UNOSAT Data on Sri Lanka :
‘Interpretation not substantiated without ground verifications’
The image analysis (circulated and provided to Al-Jazeera TV) was
done with WorldView-1 & QuickBird satellite imagery (by UNOSAT) which
are acquired from 450 - 500 Km from the Earth.
Inside CSZ: Putumattalan
Most of the analysis was done probably based on object oriented
classification algorithm which interprets an image based on size, shape,
colour and other attributes of ground features and the rest of the
analysis was purely based on visual interpretations by a group who are
totally alien to ground situation in CSZ.
Therefore, it is not possible to provide conclusive interpretation
based on these analyses without a detailed ground assessment being
carried out. Conclusions drawn from the interpretations of these images
have no scientific validity.
Further, assessment by UNITAR/UNOSAT - April 26, 2009 refers only to
the following two areas:
Damages Inside CSZ:
1. Putumattalan: Three permanent buildings have been destroyed
between March 29 and April 19, bringing the total for the northern
section of the CSZ to six destroyed since March 15.
Our comment: The terrorist occupy this area with a large dump of arms
and ammunitions, which were earlier distributed over 15,000 km2 area
held by them. This sort of concentration of arms and ammunition handled
by newly recruited terrorists could easily be attributed to the damage
shown on the images.
There are potentially large amounts of moderate to severe damages to
the remaining permanent buildings in this area
Our comment: this is not verified by images
2. Valayanmadam: one additional permanent building has been
destroyed, and further South there is a cluster of likely impact craters
within an area previously densely populated with IDP shelters.
Our comment: IDP shelters in the area have been removed and only one
permanent building has been shown to be destroyed. This can also be due
to terrorist activity
Comments on some of the images shown (with image numbers)
1. Most of the damaged sites shown on image views are outside the CSZ.
2. ID 256 is outside the CSZ. Vadduwakkalu is located outside the CSZ
as shown by UNOSAT map (slide2).
3. ID 259 is also outside CSZ. Although it shows a few craters, there
is no evidence that
Army shelled this area.
4. ID 250 shows a damaged building where only the structure exists on
April 19. However, it is noted that large number of temporary IDP
shelters are disappeared on April 19 image compared to the March 29
image. Therefore, the statement that ‘the damage is due to shelling’ is
not acceptable. If that is the case, what happened to the IDP shelters ?
5. ID 229 shows some buildings appear to be damaged. But there is no
image to make a comparison.
General disagreements on the interpretation of imagery
During the Iraqi war, USA used spy satellites and American
reconnaissance spacecraft with ultra violet, optical, infrared and radar
sensors (all 4 types) and the image interpretation was assisted by the
experts who had ground knowledge and military strategies. In spite of
all the gathered knowledge from physical sensors, human knowledge and
interpretation skills, Sadam Hussains dummy weapons were targeted and
destroyed. This points to the fact that satellite data interpretation
would only be useful after ground verifications.
movements have been misinterpreted by media. Picture by
U.S. ‘Almost All Wrong’ on Weapons: Report on Iraq Contradicts Bush
Administration Claims’ carried an article in Washington Post in October
07, 2004. “A controversy has existed over the performance of U.S. (and
British) intelligence in collecting and evaluating information about
Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programs. The reliability of sources
has been questioned.
It has been suggested that some human intelligence may have been
purposeful deception by the Iraqi intelligence and security services,
while exiles and defectors may have provided other intelligence seeking
to influence U.S. policy.”(www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB80) (What
we see on imagery could even be a ploy by LTTE to show international
community how the damages have taken place in CSZ).
Ranjith Premalal De Silva, PhD ( UK ), Professor of Satellite Remote
Sensing and GIS, Head, Department of Agricultural Engineering,
University of Peradeniya.