How India can use geospatial intelligence for infrastructure development to fight climate change

Here are a few ways geospatial intelligence can be the catalyst for India’s smart status ambitions.
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At the recent COP26 summit in Glasgow, India promised to reach Net Zero by 2070 — essentially balancing the total carbon dioxide emissions with its elimination from the environment — called carbon neutrality.

However, India is the world's fourth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide after China, the US, and the EU. The latter two have issued a commitment to reach Net Zero by 2050. 

Despite the incredible progress made towards sustainability across the country, India seems to be lagging on a global playing field when it comes to mass scale solutions.

Naturally, there’s a lot of expectations and hopes riding on the government’s initiatives, including on the recent PM Gati Shakti Master Plan, which aims to create holistic infrastructure across the country through the incorporation of a centralised geospatial data platform.

The Rs 100 lakh-crore initiative is envisioned to ensure transparency, standardisation, and most importantly, sustainability through efficiency.

The programme will bring together 16 central government agencies, including the Railways, Roads and Highways, Petroleum and Gas, Power, Telecom, Shipping, Aviation, and more.

The overarching idea is that a smart city is sustainable — equipped to mitigate climate change’s effects by harnessing the power of technology. 

Geospatial knowledge can provide answers for most everyday problems, especially developing sustainable smart cities. Urban spaces contribute to around 80 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, they are also responsible for 80 percent of a country’s GDP.

With the intersection of artificial intelligence and geospatial data — including census data, satellite imagery, remote sensing, weather data, cell phone data, drawn images, and social media data — urban planning can be highly efficient and contribute to better living conditions both environmentally and financially.

Astoundingly, the market of geospatial analytics is expected to grow at a CAGR of 24 percent between 2020 and 2025.

Here are a few ways geospatial intelligence can be the catalyst for India’s smart status ambitions. 

Environmental repair 

Consumption of resources, energy, ecosystems, and transport directly impact climate change. Geospatial intelligence can help monitor emission sources through collaborative workflows that harness big data to arrive at efficient solutions.

Detailed maps can help evaluate the productivity of land to arrive at its habitable or agricultural status. GIS also makes it easy for civic authorities to balance nature with humans in urban cities to avoid unnecessary culling of green spaces and wildlife conservation. Moreover, it can monitor and correct pollution and noise levels accordingly. 

Civic planning

Geospatial data permeates every aspect of a smart city’s development, including interior global positioning systems to map the interiors of buildings.

A GIS-based system can create accurate emergency evacuation plans, which can be implemented at airports, arenas, and other large commercial spaces.

GIS intelligence can efficiently manage solar energy through grids and distribution. For instance, the Indian Railways is working towards total electrification, and a digital intervention through geospatial intelligence can hasten the progress, reducing India’s dependence on coal as an energy source.  

Resource management 

With climate change, water conservation has become a need of the hour. An analysis of temporal data, for instance, can help plan for demand for clean water as cities and regions grow.

Satellite monitoring has proved that water consumption per person varies widely based on location. These consumption data can aid in decision making and better planning. Geospatial data can also create accurate poverty and crime indicators to drive resource allocation.

Healthcare system 

One of the glaring issues affecting the country is the weak healthcare infrastructure, which came to the forefront amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Geospatial intelligence can bring healthcare to the 21st century through a universal healthcare system. Here, big data can compel incumbents to address most pressing issues like availability of COVID-19 vaccines, patient load, rate of contraction, etc. Subsequently, this will positively impact society. 

Disaster management

Geospatial intelligence has evolved to utilise spatial and temporal resolutions of optical and radar sensors to prevent, address, rescue, and rehabilitate in a disaster scenario.

Whether it’s data to predict an earthquake, or the identification of safe spots during a hurricane — we’ve never been so close to foretelling catastrophes. 

For a city, geospatial intelligence will be at the core of achieving the coveted smart status. India has already accepted its future. However, it’s the catching up part that’s much needed.

We can expect to witness exponential growth within the geospatial analytics space. But, for India, this revolution must be embraced by all stakeholders — citizens, businesses, and the government.

Market players, too, must democratise geospatial intelligence with open-source data to truly fuel progress. It’s one of the most important ways to save our world. 

Edited by Suman Singh

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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