200-year-old curb on Indian map to go

200-year-old curb on Indian map to go

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“The Indian map will soon be freed from defence restrictions and made available to citizens.” A top government official said this on the eve of 200 years of the Great Indian Arc, the first attempt to map the Indian subcontinent.

A new version of India’s map, hitherto classified and largely restricted to the public for security reasons, will be available from Independence Day, August 15, Surveyor General of India Prithvish Nag said while announcing the bicentennial anniversary celebrations of the mapping of the Indian subcontinent that begins tomorrow.

The map, however, would not have 90 of the 150 features present in the earlier versions, by orders of the ministry of defence.

British officer William Lambton first mapped the Indian subcontinent with the charting of the Great Indian Arc in April 1802. The 200-year-old Indian arc cuts a 2,400-km swathe through the subcontinent, first established in the British regime. It is the longest measurement of the earth’s surface ever attempted, throwing light on the exact shape of the globe. British surveyors and millions of workers slogged, and many died, on the project that took more than 40 years to complete and included undivided India, Afghanistan and parts of Iraq.

The release would coincide with the launch of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) to assimilate the data of all organisations into an easily accessible Internet platform. “The second series of maps for unrestricted circulation will also have details about coastal areas, borders, Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast,” Nag told IANS.

Since independence in 1947, people had access only to maps of select areas. Borders and sensitive zones were kept from open circulation. Nag said work on collecting field data and conducting topographical surveys to produce maps on a scale of 1:25,000 and more had begun four years ago. “More detailed versions will be available in a few years,” he added.

The map, available in paper and digitised forms, would aid planning and development, provide a database and help meteorological and space studies. It would also generate interest among students and elevate geography from tedious data to an interesting science, said science and technology secretary V S Ramamurthy.

Speaking about the NSDI, Ramamurthy said it would act as a clearinghouse of geo-spatial information by making centralised data available on the Net and enabling users to discover, explore and exploit data and add value to it.