Ask Google Earth

Google Earth image  

A Google Earth image of the proposed project site reveals a dense forest canopy, not a degraded forest.


Google Earth's online mapping application is helping ELAW evaluate proposed projects around the world, from our Eugene office.  This tool helps determine the true impacts of proposed power plants, beach resorts, mines, logging operations, and other developments, without costly travel.

For example, partners in India called for help evaluating a proposed limestone mining project in Himachal Pradesh.  The project's draft Environmental Impact Assessment found the project site suitable for mining because ".  .  .  the limestone deposit area shows scanty vegetation.  .  ."

ELAW Staff Scientist Mark Chernaik toured the proposed project site, with Google Earth, and found the area contained dense forests and vegetation.

Ritwick Dutta, coordinator of the New Delhi-based Lawyers Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE), used this information to convince his government to reject the proposed mine and protect the forests.

ELAW uses Google Earth to:
* Identify the presence of wetlands, sand dunes, and other threatened ecological features.
* Find the distance between existing or proposed pollution sources - and residences, schools, and hospitals - to help enforce environmental regulations that impose a mandatory 'setback' between the pollutant source and the receptor.
* Determine whether a proposed logging concession, or road, or other particular feature, is within the boundary of a protected area.
* Verify or refute characterizations in Environmental Impact Assessments that an area is ecologically "degraded."

Ritwick wrote to Mark: "A big thanks for the critique which has helped in getting the approval revoked."

In a similar case, ELAW partners at the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) called for help evaluating the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for a housing development proposed for a protected "green space." The EIA contained a satellite image with the proposed construction site labeled "degraded forest."

A Google Earth satellite image of the same location revealed that the forest was not degraded.  In fact, it had a dense forest canopy.  Mark shared this information with JET attorney Danielle Andrade, who responded:

"Thank you for reviewing the EIA for us Mark.One of our biggest concerns is that the government has been permitting housing schemes in this area incrementally over the last 10 years and this area is supposed to be an OPEN space, according to our Development Order.  I agree that the description of the site does not add up.  I am from this community and I have a hard time thinking of where they say this development is to take place that is supposedly degraded."

Danielle is now using the information to challenge the housing scheme and promote more environmentally friendly housing.

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