GIS in community transition vis- a -vis physical transformation Bhopal

GIS in community transition vis- a -vis physical transformation Bhopal


Seemi Ahmed
Research Scholar

Aruna Saxena

Deptt. of Architecture & Planning, M. A. C. T., Bhopal
[email protected]

In present world scenario the focus is on ‘Sustainable Development’, which is promoting a widespread awareness of the need to preserve our resources and prepare management policies at a global level. Historic Urban centres are being recognised and accepted as a ‘cultural resource element of the inner city community environment’. Bhopal in the state of Madhya Pradesh, is one of the many cities in India, rich in cultural heritage. In the patronage of kings and rulers it has acquired a complex urban structure over the years. Even today this walled city is a core area for the Capital City of Bhopal. The central part or the core have gone through unusual changes in terms of social and physical transformations. The organic extension have just sprung up and they do not follow any definite pattern but they are again very intense and interestingly follow the same housing morphology of theWalled City.The integrated Innercity Community Resource Management process being outlined in this paper is a shift from the static theories evolving around the physical aspects of the city to a common ground where the ‘reality’ in the city is perceived as per the ‘user’. The focus on the ‘user’ pushes into prominence the various psychological issues related to the perception and cognition of the real world and its representation in a technological medium for analysis and display.The integrated process relies more on networks and interconnection between various entities and the interaction between them in the spatio-temporal environment.

This paper assesses the capability of GIS in being able to model the space-time continuum in cities and the multi-dimensional dynamic nature of the community environment, which becomes much more complex as the dimension of ‘historicity’ is added to it. The paper also lends a fresh insight into possible extensions in the existing GIS through coupling with other techniques that can make it a more useful tool for planners, conservationists and policy makers.

Historic Cities are increasingly being seen as ‘cultural landscapes’ emerging out of the Human-Environment interaction, and not solely as collections of isolated physical entities. This brings into focus what the ‘practice theorists’ emphasise with regard to the human actions being understood through mediating social relations and cultural meanings. With the approach to understanding a city having moved from merely identifying the historic landmarks to finding meanings in spatial relations, the ‘process’ of reading the city would play a great role in shaping our experiences and determining what we see around us. This ‘process’ works at several levels of interaction from creation to perception, and necessitates the configuration of the underlying spatial and social networks.

Post post-modern thought concerns itself more with this ‘process’ rather than the end result. This has meant a marked shift from the ‘freezing approach’ – which manifested itself into an obsession with the past and preservation of the physical manifestation into the present – to a ‘management’ process. With the cultural imprints in a city also now being considered as ‘resources’, there is a need to manage these resources and prevent their depletion through time.

Urban areas are complex multi-dimensional systems evolving out of an interaction of multiple agents at several levels. At any given singular moment of time, several transformations may be occurring simultaneously, which every human being perceives differently and comprehends individually.These individual experiences result from the perceptual and cognitive processes in the human brain that also determine the meanings that we derive from our surroundings. These perceptual processes also determine the image that is created in the human brain of the environment around us, and is a selective process influenced by our cultural and social positions. This process of formation of mental images through individual experiences and recollections is always rooted in the spatio-temporal context and by forming connections between the past and the present it can help us in assigning values to the remains from the past and justifying the need for their continuation into the future.

Bhopal Functional and Physical Form Transformation
In the case of Bhopal, these resources exist in various forms ranging from concrete physical forms to the more abstract cultural values that people may associate with a place. The walled city of Bhopal was self contained unit governing a very small principality. The basic regional functions taking place in spaces were related to administration. This function of administration still continues but with a wide change of scale. Except for a few units not much industrial activity could settle in Bhopal. This was the first impact on physical form of disturbances. Special mention is being made in this period because in latter half of twentieth century.

The whole country physical configuration was undergone a rapid change of urbanisation and industrialisation. Almost overnight, the core area had to function as the center for a whole lot of new spatial developments, with the increase in population at a tremendous rate the walled city had to assume the function of a commercial center .

Land Use and Activities of Innercity Area
This Landuse variation shows the need to integrate the preservation process with the planning and development process. As the focus has shifted from the city to the user, the goals and targets in this process have changed. An integrated planning process needs to be defined which considers the reality as perceived by the user such that the ‘process’ is designed with the user’s expectations providing the ‘pointers’.

This interface of planning has to be flexible and transparent to accommodate the change in perceptions or values through time rather than setting out rigid parameters or design constraints, which predetermine the future behaviour and aspirations of the community. An understanding of the underlying spatial patterns and social systems is essential before any future interventions are carried out. This is important to avoid the dissonance that may occur in the resultant urban structure because of conflicting patterns superimposed over one another. A management plan for a city, especially for one that has strong links to the past, has to then necessarily start with understanding the transformations that have taken place in the city through time. Any planning has to evolve out of this spatio-temporal context of the city, which further emphasises the need for the integration of a research aspect to a statistical process such as urban planning.

The Integrated Planning Approach
Most of the planning practices in India are designed for an ‘end state’. This may be a very generalised statement but it is a fact that Urban Planning in India is still isolated from the general Conservation process, and both the processes are considered separate and distinct having only minor overlaps in a very few cases. The Master Plan approach is a very two-dimensional approach and concerns itself with demarcation of conservation zones that are similar to minimum interference zones. The historicity of a city cannot be confined solely to such rigidly demarcated zones but has to be seen in totality over the whole landscape. Conservation professionals in India have been advocating strongly for this ‘integrated approach’ since the last few years, but have not been successful in being able to evolve policies and practices which can bring together professionals from planning and conservation together. It is however unimaginable how a process can be partitioned into planning and conservation needs when both concern themselves with the ‘city’.

As long as we do not move away from the definite constraints of a Master Plan process and do not bring the user to the forefront, the city will continue to be seen as a system of roads, transport networks and dispersed physical entities. Direct application of such mapping techniques in planning and urban management is yet to be seen where the reliance is still largely on the physical networks for analytical purposes rather than on any mental ones.

Application of GIS Possibilities and Limitations
GIS is a useful tool, particularly because of its capacity to support both spatial and non-spatial attributes and also to combine purely representational techniques with analytical techniques. It can also be useful for handling data from diverse sources and forming links and interconnections between them. With a number of agencies and organisations involved in planning and conservation in Indian cities, the integrated process can well be a ‘participatory process’ where GIS can serve as a common platform and interface that permits data exchange and collaborative decisions. Although most data in GIS has to be geo-referenced, non-commercial solutions such as those in the environmental context are now looking at ways to integrate non geo-referenced information in GIS. This can be particularly useful when historical maps are to be used for research .The Bhopal Innercity map was prepared using PAN IRS 1C data of 1999 . The analysis is done using ARCVIEW software.

But increasing reliance on rigid, cartographic renditions makes these historical maps extraneous which can otherwise be a very useful resource for lending an insight into how perceptions of people have evolved over time. Although commercial GIS packages are still incapable of applying statistical analysis to such ‘loose’ representations, there have been a few recent efforts to integrate ‘perceptual maps’ in the process of understanding of our environs and such integrations could be made more effective by developing analytical techniques that need to be and could be applied to such cognate models.

Whether visual renditions can be converted into networks for analytical purposes in the urban context would depend on the kind of information that we seek out of them in the process. It can be highly useful if such statistical analytical packages can be linked with GIS, allowing the interchange of data that is mapped as network structure and as visual spatial representations.

GIS allows an immense possibility of data storage and retrieval. In Bhopal urban centre, the level of complexity is huge and the involvement of multiple agents that influence the urban landscape demands data collection on several levels and across several dimensions. When this data needs to be manually processed, spatial and non-spatial information can be linked only by limited options, such as keys next to maps or by the use of graphical technique such as colours and symbols. Databases for managing large data sources in the listing of historical buildings or census details are now being widely used, but the correlation of data from more than one source is still mostly limited due to data protection policies that exist between various organisations. GIS can provide a base for the spatial and non-spatial data to be interlinked, and by developing techniques such as relational databases or object-oriented databases in GIS an added advantage of linking non-spatial data across several levels can be realised. Research in the field of ‘multiple views’ is working towards the creation of parallel views where the same datum can be viewed across several different maps or layers of spatial information. In this instance, GIS provides the advantage of linking databases to information from maps that may be created in other software packages such as ‘AutoCAD.

GIS allows for data input from such diverse sources as remote sensing, traditional cartographic maps, aerial photographs and other photographic images. It can be hoped that the data dissemination policy in India will soon be defined for less restricted data exchange and data from remote sensing and other satellite information would be easily available for commercial purposes. Most European countries have relaxed their data protection rules, which allows for better exchange of data at a global level. If historic cities are being seen as global resources and the preservation of them is to be seen as a global responsibility, then it is fair to hope for information to be much more conveniently accessible at a global level. With the Internet forming the prominent interface where most global communities interact, more and more data resources are being made available on the World Wide Web, and any GIS application in the Indian context will benefit from a flexible national policy for data dissemination allowing for greater exchange.

The data input in GIS requires spatial units to be enclosed by rigid boundaries, which can certainly be a disadvantage when considering aspects such as historic zones. For example, any representation of the seven historic cities of Delhi should not define strict boundaries between them since most of these exist only as research interpretations from historical sources that are then transferred onto the ground. Cartographic renditions have a tendency to simplify such issues and use rigid demarcations for the convenience of applying planning policies or other such guidelines and also for the sake of adapting such data to largely accepted graphical symbols.

Most commercial GIS packages have some basic statistical analysis techniques available within them that need to be explored for resource management applications. The application of such analysis to abstract attributes such as ‘historicity’ and ‘cultural values’ is certainly an issue for further research although this has been attempted in a few archaeological applications.

Plans are afloat to use GIS as a tool for the preparation of the next Master Plan in Bhopal.The application GIS wll probably involve immense upheavals in organisational and financial terms. However, it has to be realised that an optimum use of this application cannot be achieved unless the benefits that are we hope to derive from it are clearly defined. This will need a two-step methodology. Firstly, the aims and objectives have to be clearly defined for the project and a full review of the limitations of the presently employed techniques must be conducted. Secondly, GIS has to then be assessed to see how it can be used to derive maximum benefit from it, and the changes that would be needed in the present scenario in turn to help derive these benefits.


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