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As illicit cannabis cultivation continues unabated in Odisha, the government on Tuesday decided to use drones, satellite imagery and remote sensing technologies to locate such activity in the state, an official said on Tuesday.

The state police and excise department have jointly destroyed 22,217 acres of cultivation of hemp, a variety of cannabis, in 2020-21, as compared to 9,473 acres in 2018-19, he said.

During a high-level meeting chaired by Chief Secretary SC Mohapatra, it was decided that the police and the excise department will intensify enforcement activity to stop hemp farming in the state.

Mohapatra asked the revenue department officials to check records of land where hemp is cultivated and take action against the landowners as per provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.

Excise department principal secretary SK Lohani said hemp cultivation was destroyed in 10 districts.

"Hemp farming has been contained to a large extent in Angul and Sambalpur districts, but such activity has been detected in Boudh, Deogarh, Gajapati, Ganjam, Kandhamal, Koraput, Malkangiri and Rayagada," he said.

Mohapatra reviewed the situation and directed officials to strengthen local intelligence to identify villages where this illegal cultivation is going on.

"It was also decided to apply satellite and drone technologies to locate areas of unlawful hemp cultivation," he said.

The chief secretary also directed district collectors to prepare action plans for prevention of the illicit farming activity.

"The collectors were asked to identify tribal poor families who are living on this trade and provide them alternative livelihood opportunities through the convergence of Odisha Livelihood Mission, National Livelihood Mission, MGNREGS, cash crop farming, agri-business and other schemes," the official said.

Development Commissioner P K Jena advised officials to intensify awareness and IEC (information, education and communication) activities in the identified areas with involvement of village communities, representatives of panchayat raj institutions, NGOs, SHGs (self-help groups) and farmers' clubs.

During the meeting, it was also decided to enhance grants under OLM (Odisha Livelihood Mission), NRLM (National Rural Livelihood Mission) and departmental livelihood schemes in the vulnerable areas.

The chief secretary also directed the district collectors to visit the villages where hemp cultivation was detected earlier and talk to local people for sustainable livelihood options.

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