Home / Politics / Policy /  Government set to digitally map India

New Delhi: Nearly two centuries after British surveyors Colonel Sir George Everest and his predecessor William Lambton first scientifically measured the length and breadth of the country, the Survey of India (SOI) is all set to digitally map the country using latest technologies.

The project is being undertaken by the Survey of India, with support from Department of Science and Technology (DST) for over a period of two years. The work has already begun in three states -- Maharashtra, Karnataka and Haryana.

“The idea is to make digital maps available for everyone. The mapping would be drone-based, but this would be validated by ground-based information," said Ashutosh Sharma, secretary, Department of Science and Technology, highlighting how the wide availability of satellite data has rendered the erstwhile policies of restricting map information to citizens obsolete.

The humungous exercise would witness the Survey of India, one of India’s oldest scientific departments set up in 1767, using latest technologies to map India digitally. It would be drone-based, but data would be validated by ground based information and high-resolution cameras.

SOI has over 2500 Ground Control Points uniformly distributed throughout the country whose standardized co-ordinates are known. But the recent mapping exercise would be supported by a network of Continuously Operated Reference Stations network (CORS) which is being set up in India for the first time to give instant online 3-D positioning with accuracy of a few centimeters.

Unlike the Global Positing System (GPS), which is a satellite-based navigation system or the Google maps, these digital maps would be far more accurate and precise.

“They will be far more superior with accuracy of ten cms. But, there will be adequate consideration that it does not jeopardize national security. Balance will be maintained between development and security needs," he said highlighting the growing demand of digital topographical data various applications.

SOI has already created three Digital Centres to generate Digital Topographical Data base of the entire country for creation of geographic information system. So far, it maintains topographic maps in 1:50, 00,000 and partially in 1:25, 00,000 and 1:10,00,000 scales, but now the target is to generate digital maps on 1:500 scale for the entire country.

The first-ever maps involved surveyors and workers travelling in tough terrains and forests, risking their lives as they created the Great Trigonometrical Survey in 1870, using an array of optical instruments including Theodilites, zenith sector to measure curvature of earth and collect field data. Sir George Everest, the Surveyor of India that time had mapped the longest arc of the meridian from the southernmost point of India north to Nepal covering distance of about 2,400 kilometres over three decades. The world’s highest peak, Mount Everest was named after him.

The department is also mapping the entire flood plains of the river Ganga, up to 25 km on each side with sufficient accuracy, which will not only give information about the sources of discharge, erosion, elevation on both sides, but help prepare for floods in future.

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