Home Spotlight Liberalised geospatial data regime can help city planning

Liberalised geospatial data regime can help city planning

The Government recently announced liberalised guidelines for geospatial data in the country. By liberalizing the geospatial guidelines, the government has taken a crucial decision that may lead to a One Lakh Crore Rupees Geo-Spatial economy.

The Union Minister for Science & Technology, Earth Sciences and Health & Family Welfare, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said, “The next generation of technologies will use hyper-resolution maps.  Availability of comprehensive, highly accurate, granular and constantly updated representation of Geospatial Data will significantly benefit diverse sectors of the economy and will significantly boost innovation in the country and greatly enhance the preparedness of the country for emergency response.”

Dr. Harsh Vardhan also pointed out, “All geospatial data produced using public funds, except classified geospatial data collected by security/law enforcement agencies, will be made accessible for scientific, economic and developmental purposes to all Indian entities and without any restrictions on their use.  Government agencies and others need to collaborate and work towards open linked geospatial data”. “Stakeholders benefitted will include practically every segment of society, from industry to academia to government departments”, he emphasised.

Geospatial technologies refer to technologies used to acquire, manipulate, store and visualize geographical information.  These technologies provide information on where individuals, groups and infrastructure are located in time and space. Urban designers often use geospatial data to develop truly smart cities. Geospatial data is information that can be conveyed on GIS software using geographic coordinates.

Geospatial data has wide use

There are several areas which can be benefitted by the government’s recent decision and urban and city planning will be one of the main such areas where geospatial data can be used for variety of purposes which may improve the efficiency of various projects and programmes.

Geospatial data and its analysis can responsibly guide an area’s development provided the data available is robust, nuanced and constantly updated, as well as the concerned people have problem-solving skills to apply that information. This challenge has made geographic information science and technology (GIST) invaluable to urban planners. Spatial data points the way to improving quality of life and building sustainable communities, while geographic information science (GIS) professionals use spatial thinking to transform that data into actionable insight and solutions.

GIS is becoming indispensable

Geographic information systems (GIS) have become an invaluable tool for urban planners, providing support for database creation, spatial analysis and modelling, and visualization. With the evolution of technology, advantages of GIS in urban planning too have increased manifold in recent years – improved mapping, increased access to data and vital information and improved communication – all will eventually lead to increased quality and efficiency for public services and increased support for strategic decision making.

GIS in urban planning enables spatial analysis and modelling, which can contribute to a variety of important urban planning tasks and also enhance the efficiency of several urban planning projects. These tasks include site selection, land suitability analysis, land use and transport modelling, the identification of planning action areas, and impact assessments. There are several GIS functionalities now available such as interpolation, buffering, map overlay, and connectivity measurement that can help urban planners to achieve these tasks.

Accurate land use data

GIS platforms, especially those used in conjunction with remote sensors, decrease the time spent on collecting land-use and environmental information and also increase the quality of data collected. With remote images, urban planners can detect current land use, as well as changes to land use for an entire urban area. Through map overlay analysis, GIS can help to identify areas of conflict of land development with the environment by overlaying existing land development on land suitability maps. These images can also be used to create compelling visualizations with 3D CAD models.

Future land-use maps act as a community’s guide to future infrastructure, build plans, and public spaces. These maps help ensure that a city’s urban planning accounts for environmental conservation, pollution, mitigating transportation issues, and limiting urban sprawl.

With GIS, urban planners can quickly create maps of the city as it is today, and then use various modelling and predictive data techniques to explore scenarios for the future. Ideally using this exercise to create a future land-use map that is thoughtful, sustainable, and sound.

Informed decisions

The information can also help to take informed decisions such as avoiding developing areas with high flood frequency as those areas are not likely to attract dwellers. GIS can significantly aid in monitoring an area or conducting a feasibility study of a location for a specific purpose, for instance ascertaining the suitability of a location for the construction of a bridge or dam. Feasibility studies of smaller structures like schools and hospitals can also be carried out effectively using GIS. It can also be used to ascertain the feasibility of an area for waste disposal and treatment.

The sector so far is dominated by the Indian government as well as government-run agencies such as the Survey of India and private companies need to navigate a system of permissions from different departments of the government which is time consuming and lengthy process often leading to project delays. The deregulation eliminates the requirement of permissions as well as scrutiny, even for security concerns. Indian companies now can self-attest, conforming to government guidelines without actually having to be monitored by a government agency- these guidelines therefore place a great deal of trust in Indian entities.

And yet, availability of geospatial data is only the first step. A much more challenging task is the integration of the data analysis from multiple sectors into one coherent urban planning process. We now need to develop systems and tools to integrate geospatial data, multidimensional indicators, Sustainable Development Goals, and modelling tools to help city governments define their vision and identify priority action areas and investment strategies. First hurdle might have been crossed but bigger challenges are lying ahead.

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