT-2 series to follow and the incorporation of KU-band transponders in the INSAT – 2C and INSAT-2D, the nation has been fully assured of the availability of adequate space segment capacity for meeting all its foreseen communication needs, for the next 10-12 years.
Eradication of illiteracy in the rural areas, which unless tackled in a dramatic way, will continue to be at the 30% level even by the year 2000. It is in this context, the ISRO is working on a dramatically new concept of utilising the most powerful audio-visual medium through the dedicated “GRAMSAT” satellites, which will be specifically tailored to meet the basic requirements of the rural areas to disseminate culture and region-specific knowledge on health, hygiene, environment, family planning and better agricultural practices in each of the regional languages. In addition, the design of GRAMSAT also incorporates facilities for providing continuing education for the special groups to ensure that their technical skill is periodically updated to overcome technological obsolescence and for enabling the linguistic minority groups in other states to have access to programmes in their own languages.
Looking back at the achievements of the Indian Space Programme over the last two decades, one cannot but be impressed by the achievements and the impact it has made on the daily life of the Indian society—the vast expansion of the telecommunication network, the dramatic expansion of TV, marked improvement in weather forecasting and disaster warning, and the time information for the management of natural resources. As India enters the next century, with the optimal planning and utilisation of the space technology, it is hoped that the continuing national problems of hunger and illiteracy will become a thing of the past and this country will emerge as a strong and healthy nation to play its rightful role in the community of nations.