Set up in 1767, Survey of India (SOI) — the world’s second oldest surveying and mapping agency – is celebrating 250 years of mapping India. Over the last three centuries, Survey of India, which happens to be the oldest scientific department of India, has spearheaded various mapping and geospatial initiatives for the country, and has worked in close association with a plethora of multilateral agencies around the world.
Taking forward its motto: A Setu Himachalam – From Cape Comorin to the Himalayas, Survey of India launched the Nakshe Portal, a new web portal providing free download of Survey of India’s topographic maps in pdf format for entire country on 1:50,000 scale to Indian citizens. Inaugrating the portal Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Govt. of India said, “Today topographic maps or Open Series Maps (OSM) containing natural and man-made geographical features including terrain or topography are prepared by the SoI and it is in conformity with the National Map Policy 2005. These OSMs have been made available for free through Aadhaar-enabled user authentication process in line with the Digital India programme.”
He added, “What is use of data if it is only for government, on the contrary if millions of Indians can have excess they can make life and country better. This is an age of transparency. Geospatial & spatial technologies will help plan better scientific India.”
The benefits of maps published through Nakshe Portal are:
- For accurate planning of infrastructure development activities
- Legally valid base map accepted for approval mechanisms
- Authentic map for Study, Research, Travel and Tourism
- Reference document for Smart City Planning
- Ready to Use Map for NOC for height clearance
- Helpful for planning and decision making process
- Incorporating public input for update
As part of celebrations, Dr Harsh Vardhan inaugurated the National Conference on ‘Geospatial Paradigm in India Users’ Perspective on Geospatial Policy Framework in India’ jointly organized by FICCI, Survey of India and Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India. The day also coincided with the National Survey Day.
The Conference also witnessed Curtain Raiser of GeoPortal and GIS Web Services provision platform by Y. S. Chowdary, Minister of State for Ministry of Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Govt. of India. The GeoPortal has been developed for dissemination of the National Topographic Database (NTDB) prepared as per the National Map Policy (NMP) 2005. Dissemination of NTDB data in the form of web services is required by the users of topographic data across country and SOI Open Map Series (OSM on 1:50,000 Scale) data has been re-engineered to serve as the Web Map Services and Web Feature services as per the prevalent government policies.
In his Inaugural Address, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that as a part of its 250 years completion celebrations, Survey of India has proposed to re-measure the height of Mount Everest during the year 2017. India was the first country under Sir George Everest’s leadership as Surveyor General of India to have declared the height of Mount Everest and established it as the highest peak in the world in 1855. After Nepal Earthquake in 2015, to answer various doubts of scientific community, Survey of India proposed re-measuring the height of Mount Everest as an ‘Indo-Nepal Joint Scientific Exercise’ along with Survey Department of Nepal.
Dr. Vardhan said that Aadhaar-enabled solar ATMs were being worked upon as the government was looking at making all products accessible to the citizens with complete transparency. He added that SOI’s initiatives were widely unknown and as a people-centric government, the endeavor was to bring awareness about SOI’s work to enable people to avail its benefits.
On the development of the Geoid model, Minister Chowdary in his Keynote Address said that INDGEOID ver 1.0 for the country demonstrated the efforts being put in by the SoI in year 2017, while SoI is celebrating the completion of 250 years of Surveying and Mapping activities in the country. Geoid model development is a major thrust area in the field of Geodesy in country as it has enormous potential to cut down the Engineering project survey costs and reduce the turn-around time drastically with reduction of Spirit levelling requirements in most of the engineering project surveys.
He also said, “public and private sectors and academia needed to forge partnerships to achieve India’s vision of ranking amid the top five scientific powers of the world. Geospatial technologies will play a key role in the initiatives of the Government of India such as ‘Digital India’. He added that SOI could facilitate in underlining the strategic vision and goal for policy framework. The government was also working towards eliminating obsolete Acts and was moving towards up-gradation of mindset, technology and vision.”
Prof. Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India in his Special Address said, “SoI should undertake the surveying and mapping of rivers for facilitating projects such as hydro power plant, smart cities and for developing geospatial framework. He added that a reference station could also be established and technology and big data could be leveraged for fulfilling the expectations of the citizens via geospatial data.”
Prof. Sharma said that an effective policy was in the offing which would focus on development of the country, addressing security concerns while taking on board the stakeholders. He added that DST and SOI were also organizing training programmes in India and abroad to develop capabilities in technology.
Dr. Swarna Subba Rao, Surveyor General of India, Survey of India said, “The SoI to its credit has the Great Trigonometrical Survey which aimed to measure the entire Indian subcontinent with scientific precision. SoI had evolved over the years and keeping with the times was adapting varied scientific technologies and contributing towards the development of the nation.”
On the geospatial policy framework he said, “There is a sudden rise in demand of geospatial data. We need to put an appropriate mechanism along with the availability of geospatial data to what extent — is also required. There should be a balance between security and developmental issues. The mechanism needs continues update.”
“I see two imperial problems in geospatial domain — increased capability of mobile, restriction of any data will be more complex & difficult — the other one on the hardware side will be drones, they becoming a menace as well as data provider. As far as geospatial data is concerned Govt. of India has already put a system in place revolving around that mechanism we should think of improvement.”
Dr. Peter Woodgate, CEO, Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information, Australia said, “there are 4 key elements of geospatial policy framework w.r.t. India — Government, Research Institutes & Universities, Private Sector & Citizens. In order for a nation to capture the maximum benefits of spatial technologies over the next decade and beyond, the nation must have a clear road map of the role of these 4 sectors. Why so, the governments will set the policies & framework. Having done that the private sector with far more confidence can know where the investments & business opportunities are. Again with those 2 in place the research & universities will be confident on the investments on the critical research and capacity building.”
“Disrupting technologies are uplifting societal and economic factors. We need to have clear strategy, which is publically articulated,” he sums up.
Rajesh Mathur, Chairman, FICCI Committee on Geospatial Technologies, was of the view that there was a need for an enabling policy framework for accessing geospatial data and information for feasible development and implementation of growth programmes in the country. SoI was playing a leading role in making products available to varied stakeholders and was facilitating in adoption of geospatial technologies.
Giving a perspective on policy framework, he said, “policy is not the only enabler. Integration of capacity building users and tech folks is a wide enabler. Collaboration is a huge challenge. Sharing of data with other users within the agencies should be mandate.”
Validating Dr Mathur’s point, Wg. Commander Satyam Kushwaha, Defence Specialist, National Security Council Secretariat, PMO, Govt. of India, said, “Between the govt. data should flow freely. The data we have now should reach the users before it looses relevance.”
“The problem we have is, one data is very open while the other one is restricted. We need to harmonize it. Geospatial data is interwoven. So, the framework we need to take a new look. For example, 1.0 cannot be applied on 2.0 for achieving the vision of 3.0. We should look at actionable strategy.”