HC commends State government for submitting a ‘wonderful’ report on saving waterbodies

Court commends State government

The Madras High Court on Thursday commended the State government for having filed a “wonderful” report on the technology that must be adopted to spot each and every waterbody in the State with centimetre accuracy so that they could be saved from encroachment and obliteration.

Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy told Advocate General R. Shunmugasundaram that it was one of the best government reports they had read in a long time.

The report had highlighted that the static satellite images downloaded from Google Earth might not indicate real world positions of waterbodies spread across the State since those maps were not geo referenced and that only surveying of all waterbodies using global positioning system (GPS) or drones would help in identifying the waterbodies in their exact real-world positions with centimetre accuracy.

The judges directed the government to keep the satellite images already downloaded from Google as a reference point until the more elaborate exercise of geo-referencing could be undertaken. They also decided to monitor the process until its completion so that the waterbodies in the State could be saved from obliteration in future.

The court had on March 2 expressed concern over official apathy towards maintaining waterbodies in the State and the wanton desecration thereof all over the State. It also stated that whenever a complaint of desecration was raised, officials claim that there was no waterbody at all. Therefore, while passing interim orders in a connected public interest litigation petition, it had ordered downloading of satellite images of all Taluks so that the existing waterbodies could be identified and earmarked.

In reply, the Revenue and Disaster Management department filed a status report before the court on Thursday and informed the court that it had complied with the directive to collate satellite images and hosted all of them in the State government website. However, since those images were not accurate depiction of real world position, a disclaimer had been carried on the website stating that the boundaries of the waterbodies in those images were only approximate and accurate.

On the other hand, the Department of Survey and Settlement was in possession of digitized (scanned) but non geo-referenced images of hand drawn maps of all villages in the State. Those maps had been drawn four to five decades ago in many sheets in either A1 or A0 size papers in order to have a whole image of a village on a single sheet. These sheets were collated like a jigsaw puzzle using CAD software but the geo-referencing of those scanned village maps did not produce the desired result, the court was told.

“Hence, action has been taken to vectorize viz. to redraw (i.e. trace) using CAD software. So far, 80% of the vectorization work (i.e., 80% out of the total number of 16,721 villages) has been completed. Only if the accuracy of each of the vectorized village maps – if geo-referenced is within plus or minus two metres upon being superimposed either or Google Maps or Google Earth or on maps produced by National Remote Sensing Centre, then it will be somewhat useful to the public,” the report read.

Stating that action had already been taken on a war-footing basis to geo reference all the scanned village maps, the government told the court that the maps with the accuracy of plus or minus two metres would be published on the website of the Department of Survey and Settlement in a phased manner. It also informed that a survey of all water bodies using GPS or drones would have to be conducted in order to display the water bodies in their respective real world positions with centimetre accuracy.

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