Bhuvan – a catalyst for transformation of urban poor landscape?!

Shared by SPARC
Recently the Master Planning of 7,935 towns and cities in India – of which to date 24% have master plans has been promoted to be guided by the ‘Bhuvan’ Portal of National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) (In reference to: http://postnoon.com/2012/08/01/nuis-to-help-transform-the-landscape-of-urban-india/63123 )
National Urban Information System (NUIS) is making available detailed satellite image maps of these towns and cities to municipalities. Cities will be encouraged to use the Bhuvan Project (developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation – ISRO) – which is basically India’s version of Google Earth. Google Earth does not provide India with recent enough high resolution satellite imagery of the country – most images are at least 4 years old. India therefore launched its own Remote Sensing programme and launched Bhuvan – which only uses images captured by Indian satellites.
This motivation behind this initiative is that it will help cities develop Geographic Information Systems for those cities (they will use Bhuvan images and Survey of India maps to do things like road verification). Technical support – training etc – will be provided by National Remote Sensing Center in Hyderabad
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Recent reviews of Bhuvan (the website and the application itself) state that it is a very heavy application: website not easily navigable etc — plus its systems requirements (computing power, internet connection, 3D graphics capability etc etc) are so high that small cities and towns will need major communications and hardware infrastructure upgrading to use it. Have you tried to use Bhuvan? What has your experience been?
 
Remote Sensing techies / GIS techies and Urban Planners are all in short supply in most town and cities — as realised over the course of a study of BSUP projects in 11 cities across India. Even the big cities like Patna, Raipur, Nagpur etc at present lack the capacity to a) understand the technology and b) do something with it. Do these cities have the technical and human capacity to undertake this endeavour? 
It is the responsibility of municipalities to ‘master plan’ – to prepare for burgeoning populations, economic opportunities, transport and other services infrastructure etc. But how will municipalities ensure the needs of the poor are taken into consideration in the plan? The process of inclusive participation is likely to be entirely undermined. Mumbai’s Development Plan, which is well underway, is struggling to be inclusive – and build in the space and process by which the poor’s voices, concerns and needs are fairly taken on board. Most smaller towns and cities will not even know how to design a participatory process …
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