Sitting on his computer, the district education officer in Karnataka’s Gulbarga district finds out which schools need an upgrade in toilet and education facilities. He also is aware of the institutions which need additional classrooms, so that he can quickly draft a proposal once funds are sanctioned for infrastructure improvement.
While assessing the need for new police stations in Shimoga city municipality, the superintendent of police analyses the crime data, population density and socio-economic factors related to reported crimes on the press of a button of a computer.
These officials and many others are using the district-level geospatial data infrastructure (SDI) or maps in all 60 districts of Karnataka for effective decision-making.
Like the geospatial agency in Karnataka, West Bengal and Uttarakhand government agencies have also generated SDI in their respective states, with help from the Natural Resources Data Management System (NRDMS), under the department of science and technology of the Central government.
Geospatial technology, which uses geospatial data or maps stored on computers, can help study and store information related to natural resources, like water bodies and forests, demography, infrastructure like schools, health centres, drinking water facilities, ground water table condition and veterinary facilities, among others.
The technology can also enhance use of touch screens and e-governance tools for efficient delivery of services to citizens.
According to officials of the NRDMS, they are now in the process of proposing projects and initiatives aimed at encouraging use of geospatial information, accessible though the web, in planning in all states.
The proposal is aimed at boosting the government’s programmes like Smart City Development, Digital India, Land Records Modernisation, Clean Ganga and River Linking, Disaster Management, Land and Water Management and Compensatory Forestation.
Experts point out that the geospatial technology can also be used for studies to reduce risk during disasters. They say the Kedarnath Temple deluge in Uttarakhand in 2013 was partially linked to unchecked urbanisation in the areas that triggered landslides which blocked the path of the river. The illegal urbanisation could have been detected and removed in time using spatial data.
“Use of spatial technology could have minimised the loss of lives had it been used to study how the land would behave in these areas in the event of extreme rainfall,” said Dr Bhoop Singh, Head, NRDMS, stressing on the important role that NRDMS, launched in 1982, can play in putting in place such probabilities in place through studies.
Spatial data, also known as geospatial data, is the information about a physical object that can be represented by numerical values in a geographic set-up.
“Effective use of geographical information system (GIS) can help take preventive steps against landslides, encroachment in forests and groundwater depletion,” said Dr Singh.
A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer system for capturing, storing, checking, and displaying data related to positions on Earth’s surface.
Under its National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) programme, NRDMS has worked with data providing agencies like Survey of India, CPCB, Forest Survey of India, Census of India and National Remote Sensing Centre, among others, to develop GIS data assets like maps.
District level maps or spatial data infrastructure has also been developed in 60 districts in Karnataka, West Bengal and Uttarakhand. Another 100 districts in Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Jharkhand and Odisha are developing maps or spatial data infrastructure (SDI) that will help decision makers during disasters like drought, floods, landslides and development of infrastructure and watershed management.
The SDI agencies are now developing web-accessible databases in all districts, said Dr D. Dutta, adviser, NRDMS.