Urban Planning with Free and Open Source Geographic Information System
Geological Survey of India,
With the availability of freely downloadable Geographic Information System (GIS) namely Geographic Resource Analysis Support System (GRASS) and numerous related software the bottle neck of costly proprietary GIS software is solved for the the developing world. Further free availability of satellite imagery on the world wide web added impetus to creating GRASS database of any chosen area. This paper deals with GRASS dataset generated for parts of the Indian city of Hyderabad and development of thematic vector content and crunching of attribute information for urban planning. The imgery of parts of the Hyderabad city are imported in GRASS GIS. These are georeferrenced with WGS-84 geographic coordinates acquired using a hand held Geographic Position System (GPS) at the referrence points, like traffic junctions, bridges and road-rail crossing points. The ensuing GRASS raster is then vectorised with suitable attribute information. Features as important road traffic junctions, suburban railway stations, educational Institutes, hospitals and spots popular with tourists are added as sites (points) information. Roads and rail roads are added as lines with road-name as attribute information. Drainage is also added as lines with attribute information. Different localities of the city, water bodies and larger landmarks like parks, shopping malls etc are added as areas (polygons). This forms the area specific (region) GRASS dataset for data attribution and analysis.
Value addition to this GRASS database is done by reality mapping using a GPS . The sites data is added with, tourist spots like historical monuments, museums and Hotels. Traffic junctions are classified as, 'Busy', 'Traffic jam prone', and 'commercial' etc. The line data is added with information like, 'One way', 'Highway', 'City road', 'Local road','Dense traffic' (with approximate times of traffic jams) 'Residential', and 'Commercial' etc. The areas are added with information like, 'Name', 'Residential', 'Commercial', 'Educational', 'Hospital' and 'Office Zone'. The GRASS data set thus generated is of help to the city population and visitors alike. The resultant GRASS data set can be placed on a website, government computer kiosks. and with touch screens (computers) at Airport, Railway station and Bus stations. Urban planning can take this GRASS dataset as a basis for a plethora of tasks.
Roads that are prone to traffic jams may be marked, and road accidents can be planted as point information, to identify areas for development planning like building road flyovers etc. Hourly information of traffic flow on each important road during peak traffic hours can help in planning traffic distribution, with avoidance of traffic jams. Even road maintenance work can be planned with field observation for damaged roads and roads prone to water logging.
Urban housing and tax collection:
Marking housing complexes and problem areas of urban slums with suitable attribute information can help urban planner. Areas that are prone to water logging can be marked with suitable attribute information by overlaying the drainage information. Tax collection can be marked as attribute information, for proper tax collection endeavours.
Urban areas are frequently flooded after heavy rains, and improper maintenance, and a lack of garbage disposal planning. Choke points of drainage can be marked that warrant urgent civic planner's action. Simulating floods on a digital elevation model can give an early warning averting disasters. This can be accomplished by surveying the area and collection of elevation data in the most flood affected areas.
Urban civic amenities:
Cities of the developing world face problems of sanitation and spread of slums which go together. Frequent inputs from field workers in the city armed with hand held GPS can enrich attribute information and the resultant datasets is a valuable information for the urban planner. Out-break of seasonal fevers and other medical emergencies also can be added as attribute information to help planners.
A tourist or visitor to the city can plan his trip and decide where to stay and visit areas of interest. A computer with touch screen (for inputs) showing the GRASS GIS data set, can help the tourist with information on Hotel accommodation, city transport and locations of interest.
GRASS Capacity building:
Countries like India characterised by large population of educated youth are human resource waiting to trigger this GRASS GIS revolution to happen. With proper capacity building in GRASS GIS not only for urban planning but planning in general can be achieved, where ever hitherto a paper map forms the basis. GRASS GIS can benefit the entire gambit of civil society from the agriculture farmer by planning better land use and crop rotation vis a vis market, to the city dweller alike.