Home Articles SoI kicks off 1:50K digital maps release

SoI kicks off 1:50K digital maps release

SoI kicks off 1:50K digital maps release

Prithvish Nag
Surveyor General of India

Having generated digital data of over 5000 topographical maps of Open Series (OSM) and of almost the same number of Defence Series Maps (DSM) at 1:50K scale, Survey of India (SoI) has now kicked off the dissemination of the same to the users.

The latest development in this direction is the release of digital maps of Punjab and Haryana by the Director General – Information Systems, Ministry of Defence on August 14th. Following this, maps of Orissa were released.

Looking much satisfied with the developments is Dr Prithvish Nag, Surveyor General of India and Director, National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation (NATMO).

In a tete-a-tete with GIS Development, he shared how his aspiration has come true and what this entails for the user community. Following are the excerpts of the conversation.

In 2003 we were given the task of digitising 1:50K scale maps of the country within a year, which we were able to complete by taking the help of the students from NIIT, Aptech, and other similar institutes, from all over the country.

The objective was to bring out the digital version of topo maps. Digitising 1:50K maps, the main products of SoI, in 12 months was a Herculean task. At that time, along with the updation, Map Policy was being discussed in the Cabinet at several levels and as a part thereof, releases to be made in two series was also under consideration.

The New Map Policy was announced in 2005 and with that OSMs and DSMs were released. OSMs were in great demand as they were extremely important for the development of the country and for many other purposes. Realising that some decision- making and some efforts were required to make public release of the digital maps, we wanted to take up that "unfinished agenda" on a priority. Also, time-to-time, there were questions raised at various press meetings and conferences that why these maps were not released, particularly on new datum and projection.

We found that with little effort, maps of Punjab and Haryana could be released. So on 14th of August, Punjab and Haryana maps were released by the Director General, Information Systems, Ministry of Defence.

Following this, we approached several dignitaries to make releases of few more states. On 1st October, maps of Orissa were released – the OSM as well as DSM in digital as well as in paper. Few days later, His Excellency Governor of Himachal Pradesh, agreed to release maps for whole of the state.

We now have other states' maps ready and lined up for release. We look forward to our Honourable Minister of Science and Technology to release the maps for other states including three North Eastern states, Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Bihar and Jharkhand. In any case, we will be completing the task of releasing the maps of all the states by March 2009. Targets have been given and work is going on. Our reason for releasing maps state-wise and not in one go is that we do not want to wait till the last map is ready. Things are generally forgotten by that time.

Since we digitised the maps in 2003, it was possible to do everything in digital environment. We made use of modern technologies that included the use of aerial Availability of maps in modern datum and projection is a landmark in the mapping history of the country photography, satellite data and GPS. We have only one digital map for one state that can be divided into parts and further can be mosaiced. The data is available in the form of one layer for one feature for the whole state. All these maps are on modern projection and datum, which means they are compatible with remote sensing data and GPS. Lacunas that existed earlier in this regard have been removed. We have already put a beta version of the Coordinate Convresion programme on the website by which the legacy data in Everest Spheroid can be transformed to WGS84 datum. So legacy data can also be converted and used with these maps.

We have a large area and over 5,000 toposheets. It was a real challenge to come up with digital data of this huge area. On top of that, we were to train people to modern technology and modern equipments and software.

Our workload increased five times. Earlier, only one printed map was to be brought out. Now, we have to bring out OSM and DSM, print versions of the two and also maintain the National Topographical Database. On the other hand, our strength has reduced. So five times the load and reduced strengths but with better technologies, we could accomplish the task. We are proud that we have been able to meet the challenge and that too within a reasonable amount of time.

Most of the advanced countries don't have coverage at this scale. Our availability of maps in digital forms in modern datum and projection is definitely a landmark in the mapping history of the country.

We have become more confident that we can bring out large topographical maps and we are now intending to take up 1:10K mapping. That will meet the requirements of agencies involved in disaster management, coastal vulnerability studies, defence, Panchayti Raj, Election Commission, Census, etc.There is great demand for digital maps, particularly in the field of infrastructure development since all these activities are carried out in digital environment. It is now the turn of the user how he uses the data. The task also is on the media that has long been voicing the industry's concerns in this respect that users can now make use of the data made available.