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Satellites to track forest wealth being considered

By Our Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, DEC. 8. The Forest Minister, K. P. Viswanathan, today said his department was probing the possibility of using satellite technology to check sandalwood smuggling and ganja cultivation.

At a press conference here, he said consultations for this were already on with the Indian Space Research Organisation.

Embedded chips

The idea in the case of sandalwood smuggling is to get all the sandal trees in Marayur Sandal Reserve marked with embedded chips so that, when a tree is cut and smuggled away, it can be tracked to its destination with the help of satellite signals. The smugglers can thus be apprehended.

Mr. Viswanathan said the idea of using satellite images to locate ganja plantations within the forests was mooted by him the last time he functioned as the Forest Minister more than a decade ago. It has now been revived.

"Sandal smuggling is taking place with the full participation of the people (of Marayur region). As observed by the Leader of the Opposition, V. S. Achuthanandan, the protection efforts need strengthening. More forest officials are being deployed in Marayur," he said.

He said none of the private sandal oil factories in the State were doing business now. The High Court had ordered the closure of these factories and the Government will act accordingly.

He listed the following achievements by his department during the `100-day Action Programme' of the Oommen Chandy Government:

Steps were taken to open 25 more forest stations across the State during this financial year. The proposal, involving an annual outlay of Rs. 4 crores, was approved by the Finance Department.

Sabarimala development

Steps were taken for seeking the clearance of the Union Department of Environment and Forests for allotting 33.695 hectares of forestland for development activities in Sabarimala. A discussion on this subject is scheduled to take place in New Delhi tomorrow. Over 17,000 files were disposed of by the department. One hundred and forty-eight vacant posts were filled since September 1 and 470 vacant posts were reported to the Kerala Public Service Commission.

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