Ecological Management and Protection using GIS

A BITS Pilani alumnus, Agendra Kumar boasts of 33-year long career during which he has handled key responsibilities across an array of companies such as Digital Equipment, Silicon Graphics, and Symantec, prior to joining Esri in 2013. Additionally, he has also been the President of Association of Geospatial Industries and is currently the Chairperson for FICCI Committee on Geospatial Technologies.

Given the vast geographical expanse our country comprises of, there is massive scope for Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in India today. As per IMARC Group’s recent reports, the Indian GIS market which stood at $407 in 2021 is expected to be worth $976.2 million by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 15.55 percent during the forecast period. Challenges of exploding population, increasing urban migration, ageing population, shifting agricultural patterns, and changing climate are some of the major factors fuelling this rapid growth of GIS in India. To overcome these challenges, we need to further innovate and build solutions that can help us create a resilient and sustainable future for all. Geospatial thinking plays a critical role in building resilience and sustainability.

Impact of GIS on Geography & Cartography

In today’s scenario where new datasets are created every minute, GIS acts as an enabler to visualize and analyze massive collections of data through enhanced mapping in real-time. Thus, GIS can be perceived as the ultimate culmination of cartography and modern technology, as it enables mapping our world to the tiniest detail. Cartography and GIS combined can result in better tailored maps suited to user needs and characteristics. Also, in today’s data-driven world where simplified data, access and analysis is paramount, GIS assumes even more significance because of its potential to address challenges with agility and flexibility.

Remote Sensing & GIS in Environmental Conservation

Remote Sensing from airborne and space borne platforms has curated pathways for obtaining valuable data essential for mapping, environmental monitoring and disaster management. When coupled with GIS and applied to the field of environmental protection, it provides a powerful tool for management and accurate decision making. While RS plays an important role in generating automated spatial datasets and establishing spatial relationships, it also reflects the value of GIS as a powerful tool for collecting, storing and retrieving data and transforming and displaying spatial data from the real world. The integration of GIS, RS and modelling technologies can study population sources influenced by the restructuring of the economy and enables accurate habitat analysis and how different species are affected by environmental change.

Using geospatial technologies like GIS and RS, it is possible to minimize the potential natural disaster risks by developing early warning strategies, preparing, and implementing developmental plans to provide resilience and even rehabilitation and post-disaster reconstruction can be expedited. Disaster management strategy can take the most innovative and useful form with geospatial technology.

Also, GIS has the potential to completely reimagine how we interact with the environment. Human activity, flawed or perfect, can have lasting impacts on the environment, some of which may be devastating. So, it becomes peremptory to gauge the impact of a potential plan, policy or program on the environment before the action begins. GIS allows us to look at a location holistically, see patterns & trends and make decisions based on the most comprehensive data available. Through its data driven insights, GIS aids in sensing the health of ecosystems to plan, prepare and provides tools to respond and recover. Be it Economic (Energy, Infrastructure, Agriculture), Social (Urban, Rural, Health, Transportation, Public Safety) or Environmental (Climate) components, GIS empowers all the stakeholders equally with data insights and tools. Most of these being dynamic in nature and intertwined with multiple factors, GIS plays a key role in facilitating planning, managing, and monitoring these subjects efficiently and effectively, leading to sound decisions for sustainable living.

Natural Resource Monitoring

The importance of GIS in monitoring and managing natural resources and enabling sustainable use of resources is staggering. GIS aids in evaluation, visualization, and designing of solutions that reduce and mitigate negative impacts and facilitate judicious use of natural resources. However, factors like rapid industrialization, unabated urbanization, and climate change are putting extensive pressure on our forests and are a cause of global concern today. Many state governments are already using Esri’s ArcGIS for forest management including wildlife management, plantation/afforestation activities, forest fire management, protected area management, and more.

The role of GIS in water resource management is also phenomenal. We are faced with a precarious water situation, and there is an urgent need for integrated water resource management that addresses the entire water value chain from ‘source to tap’ holistically. To address the challenges, we need to optimally manage data, information and knowledge. First, we need data to understand how, what, where, why and when our water systems are getting affected, then extract information from that data, unravel linkages & associated complexities, and finally derive knowledge to take informed decisions and actions. GIS becomes the key enabler here, leading to effective analysis, reporting and monitoring, planning and decision-making. GIS can help the water sector solve the challenges and achieve more efficiency by offering an integrated platform for assimilating data from varied sources, facilitating faster processing of data, intuitive visualization and real-time analysis.

GIS also holds the key to viable solutions for agriculture that can help us achieve agriculture and food resilience at a time when a host of factors, including climate change and urbanisation are emerging as threats to feeding the world. Examples of where GIS can help us monitor and manage natural resources and the environment are numerous, and each one of them reinforces the fact that ‘Geography is at the heart of a resilient and sustainable future’.