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India's illicit opium farms six times bigger than estimated

  1. Terrapinzflyer
    Latest high resolution satellite imageries have indicated that all previous estimates of poppy cultivations in India have been gross underestimations. The actual areas growing poppy for manufacturing of illicit drugs like heroin, morphine may be six times more than previously estimated

    "The usage of high resolution data indicates the acreage estimation by interpreting medium resolution images is not accurate. The estimates from medium resolution images appear to be gross underestimation by approximately by a factor of 6. It means the actual illicit cultivations of poppy are expected to be six times more than what has been predicted so far," the Economic Intelligence Council chaired by the finance minister Pranab Mukherjee was informed on February 28.

    The Advanced Data Processing Research Institute (ADRIN) had acquired high resolution multispectral data for a portion of West Bengal, which was analysed. So far, all estimates were based on medium resolution imagery.

    Under the department of space, ADRIN is mandated to carry out satellite surveys to locate illicit poppy farms and determine the acreage.

    The acreage estimates for ten states - Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Karnataka, J&K, Bihar, Orissa and Himachal Pradesh - for the years 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 were estimated at 14,200, 10,851 and 15,598 acre respectively. These figures will see a drastic rise if high resolution imagery is used.

    Legally, opium is cultivated in India in about 15,000 acre with strict controls in place.

    Based on inputs from the Narcotics Control Bureau and the Central Bureau of Narcotics, ADRIN determines the coordinates and ensures positioning of the satellites for detection followed by verification and destruction.

    Sanjib Kr Baruah, Hindustan Times
    New Delhi, March 04, 2012



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