NE-SAC, located at Shillong, is a joint initiative of DOS and North Eastern Council to provide support to the North Eastern region in using space science and technology for development. The centre has the mandate to develop high technology infrastructure support to enable NE states to adopt space technology inputs for their development. At present, NE-SAC is providing developmental support by undertaking specific projects by utilising space technology inputs from remote sensing, satellite communication and space science.
Interview with Dr. P. P. Nageswara Rao, who relinqueshed the office of Director, NE-SAC recently:
Dr. P. P. Nageswara Rao was the Director of
NE-SAC from October 2007 to November 2010. He is the recipient of Satish Dhawan Award for the year 2009 from Indian Society of Remote Sensing (ISRS) for his contributions in the area of geo-spatial applications and the outstanding services rendered
in the North - Eastern Region of our
country. Dr. P. P. Nageswara Rao spoke to
Mr. S. Satish, Director, P&PRU, ISRO Headquarters and shared his viewpoint on NE-SAC.
Following are the excerpts:
1. What is the role of NE-SAC in Indian space programme?
The North Eastern - Space Applications Centre
(NE-SAC) plays an important role in the
Indian Space programme by providing
space technology inputs and services to
the process of developmental planning of
the eight States in the North Eastern Region (NER) of our country, viz., Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. The Centre provides geospatial information to assist in the development / management of natural resources and infrastructure planning in the region, enables the states to have
satellite communication infrastructure and applications in education, health, disaster management support, and serves as a space science research hub with various academic institutions of NE Region.
2. What are the achievements of NE-SAC in the NER during the last few years during your tenure as Director?
During the recent years, NE-SAC has become a Centre of Excellence in the region. Sixteen space technology application projects of very high priority to the region are being implemented as per the Master Plan of Action for utilisation of space technology. The Centre is now equipped with high-end data processing computers, photogrammetry suite, a regional node for natural resource database, a set
of differential GPS, a state-of the-art satcom studio, an Expert Node under Village Resource Centres (VRC) programme, an EDUSAT-Satellite Interactive Terminal (SIT), etc.
Many instruments like Multi Wavelength Radiometer, Aethalometer, SODAR, etc., have been added. The Centre has Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) terminals along with a transportable WLL-VSAT System for emergency communication during disasters. Large networks of 80 Automatic Weather Stations (AWS),
30 telemedicine nodes, 250 Satellite Interactive Terminals (SIT) under EDUSAT programme have been established and made fully operational in the region. The scientists of the Centre had an opportunity to analyse the data from Chandrayaan-1 sensors about Moon mineral composition and its terrain.
With a core team of 25 scientists/ engineers, most of them hailing from the region,
the Centre is providing excellent services promoting the growth and development
of the region.
3. What were the hurdles (both technical and managerial) that you had to face?
Since the Centre is in its infancy and most of the technical team members are very young and new to space applications, they had to be trained on-the-job while striving to keep up the schedules of the projects. The rugged terrain, inaccessible places due to poor road network and the pressures of socially deviant
persons have sometimes delayed the plans. Over and above all, persistent cloud cover and heavy rainfall for almost half the year
(May to October) were the hurdles for field surveys. Frequent transfers of senior people, shortage of experienced staff and many people unwilling to get a posting to north east have sometimes caused some setback to achieve
4. Will you please highlight the application projects of NE-SAC?
NE-SAC is implementing many projects of relevance to NE Region covering agriculture, forestry (including biodiversity and wildlife habitat), disaster management support, epidemiological studies and health care, geomorphology, land use/land cover mapping, road network mapping, urban planning, wasteland map updating, watershed management, route alignment for laying power lines, etc. All projects taken up by NE-SAC are well defined, end-user oriented and carried out in partnership with the local State Remote Sensing Applications Centres, academic institutions, and regional offices of central government located in the NER.
NE-SAC in collaboration with other ISRO Centres is contributing significantly to the
national projects that cover all NER States, viz., land use /land cover mapping on 1:50,000 scale (LULC - 50K), mapping of land degradation, preparation of ground water prospect
maps under Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission (RGNDWM), wasteland monitoring and wetland inventory and assessment. NESAC has developed an Agricultural Planning Information Bank
(APIB) for the benefit of farmers, a Sericulture Information Linkages & Knowledge System (SILKS) for those farmers who practice sericulture as livelihood. Geospatial application projects that help improving the tea garden condition, inputs for preparation of forest working plans/schemes, soil and land capability assessment, conservation of medicinal and aromatic plants are in progress.
Integrating the data from 80 AWS spread over the entire NER with satellite–based rainfall estimates, advisory services are supplied to the district level authorities regarding impending floods, drought and endemic diseases like Japanese Encephalitis, etc.
NESAC is coordinating establishment of Village Resource Centres (VRC), in partnership with reputed NGOs, Trusts and other institutions including the government organisations.
FLood Early Warning System (FLEWS) was developed for a few severely flood affected tributaries of Brahmaputra. It integrates satellite based rainfall estimates over the inaccessible Himalayan watersheds with the traditional run-off models in a GIS environment and gives spatial and temporal dimensions of an impending flood event.
5. What are the future directions of NE-SAC?
NE-SAC’s future plan of action would continue to be guided by the planning and developmental needs of the region. NE-SAC would lay more emphasis on improving the productivity of that region’s agricultural lands, conserving the biodiversity and ecology, study the ecosystem dynamics and model the climate change. Vast stretches of the region do not have geological and mineral prospecting maps. Geospatial applications related to this natural resource have to be taken up immediately. Rural connectivity, road network information and gap assessment have to be done using high resolution geospatial data. NE-SAC has to provide inputs to urban infrastructure planning and facilities management in many cities and moderate towns in the region. The region comes under zone V of earthquake proneness and needs seismic micro-zonation and risk assessment. Lot more needs to be done on capacity building towards earthquake risk reduction strategies using satellite communication and remote sensing.
The Centre has to put more efforts to improve weather prediction, disaster early warning, risk assessment and work out strategies for better preparedness. The Centre will further strengthen the SATCOM infrastructure to support education, healthcare, and community development. The SATCOM studio can be fully utilised for content generation, information dissemination and capacity building. It has to give more attention to atmospheric research, especially the monsoon variability and recent occurrence of “drought-like scenarios” in the region. There is tremendous scope for young and energetic scientists/engineers of NE-SAC to do dedicated research in space science including the exploration of outer space, study of planetary systems, their origin, habitability, and existence of life on the other solar and planetary systems in the universe.