CHENNAI: With parts of the city still reeling under the onslaughts of heavy rain on Thursday night, a few crowd-sourced initiatives have sprung up to help citizens navigate through the city and help officials react faster to emergency situations.
The initiatives help map badly affected areas with users, providing everything from details of the location, pictures and even the water level. Similar initiatives during the 2015 floods through social media helped provide relief to people stranded in far-flung areas.
One of the initiatives, Riskmap India, is a crowd-sourced real-time map of flooding to help the Chennai Corporation respond effectively. It has been developed by MIT’s Urban Risk Lab, in partnership with Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG). Residents as well as government officials can view the map to see the recent flood reports and understand changing flood conditions to avoid hazardous areas.
“We launched the platform on Tuesday and saw the pace of reporting pick up from 60 on that day to 163 today,” said Satyarupa Shekhar, who leads the CAG’s work on urban governance. “There was a dip during the day because the rains abated. There have been a total of 214 reports till Friday evening. We have also been forwarding reports, especially those that require immediate assistance, to the engineers of the Chennai Corporation.”
People affected by flooding and waterlogging can add information to the web-based map using their preferred social media channels. By visiting riskmap.in, users can submit reports through the social media of their choice, be it Facebook Messenger, Twitter or Telegram.
“There was an instance in which at a point right next to where a user was, the water was reported as high. The user waited for 10 minutes to report that water was receding! It only goes to show the user’s high commitment to provide accurate and actionable information.”
There is another mapping initiative that is being done by Amudha Ravi Shankar, a Crisis Mapper from Chennai who is currently based in Geneva. The map can be accessed on amudhar.maps.arcgis.com.
“We underestimate the power of data that goes into a map,” said Shankar. “As someone who’s been working as a humanitarian crisis mapper, including the recent Carribean Hurricane, what matters to us most is the availability of data at the crucial hour. So while a crowd-sourced live time response becomes the first-hand information for the first responders, a time stamped compilation of geo-tagged pictures will be of great assistance in damage assessment.”
“Another interesting feature that I am trying to capitalise are hastags,” Shankar said. “The software can pull up hashtags to give a spatial representation of the live feed. For instance, I tried doing that with the #MeToo campaign and when you see tweets appear from various corners within that given moment, seriousness hits you. Similarly, if it is used for flooding, and when tweeted with appropriate hashtags, we can observe spatial distribution #rescuealert #shelteravailability and so on.”