Planning for smart cities: GIS tech is being used to map cities of future

The first step to preparing a master plan is to procure the satellite imagery of the land parcel. The imagery is obtained from Indian or foreign satellites
How does one build a city of the future? What kind of infrastructure should an urban centre have to enable it to cater to the needs of its growing population 20 years down the line?  

As India tries to make its cities smarter, many of the answers to such questions lie in technology, especially, GIS or geographic information system. GIS, which is designed to capture, analyse, and manage any type of geographical data, has become the cornerstone of building master plans for cities of the future. 

Rudrabhishek Enterprises Limited (REPL), an NSE-listed company, is using the technology to develop master plans for cities in several states and project how these regions should be developed for the future. And GIS is key to how it strategises and solves problems in land development, sustainability and future growth. The technology has made the entire process of preparing the master plan accurate and precise, reduced the time taken to do it, while increasing efficiency in handling large amounts of data. 

“GIS is the only tool to map a current infrastructure and also project it for the future, based on the requirement analysis,” says Surendra Nath Das, deputy general manager - GIS, at Rudrabhishek Infosystem, a subsidiary of REPL.

The first step to preparing a master plan is to procure the satellite imagery of the land parcel. The imagery is obtained from Indian or foreign satellites. “The quality of images from foreign satellites are sharper,” says Das. 

These satellite images can only be obtained only from the National Remote Sensing Centre. The amount of satellite data accessed depends on the size of the land parcel to be developed. For example, to develop the master plan for Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, REPL will require satellite imagery for 5,500 acres of land. 

These images are then superimposed on the GIS software, which helps pinpoint the exact coordinates of the land parcel via geo-referencing. Geo-referencing is the process of taking digital images and adding geographic information to them, so that the GIS software can place the image in its appropriate real-world location.

After this, real-time surveys are done to check the activities underway in an area — whether residential, commercial or a mix of both. These are also mapped on the GIS software.

The land survey is followed by other surveys such as traffic and transportation surveys to check the width of roads, traffic flow and whether roads are capable of handling higher volumes of traffic. The survey points out which roads are in good condition in terms of carrying capacity and which are congested. 

The next step is to analyse the causes of congestion. Several other surveys are done to analyse problems such as water logging and flooding, sanitation, identifying hotspots for road accidents and so on, all of which are addressed in the master plan.

When the survey data is superimposed on the GIS software system, it helps create a three-dimensional (3D) base map on which projections of population, future infrastructure and current gaps can be made.

“On the basis of all this data, we give a proposal to the client on not only what infrastructure projects — say a school or hospital — should come up in future, but also exactly where they should come up,” says Prabhakar Kumar, associate vice-president and head of department, urban planning, REPL.

Using the 3D GIS, one can also plan a project that is environmentally sustainable (by reducing the usage of energy and water), and make provision for the optimal positioning of public properties such as hospitals, educational establishments and even police stations.

GIS mapping provides a common database from where different attributes of a single geo-spatial layer can be utilised for various analysis. Furthermore, a master plan is a digital resource that can be used by various departments at different points in time for future development projects.

A master plan takes a minimum of one year to prepare. So far, REPL has developed master plans for the year 2041 for several cities in states like Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha. It has projects worth more than Rs 100 crore currently under development. The company has also won orders for preparing GIS-based master plans for three urban local bodies under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) in Karnataka and for the development of the Dhuriyapar-Gorakhpur industrial corridor in UP.

Since GIS technology can help mitigate complications in determining land parcel boundaries and land ownership, REPL has also undertaken a project to enable the smooth digitisation of land records in Jammu and Kashmir.

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