THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The restrictions imposed as part of lockdown have given immense opportunities for people to pursue their areas of interest even when sitting at home. Here the student volunteers counting over 1,000 are honing their cartography (map making) skills by marking things around them with the help of freely available satellite images. The high-resolution micro maps are made by including streams, ponds and bus routes in their localities.
But the micro-level mapping is much beyond a lockdown engagement. It is done as part of the Mapathon Keralam project initiated by Kerala State IT Mission with lofty goals of better policy making. The micro maps made under the project are considered more useful than Google Maps which offer only asset location and navigation for free. “It’s a good way to contribute to Kerala’s rebuilding at the time of lockdown,” said Chithra S, Director, Kerala State IT Mission.
“Mapping provides vital information that can be used for development planning of the state, and more importantly in disaster resilience,” Chithra said. The volunteers of National Service Scheme have almost mapped the streams in Kollam, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta. Mapping of water resources and related structures shall enable better planning against water scarcity. A local body can also use the information available on the maps to make a quick response action in the wake of a flood or a landslide.
“The micro maps generated by the volunteers are accurate and reliable,” said an officer of Kerala State Spatial Data Infrastructure (KSDI) under the Kerala State IT Mission. The students use the OpenStreetMap, which is considered a free wiki world map. As it happens on a Wikipedia page, the submissions made on it are subjected to peer review. KSDI has set up its own mechanism to ensure that the additions made to the map by a volunteer are accurate. International Centre for Free and Open Source Software (ICFOSS) is developing a software for managing the inputs made by the volunteers.
The government too has taken up the mapping project seriously after the floods. Rebuild Kerala Initiative (RKI), an agency set up in the wake of flood to oversee the future development of the state, has allocated `4.24 crore for training and building an infrastructure for campaign monitoring and data coordination. KSDI has trained 100 master trainers who in turn trained over 1,000 volunteers from colleges for the project.