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Mapping of Narcotic Plants Areas


Mapping the Areas of Narcotic Plants Distribution Using Remote Sensing and GIS Technologies

Tech Area / Field

  • OBS-NAT/Natural Resources and Earth Sciences/Other Basic Sciences
  • ENV-OTH/Other/Environment
  • SAT-OTH/Other/Space, Aircraft and Surface Transportation

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Zalouzhny A A

Leading Institute
Institute of Botany and Phytointroductoion, Kazakstan, Almaty

Supporting institutes

  • Physico-Technical Institute, Kazakstan, Almaty reg., Alatau\nCentre for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems "TERRA", Kazakstan, Almaty


  • Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, USA, WA, Richland\nUNDCP Project, Kazakstan, Almaty\nChiba University / Center for Environmental Remote Sensing, Japan, Chiba

Project summary

After declaration of independence Republic of Kazakhstan had come up against the problem of increase of production, transportation and consumption of drugs. Owing to their geographic location they became the transit corridor for contraband of drugs from Asia to Europe and America. Besides Kazakhstan is noted for annual growth of illegal production of marijuana, opium and ephedrine on the bases of local plant resources and potential of this country in this respect is very high.

Large areas are covered by wild hemp in Central Asia since this region is a center of origin of this plant. The Shu valley has growth of the wild hemp by places which totals in no less than 100,000 hectares. In another areas of south-east Kazakhstan hemp occupies more than 150,000 hectares. Regions with growth of wild hemp became arena of large scale production of marijuana and hashish, annual potential production can reach 147,000 tons and 5,000 tons respectively. Mountain regions of southern Kazakhstan has largest resources of narcotic plant ephedra in the world which grows as a wild plant on the area of more than 300,000 hectares. Ephedra is a source for production of the drug ephedrine which has constant increase in demand. In 1997 police confiscated 13 tons of raw ephedra and in 1998 twice as much. Opium poppy is cultivated plant illegally grown in southern oblasts at local areas. Police disclose hidden plantations of opium poppy every year, but because of difficulties of this work obtained data on such plantations is never complete.

Social-economic problems stimulate expansion of illegal cultivation of narcotic plants by rural population. Increase of illegal sale and consumption of drugs aggravate crime in countries and subregion of Central Asia and contribute to expansion of negative social-economic problems of national and international scales.

Organization of measures to localize and reduce plantations of narcotic plants requires precise information on their distribution and recourse potential.

Currently the advanced technologies of Remote Sensing and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) are widely used in world practice for ecological monitoring.

Remote sensing combined with the field mapping and field measurements of spectral characteristics of plants at the test areas will allow to extrapolate widely obtained results. This information will be continuously updated according satellite data thus maintaining GIS in actual state. This method allows to conduct annual monitoring of the areas with narcotic containing plants and to keep situation under control both at local and regional scales.

Remote Sensing methods for assessment of different characteristics of vegetation cover are well developed in world practice and used for different research and practical objectives. Efficient utilization of remotely sensed data for classification, mapping of vegetation and differentiating separate species have been shown in series of studies (Myhre, 1987; Hickman, Everitt et al., 1991; McCloy and Hall, 1991; Everitt, Escobar et al., 1993, Everitt, Richerson et al., 1994; Goward, Prince, 1995; Prince, Brown de Colstoun and Kravitz, 1998).

Participants of the Project possess modern methods of digital cartography and remote sensing. These methods were employed for processing data collected by US Navy’s aircraft P-3 Orion which made flights according to AMPS Mission Program in Kazakhstan in 1997. Task to localize narcotic plants had been accomplished by the example of Zhalanash valley in Almaty oblast within the framework of the Program. The same approaches were used in carrying out the Space Experiment “SHOP” within the Program “Polyot M-2” where the special task for experiment were co-ordinated with astronaut T. Musabayev. Besides cooperative research is being carried out in this field with the partners from Japan, Italy, and Germany within different projects on assessment of the state of vegetation in Kazakhstan.

Gained personal experience by researchers along with international experience from literature and foreign partners in another projects will be used for adaptation of available approaches and search for optimum solutions for the Project.

within this Project methodical approaches will be developed taking into account peculiarities of natural-climatic growth conditions and seasonal development of narcotic plants in Kazakhstan.

The Project is a logical continuation of the project UNDCP AD/RER/97/c32: “Mapping the areas of illegal cultivation of narcotic plants in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan” which was based on mapping employing methods of field survey using GPS instrument. The revealed areas will serve as the test areas for remote sensing survey.

The Project is planned as pilot project covering southeast Kazakhstan and neighboring countries of Central Asia. To expand possibilities and provide stable progress of the Project it would be appropriate to establish full-scale complex system of satellite monitoring in Kazakhstan.

The Project falls into category of fundamental and applied research as well as to development of new technologies.

Expected results:

1. Satellite images of the study area with geometric and atmospheric corrections prepared for cluster analysis;
2. Digital inventory layers derived from topographic maps for GIS; their correction according to satellite images;
3. Large scale maps of narcotic plants distribution at the test areas. Spectral signatures of narcotic plants at different stages of their phenology. Resource potential of narcotic plants in different ecological conditions;
4. Spectral signatures of plants in different habitats;
5. Land cover classification of the study area;
6. Maps-masks of distribution areas of different narcotic plants;
7. GIS of study area with the appropriate thematic layers required for simulation of different scenarios;
8. Validation of the Project’s results.

Results will be used widely and first of all as follows:

1) by police and security agencies to fight illegal production of narcotic plants and drugs, distribution of drugs, drug business and crime in the countries of Central Asia;
2) by national, oblast and district stations for plant protection for organization measures on localizing and reduction of natural stands and illegal plantations of narcotic plants;
3) by research institutions of the republic for selection of experimental plots for development of new efficient methods (chemical, biological, agrotechnical) against narcotic plants;
4) by authorities and decision makers of different level for improvement of social-economic conditions in the region.

Project and its results will contribute to implementation of the tasks of ISTC:

- scientists and specialists involved in defense industry will get opportunity to reorient their work to peace oriented research;
- integration of Kazakhstan scientists with international scientific community;
- conversion of military technologies and their use with peace purposes including development of fundamental and applied research in the field of environment conservation, health and national security;
- results meet civil needs inside the country and of international community.

Duration of the Project is 3 years. Total labor consumption is 492 persons per month including 301 specialists of category 1.

Foreign collaborators within proposed project provide methodological and consultative assistance on computer assisted processing of remote sensing data and development of GIS, specifically to use modern software ERDAS Imagine, ENVI and analyze spectral signatures of objects obtained in the field.