KOLKATA: Keen eyes from outer space will help conserve national monuments and other heritage buildings that are under threat of being obliterated by frenzied construction activity! Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and Archeological Survey of India (ASI) have joined hands to create a repository of satellite-based surveillance photographs on 3,000-plus nationally protected monuments initially and later add 1,50,000-odd heritage structures across the country.

ISRO has also been entrusted with the job of filing high resolution digital images of each site and its peripheral areas to spot illegal structures that have mushroomed in the neighbourhood of protected monuments and heritage buildings in the last 50 years. These satellite pictures will come handy for ASI to identify the worst affected areas and take corrective action.

The ISRO-ASI initiative assumes significance in the light of the Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) report of 2013 in which 92 nationally protected monuments in India were found to be ‘missing’. Of these, seven were in Bengal. Now, the ISRO-ASI combine will be carry out remote sensing surveillance of all the monuments and prepare maps that clearly demarcate the prohibited and regulated zones around these monuments.

“Initially, the project will encompass 3,000-plus nationally protected monuments. But eventually, the project will cover 1,50,000 heritage buildings across India. The project will also throw light on the gradual degradation, encroachment and unauthorized construction in protected zones of heritage buildings. The systematic database of these heritage sites and site management plans generated using space technology will help take appropriate measures in conserving, preserving and monitoring activities of heritage sites. All this will happen in next seven months,” said ASI regional director (east) P K Mishra.

Nationally protected monuments, archeologists said, have been facing various threats including severe weathering, urbanization, economic development, encroachments and smuggling of antiquities. The destruction and damage are sometime to such an extent that we suspect whether there would be anything left to show to the progeny, said an archeologist. This is why this project of ministry of culture is so important where history meets science.

A standard operating procedure (SOP) using high resolution satellite data as primary source and employing state-of the-art geo-spatial technology and open source tools has been developed for operational use by ASI. It is modular and scalable, allowing the SOP to evolve with ASI’s changing institutional requirements and mandate. The project is already in advanced stage of completion in the state of Karnataka and soon will be extended to the rest of country.

Data from Cartosat-1, Cartosat-2 and Resources at LISS IV are being used to create the database on heritage sites and monuments. Three management zones (protected, prohibited and regulated) around the heritage site are delineated using GIS tool after locating the site or monument on the satellite image. All land use features within each zone are precisely mapped. Other data like total station survey data, revenue village cadastral maps and other maps/attributes related to the inventory, plans etc are geo-referenced and integrated with the satellite data and form part of the geo-database. Ground photographs, different views of the monuments, type of buildings and their heights, street view of the buildings and lanes, open spaces are also part of the database. Smart phone-based applications are being developed for geo-tagging and uploading by different stake holders and citizens as part of crowd sourcing, an ISRO official said.

ISRO will also create 3D virtual tour of each site. The 3D initiative will enable a virtual walk through national monuments. ISRO is currently developing 3D digital models of the sites and monuments. The 3D digital model is overlaid over the satellite data. “A 3D digital model of Clive House in Dum Dum will render a short movie clip for 360 degree visualization. This will fuel interest about heritage among in digital generation as well as among students of history and heritage conservation architecture,” he added.

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Source: TOI-Kol