Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sri Lanka mapped from space for tsunami re-building

A mapping programme using satellite pictures will help Sri Lanka's government do better planning and rebuilding in the tsunami-hit eastern and southern provinces, officials said.

The French-funded Geographical Information System (GIS) project using high resolution satellite imagery costs almost a billion rupees.

The detailed digital maps that can be prepared will also help local authorities in their work and eventually be available to the public, said L H Indrasiri, Director GIS at the Urban Development Authority (UDA), which is implementing the project.

"We're preparing maps of the southern and eastern provinces covering an area of 20,000 square kilometres," he said.

"The images will be in colour and also digital so we can make maps on the computer using GPS (Global Positioning System) co-ordinates. We can make it the base and use it to provide layered information to users such as on land use, roads and streams."

"It can be used for planning purposes and even help local authorities identify premises by assessment number and categorise the road networks."

Eventually, when the maps are made available to the public, people can make use of the map to see what facilities are available in close proximity to their homes, he said.

"We're going to release this data through a web portal in about two months' time."

The satellite images will be used to prepare detailed digital maps of urban areas like Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Amparai, Batticaloa and Trincomalee in these provinces.

The project includes preparation of new maps and also updating old Survey Department maps of the one inch:50,000 type made using satellite images with a resolution of only 50 metres.

The new satellite imagery used to make the latest maps will be of high resolution which will identify any object of up to half a mete in dimension.

The new maps will be more detailed and of a larger scale of one inch to 5,000 for the nine towns on east and south coasts.

They will be used to help reconstruction of the damage caused by the December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

The maps will also help in the big development in the eastern province to which the government is giving high priority after driving out Tamil Tiger rebels this year. "When we go for development projects, we're going to need large scale information," said Indrasiri. The new maps will help the central and provincial governments and local authorities of these provinces do planning.

"Now they have no maps indicating even their boundaries except those of the 1:50,000 scale which is not good enough," said Indrasiri. "Also, non-governmental organisations need information on a large scale in planning infrastructure and people's livelihoods programmes".



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