NEW DELHI: Eyes from the sky to keep a tab on the Ganga. Now, India’s holiest river is set to get some hi-tech help in the form of satellites to keep pollution at bay.
The Union Ministry of Water Resources (MWR) along with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has prepared a plan for using space technology to monitor pollution levels in the river. The move follows Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing his wish to use India’s know-how in space science for infrastructure development, disaster management and improving governance.
The decision was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth and attended by Secretaries of various ministries last week. Scientists from the ISRO have been holding meetings with officials of key infrastructure ministries such as the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) and Ministry of Environment and Forests among others to prepare a detailed action plan for future use of space technology.
During the meeting it was decided that each ministry will appoint a nodal officer to deal with the issue of application of space technology and they will also put in place an administrative mechanism to deal with the matter on priority. The Cabinet Secretary has emphasised the need for close involvement of states in the entire process. Each ministry has prepared a three-phase plan which includes short-term (three months-two years), midterm (two-five years) and long-term (more than five year) proposals.
Besides, young professionals will be roped in to examine the best international practices in space technology and ministries will brainstorm with them to facilitate generation of desired tools. A review meeting regarding the same is expected to be conducted by the Cabinet Secretary next month.
To start with, the ISRO has taken the task of monitoring Ganga pollution on priority basis keeping in mind the PM’s ‘Namami Gange’ campaign. The MWR officials believe this would not only ensure a high precision monitoring, but would also ensure the safety of the staff on the ground, who would take action against those polluting the river.
“Using satellites we will now monitor pollution or untreated waste being discharged into the river. For instance, wherever there would be a sudden change in water colour we would alert local authorities and would come to know the source of pollution,” a senior MWR official said adding, authorities would then be able to send teams to crack down on erring units or address the source of pollution.
The official explained that this measure would help them address security concerns of the staff that goes to check pollution. “It is important for two reasons. Firstly, the Ganga is hundreds of kilometres long and thus physically monitoring every part of it is impossible. Secondly, there is staff shortage everywhere. Thus using satellites we would be able to achieve a targeted approach towards controlling pollution,” the official said.
Modi, who in the last five months has twice attended ISRO events -- the launch of PSLV-C23 and Mangalyaan entering the red planet’s orbit -- has emphasised on harnessing the country’s expertise in space technology for developmental process, social change, economic development and resource conservation. He has asked the Department of Space to proactively engage with all stakeholders, to maximise the use of space science in governance and development which will bring accuracy and transparency for the common man. Some ministries such as the MoUD is already carrying out national urban information system project along with the ISRO to support preparation of city master plans.
ISRO to the Aid
Flood inundation modelling
Monitoring of glacial lakes
Validation of weather forecast models
Morphological changes in 12 major rivers
National aquifer mapping
Glacial lake hazard management