Now, in a major departure, the government says it will allow private survey firms access to Indian skies. Private companies from India and other countries will now be able to undertake aerial survey work.
Last month, New Zealand Aerial Mapping announced a joint venture with Genesys Pvt of Hyderabad, to undertake such mapping work. It is believed this is the first project under the new rules.
A team from the Australian-based AAMHatch was present Map World, as were teams from European and North American service providers.
The minister said that the changes were necessary because of its ambitious development plans. At the moment, he said, the demands of mapping the country to the level required are beyond the resources of government. Private/public partnerships would be a major part of the future industrial landscape in the country, he added.
Despite India’s legendary skills in IT, less than 3 per cent of local government have a GIS or any form of computer mapping. The cadastre is antiquated. It is still mostly based on paper.
But it is becoming increasingly evident that GIS is necessary to deliver many of the services Indians expect from their government. Cabinet has decreed it necessary to implement a vast number of e-government initiatives.
Much of this malaise was revealed by the response to the Boxing Day tsunami. The central government mandated that a warning system should be created as soon as practical. The minister was able to assure the conference that the Indian Tsunami Warning System will be operational this year. The central control site for this is located in Hyderabad.
But a vital component of this system is a good representation of the topography of the littoral region, both on and off shore. Previously, mapping near the coast was the preserve of the military. However, when planners came to use the military’s data, they found it totally inadequate for the detailed modelling necessary to predict the behaviour of an incoming wave.
As a result, military restrictions have been lifted. A new digital elevation model of the coastal region and marine surveys of the seabed have been undertaken.
One consequence of all this is that the demand for local geographic data will explode. India may well change from being a net exporter of GIS skills to being an importer. With much work to be done, and so few skilled people, this seems inevitable.