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Taskforce favours changes in existing map policy

As the Taskforce on National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI), has suggested changes in the existing map policy of the government, the ground is now set for the NSDI to come into being. Also India will be hosting the global conference on Geospatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI) in February, 2004. All these initiatives will go a long way in not only strengthening our national spatial data network but also link us up with the global spatial data systems. This information was given by the Minister for Human Resource Development and Science & Technology Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi here last evening while addressing a meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Science & Technology. The establishment of the NSDI will help facilitate wider availability of maps and spatial-based imageries to a broad cross section of users, he said.

Pointing out that the taskforce underscored the need to speed up the process of positioning the NSDI at the earliest, Dr. Joshi said this is proposed to be done through an executive order in about four months, after Cabinet approval. Substantial data would be available within six months from the NSDI. However, a full-fledged and fully equipped NSDI covering upto the village level would be ready in three to five years.

Underlining the importance of NSDI, Dr. Joshi said that for a knowledge enabled society, geographic or geospatial information system is essential. In fact, the use of high-quality reliable geospatial information is critical to virtually every sphere of socio-economic activity especially, agriculture, forestry, land management, water management, infrastructural development, urban planning, disaster management and to business geographics etc. He said most of the geospatial data is scattered across largely in public sector organisations following different standards and they need to be sufficiently integrated and networked to make it really beneficial to a large community of users. Internationally also, the spatial data sets have to be integrated to create the GSDI. The NSDI and the GSDI are complementary to information highways, linking a variety of databases and providing for the information flow from local to national levels and eventually to the global community, he said.

Dr. Joshi also disclosed that the Survey of India has begun a dual series of maps, one set, classified as secret for security reasons and the other development-based digital maps making them computer compatible and open availability. With the availability of high-resolution satellite images, data enabling for the Geospatial Information System (GIS), becomes highly accurate and information loaded.

The taskforce has already chalked out a strategy and an action plan for the establishment of the NSDI. A draft bill for its formation is also ready. It is estimated that the NSDI will ultimately entail an expenditure of Rs. 1000/- to 2000/- crore. Since the NSDI will be a national endeavour towards transparency and e-governance, a high-level focus becomes essential. For this, a National Spatial Data Commission (NSDC) under the Chairmanship of a Cabinet Minister is envisaged.

Dr. Joshi also spoke of involving the children in a scheme called ‘Neighbourhood Survey’, as evolved by the Survey of India. The Survey of India has also come out with a vehicle navigation and tracking system costing around 25,000 to 50,000 rupees. Very few countries in the world will have full-fledged set up like the NSDI. With powerful infrastructure like remote sensing etc., India will become one of the active players in the formation of the geospatial data infrastructure and hence is hosting the global meet.