Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) and the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) have joined hands to create a repository of satellite-based surveillance photographs on more than 3,000 protected monuments to begin with. Around 1,50,000-odd heritage structures will be added to the database in a phased manner.
Isro has 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. These satellite pictures will help ASI to identify the worst affected areas and take corrective measures.
The Isro-ASI initiative assumes significance in light of the 2013 Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) report 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, it 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 of late, including severe weathering, urbanization, economic development, encroachments and smuggling of antiquities. The damage are, some times, irreparable, said an archeologist.
A standard operating procedure (SOP), using high-resolution satellite data as primary source and employing modern 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 Karnataka and soon it will be extended to the rest of country.
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. 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 on heritage among in digital generation as well as among students of history and heritage conservation architecture,” he added.