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Illegal colonisers, beware of eye in sky
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, November 4
An eye in the sky may well turn out to be a new nightmare for illegal colonisers in Punjab. Two satellites are set to give pictures on demand to the Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority (PUDA) to allow it to pinpoint illegal constructions at the click of a button.

This service, called Geographical Information System (GIS), will be provided by the Centre for Computational Engineering of Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh. The technology is being provided at low rates with a satellite picture of one sq km costing only Rs 50. The state, which has a total area of 50,000 sq km, only needs to map around 30 per cent of the area, covering the major cities as well as land on the periphery of Chandigarh.

The technology also allows PUDA to get pictures of a resolution up to two feet, though these would be more expensive. Even pictures of small violations would be cost-effective under the new technology as it would do away with the process of surveys.

“Now we can directly superimpose the satellite picture onto the revenue map of a particular area to know where illegal constructions have sprung up”, says department Additional Chief Administrator Ajoy Sharma. He said after the illegal constructions were identified the department only needed to know the ownership of the property from the revenue authorities to start proceedings against them.

“Conducting surveys to identify illegal constructions means dealing with human factors like the efficiency of the staff as well as provision of the land record to them by the relevant patwari. Besides this, the process is time consuming and benefits the illegal colonisers as they are able to sell plots in the colony following which it becomes very difficult to demolish the resultant structures”, he added.

Surveys for providing the GIS to PUDA have already started with the Centre for Computational Engineering head, Mr Rajeev Sahdev, visiting Patiala last week with his team. The system has a two-pronged advantage. One, it can be used to provide quarterly pictures of sensitive areas where illegal construction is feared so that prompt action is taken. Second, the GIS archives can be used effectively to see the yearly growth of illegal constructions around a city, or even over shorter periods.

Mr Sharma said the two satellites — IKONOS and Quickbird — had their own archival record extending over a period of some years which could be compared with the present position to determine exactly when the illegal construction came up. This, sources said, could be used as evidence in court and colonisers would be hard put to get relief by submitting doubtful documents regarding the period when the particular constructions came up.

The system is likely to be put into place in a few months with preliminary work already having started on it. Mr Sharma said the GIS could also be used by other government agencies, including the Forest Department and the municipal corporations and committees, which were witnessing encroachments on their lands. 

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