“Understand. Then implement.”
Tell us about the utility mapping project?
We have seen a rapid growth of cities in recent years with growing demand on land resources and other basic infrastructure. They are under increasing pressure to extend the basic facilities to support the ever-increasing population. The Utility Mapping project was one of the consequences of urban renewal programme of the Government of India. The project was executed by National Informatics Centre (NIC), Government of India and was first implemented for Delhi.
We all know that cities are growing but what we need to understand that the cities should grow in harmony with the requirements of people. While meeting the requirements of the people it needs to be understood that the character of the city should be maintained. And while executing the Delhi utility project at NIC, that was the challenge for me.
What were the challengesyou faced while executing Delhi Utility Project?
The utility mapping of Delhi covers the whole area of Delhi (1,483 sq km) on the scale of 1:1000. It has information on natural and humanmade resources, including population densities, land uses, transportation corridors, waterways, street patterns, mass-transit patterns, sewer lines, water lines, and other utility lines. It is expected to help better management of the utilities in the urban areas.
As far as challenges are concerned, the first challenge was to get the basic map itself. Second was to organize the fi eld team. Our team worked every square km each for one week for each utility. The team comprised for each area was at least 2 persons and one person from local area. The field team has verified all the ground data. The project needed hundred percent ground verification. At times, ground level realities compelled modifi cations. The third challenge was to build a team that can think and work together. Fourth and most important was to convince the people and that could be done by proving the credentials of the technology.
What was the time frame?
The Delhi project took four years (1998-2002). However, project like this has a long gestation period. The time taken for the projects implementation depends heavily on the cooperation extended by all agencies in sharing information. While Delhi’s utility map took four years, it should not be considered as standard time for such projects. It was more of evolutionary nature where we corrected our course in various stages. Still no one can say that the project is completed especially for a live city like Delhi. It is a continuous process. We have built the basic data, which is secured on NIC server. We may say that over the years a template has been evolved. Procedures have been documented and institutionalized.
What was the role of geomatics technology?
The Delhi utility map covers 900 points earmarked by our team and then verifi ed by a physical ground reality check. This project is based on the latest technology such as GPS, photogrammetry, and GISbeing implemented in India for the first time. Using photogrammetric technique, aerial photographs in pairs (consecutive) were used to form a 3D model. The National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) did the aerial surveys and NIC did the photogrammetry part.
What about the cost involved?
It is very difficult to assess the direct cost. Does it include the cost of evolving process, training, experimentation, consultation etc? Moreover, initiating such a project was more of an institution building. The project was started with the grant of 20 million Norwegian krone from the Government of Norway. NIC paid salaries to the project staff.
Is Delhi utility mapping in use?
Yes, utility agencies are using it. Most of the agencies have special cell. I think work culture has changed after this project. Now, if any agency wants to dig any area of Delhi, it can do so by coordinating with other agencies by giving a 15 days notice. Not only it brings some comfort to the citizens but also results in saving of a lot of money which otherwise would have wasted.
Will you replicate the Delhi experience in other cities?
The success in Delhi have encouraged us to replicate the Delhi experience in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai. Given the experience of Delhi, we expect that the entire exercise in these cities will comparatively be easier. The basic mapping will be completed in next 18 months and then the actual work will start.
How do you perceive the role of geomatics technologies?
Introduction of geomatics technology is primarily driven by pull and push factors both. No doubt, need and relevance of such technologies were felt but at the same time vendors pushed the technology by creating hype through conference and seminars. I feel initial push was by vendors. It was followed by a demand pull by the users.
What are the challenges in introducing a new technology in system?
In India, most of us are philosophers. We feel we have a right to comment from anything to everything. And here lies a problem. We must understand the technology if we want to implement it in developing country but equally important is to take care of non-technical issues associated with technology implementation. Processes are cumbersome. If project involves huge transaction of funds, then associated officials are looked at with suspicion. It is advisable if the key professionals restrict themselves to technical evaluation and not involve themselves in fi nancial evaluation. We need to understand that one has to perform in the system. And one has to perform not because of the system but in spite of it. When one comes out of a college, he thinks he is well equipped with knowledge but actually learning starts once a person joins a system. I preferred to maintain a low profile and not created hype about the project. Unnecessary hype leads to avoidable expectations. More important is to work for the mission rather than to struggle for credits.
What motivates you?
I do not know. I think Almighty gives the strength. I have good friends. That also helps but I feel it is the values that you nourish define the course of activities. I took a conscious decision to remain in India and serve the country. I hate those people who left the country for better pastures without realizing the country took an extra effort to provide them proper education. It is our responsibility to return the society something after taking so much from it.
What is NICSI?
NICSI (National Informatics Centre Services Inc) is a company formed under section 25. It is a commercial arm of NIC. It is nonprofit making company hundred per cent owned by President of India.