In the wake of growing geopolitical tensions, population explosion and ever-changing climatic conditions, nations, and the big companies instrumental in driving their economies cannot afford to ignore the need to develop resilient infrastructure. On the opening day of the three-day Geo Smart India Forum 2019, almost all speakers, during a series of plenary sessions, agreed that while there is a broad consensus among governments and businesses about the need to develop high-quality infrastructure to boost the global economy, the world continues to under-invest in it.
“In 2017, the world lost a whopping 370 billion dollars due to natural disasters. 2017 was second only to 2011, when a series of calamities caused widespread destruction in several nations. These figures highlight the need for resilient infrastructure,” said Kamal Kishore, member, National Disaster Management Authority.
Citing an Asian Development Bank report, Kishore, who was one of the speakers at the forum, said, “Asia will be spending 1.7 trillion dollars every year in building infrastructure. Of this amount, 200 billion dollars will have to be spent on making this infrastructure resilient. To successfully achieve this target, we need to focus on four key aspects: risk assessment, standards and regulations, long term finance and swift recovery of infrastructure in case of a disaster.”
In simple terms, infrastructure resilience means the ability to reduce the magnitude or duration of disruptive events. The effectiveness of a resilient infrastructure depends upon its ability to anticipate, absorb, adapt to, or rapidly recover from potentially disruptive events. “Infrastructure is not only what we can or will build. We have to view it in terms of the existing land, sources of water and other natural resources available to us. For me, an infrastructure’s resilience depends on its ability to be functional at the time of a calamity,” said Rajan Aiyer, Managing Director, Trimble India. Emphasizing on the importance of geospatial technology in this regard, Iyer, who was addressing a large gathering at the forum, said, “It’s now time to move from e-governance to g-governance.”
Kaushik Chakraborty, Vice President & Regional Executive SE Asia and India, Bentley Systems, Singapore, said that in order to build resilient infrastructure, proper information sharing between the concerned parties will have to be started from the time of finalization of the concept. “This will have to go on all the way to construction and then maintenance. That is why integration of geospatial and engineering has to be there,” he said.
Meanwhile, presenting the government’s point of view on the issue, another speaker, Shambhu Singh, Additional Secretary and Financial Adviser, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, said that the ministry has decided to use geospatial technology in construction, operation and maintenance of all national highways. “Geofencing of all national highways is also on our list of priorities. We are trying to bring all stakeholders to the table to ensure convergence of all modern technologies for better execution of our policies,” he said.
In the aftermath of devastating floods in India’s southern state of Kerala last year, the state’s governor, P Sathasivam, said that post-disaster, reconstruction should be viewed as an opportunity to rebuild the state offering better standards of living to all sections of society. Recently, Fijian Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources Ashneel Sudhakar also acknowledged that quality materials are extremely important to build resilient infrastructure that will have a long-lasting impact on the country.
While the idea of resilient infrastructure is simple, its overall execution may require a dynamic approach through the use of modern technologies such as geospatial. Information on location is clearly the key service which geospatial technology can provide. It can easily address the most pressing issue of site selection for facilities like power plants and hospitals. In fact, the geospatial technology, through its vast range of modern tools, can contribute at every stage of infrastructure building such as planning, building, operations and maintenance.
Meanwhile, highlighting the importance of geospatial technology in building information infrastructure for Digital India, Rajendra Jagtap, CEO, Pune Smart City, said, “We stared an e-governance app for the citizens to address their day-to-day grievances. We realized that using geospatial technology, which helped us in tracking the exact location of the complainant and the kind of problems faced by residents in a particular area helped us in addressing the issues faced by the public.”
Echoing similar views, Rajesh Mathur, Advisor, Esri India, said that GIS not only helps in managing high-velocity data systems but also contributes to monitoring and alerting. “We have to start looking at the convergence of all modern day technologies such as AI, machine learning, GIS and others to build a Digital India. Geospatial tools can help us in achieving this target,” he said.