Asian Surveying & Mapping
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The exploding growth that is evident throughout Asia is a major change in all aspects of infrastructure creation and management. The rapid improvements evident across the region often have started with the creation of an accurate base map, to assess the viability and impact of a project, as well as to understand the broader context.

Hearing about large-scale investments, and the role that GIS plays in surveying the current state of development, and planning for massive scale-up of infrastructure is inspiring. Geospatial projects are ongoing on many fronts, with mapping at regional scale as one of the first steps in implementing massive change. The following examples of India’s investments are indicative of transformative change in the Asian region as a whole.

India’s transportation infrastructure is undergoing a major 15-year overhaul that began in 200 and will stretch through 2015. This multi-phase development project will include the paving and widening of some 40,000 miles of national highways at a cost of billions. The execution of this ambitious project required detailed mapping and planning efforts, and the progress of these projects is detailed online via a map on the National Highways Development Project website.

India’s electric power generation reaches 80% of the population, but there is no unified electric grid, and frequent power brownouts are the norm across the country. There is an ongoing effort to unify the country’s power grid and to increase the capacity. As a first-step to the next phase of investment, there is an effort for a door-to-door census of electrical use at state-wide scale, with many projects underway. The initiative will serve to understand needs, and understand where electricity is being pirated from the grid. The massive nature of this effort seems daunting, but completion is a prerequisite of getting a handle on the nation’s needs.

Communications in India has grown dramatically due to the leap forward offered by cell phones. Today, cell phone growth is the fastest in the world, with 740 million subscribers to date and 1.2 billion expected by 2013. The country also has an ambitious plan for a fiber optic backbone to villages that is currently in the planning stages. Clearly geospatial tools will be needed to plan this infrastructure roll-out.

Another area of ongoing upgrade is the country’s urban sanitation, with India only having 34% of its population served by sewers and water treatment. Each state is working to formulate its own State Urban Sanitation Strategy to achieve the policy goals set out in the National Urban Sanitation Policy. So far, 24 States are engaged in the preparation of State Sanitation Strategies, and cities are working on their own City Sanitation Plans.

Throughout the recent Geospatial World Forum event in Hyderabad, the presentations balanced the developing and developed world, with many illustrations like the statistics above about challenges and plans for improvement. It’s great to see first-hand the role that geospatial technologies make to bringing about dramatic infrastructure improvements across the region.