Honorary Managing Editor
“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things: Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax– Of cabbages–and kings- Lewis Carroll (Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There)
I thought this might be an appropriate start to this month’s editorial because there are so many things to talk about. This issue highlights surveying, one of the oldest developmental activities in recorded history. Then as now, surveying was used to plan and execute almost every form of construction including buildings, transportation networks, communications, mapping and definition of legal boundaries for land ownership. If ever there was a technique in the service of the common man it is surveying. Survey data has to be of the highest possible accuracy and one would have expected that surveyors would be the first to adopt advanced technology solutions. Yet there is a curious disconnect between surveying and modern tools like remote sensing and geographical information systems. For example, see the entry under surveying in Wikipedia.
GIS and GPS get a mentions but remote sensing does not. So, what are these very high resolution satellites being used for? We also often see a disconnect between national mapping agencies and agencies maintaining land records. As a result, it becomes difficult – if not impossible – to transfer information from one set of maps to the other. This is because the topographic map may be well referenced with respect to its scale, datum, projection and other parameters while the land record just shows the plot boundaries without references which can allow the correct orientation and placement of the parcel on the topographic map.
Surveying, particularly land survey or cadastral survey, is a very time consuming process and as a result the record updates have backlogs that are well nigh insurmountable. So why are these technologies not popular? It is time that satellite data providers, software solution providers and system integrators address this issue. Many solutions have been explored. Some are covered in the following articles but many remain as individual project reports. Who can act as a focus and bring all these scattered efforts together and come out with an acceptable solution?
On another tack, geographical information is increasingly being viewed as a marketable commodity and therefore is getting democratised. GPS receivers are easily available and people are keen to ‘see’ where they are going and share their experiences with others. All these are value additions to the basic remote sensing data and GIS database. Can we look forward to a similar ‘value addition’ in the case of survey data? For example, a new road is planned past my house. What portion of my compound will I have to surrender? I do not want to wait till the bulldozer appears over the horizon. I need an answer now to help me plan my next course of action.
Many of these issues need discussion and exchange of ideas. I would also like to draw the attention of readers to the G I Science Forum 2009 to be held along with Map World Forum 2009 at Hyderabad. I hope many of these issues could form the subject of papers to be presented at the Forum. We have also started a blog on G I Science so if you have a view it would be a good idea to discuss it there. I would also be delighted to hear from you as it will help us to tailor the contents to meet your expectations.