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Surveying science, differently

A pioneer in the field of remote sensing, Dr. L.R.A.Narayan has been honoured with the Bhaskara Award. A profile.

FOUR DECADES is a long wait, but for Dr. L.R.A. Narayan, it has been every bit worthwhile, because it has reaped a rich reward in the form of the Bhaskara Award, instituted by the Indian Society of Remote Sensing (ISRS), a reputed body of professional remote sensing scientists. Dr. Narayan, by virtue of becoming the first Director of the Application Division of the National Remote Sensing Agency at Hyderabad, is perhaps the first `operational application scientist' in the country.

He is a fellow of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation and member of several professional bodies, besides being a consultant to a few other organisations. He has won acclaim for the innovative methods he has used in remote sensing applications. He is also well known in international scientific circles and has authored as many as 60 articles, which have been compiled into a book.

Mapping by ground techniques and aerial photography began several years ago. These and satellite remote sensing-related methods, for obtaining information on land surface and natural resources, are used by the National Remote Sensing Agency and other units of the Department of Space and the Survey of India.

A retired Army Colonel, Dr. Narayan has had a long innings with both these departments. Hewears his academic laurels modestly. Gentle and unassuming, he is publicity shy. Yet, he is a scientist who has delved into major environmental issues such as analysing the reasons for the reduction in forest cover and in identifying and assessing the extent of wasteland in the country. During the Rajiv Gandhi regime, he conceived of and implemented a unique mapping programme which helped identify 146 districts in different States, covering 40 per cent of the geographical area of the country. This land could be put to productive use within a brief span of 12-14 months.

The International Society of Photogrammetry selected him at its congresses held in Vienna (1996) and Amsterdam (2000) as recipient of its prestigious Schwidefsky Medal, on the basis of his published works. The Bhaskara Award was instituted only three years ago by the Department of Space, Government of India, and Dr. Narayan is the third recipient. The award consists of a citation and a cash prize of Rs.50,000.

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