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GIS in Environmental Studies - An overview

Dr. V. N. Sharma, Jafrullah Mohammed, Srinivas Uppuluri
InfoTech Enterprises Limited, Plot # 11, Infocity, Madhapur, Hyderabad, India - 500 033
e-mail : sharma_vempaty@infotech.stph.net, jafrullah@infotech.stph.net, srini@infotech.stph.net
Tel : 91-40-3100857, Fax: 91-40-311 0354

In the process of human evolution the issues confronting today are safe guarding the natural environment and maintaining good quality of life. While taking up developmental activities, the assimilative capacities of the environmental components i.e., air, water and land to various pollution are rarely considered. The developmental activities being haphazard and erratic are leading to over use, congestion, incompatible landuse and poor living conditions. Hence the problems of environmental pollution are becoming a heated topic of high-risk environment.

GIS can play a vital role for analysis and in formulating the quick mitigation plans for high risk environments. GIS is one of the key tools in the environmental data framework for data validation, digital data transfer standards, data retrieval/dissemination and analysis. It can serve as the ultimate communication of environmental information to the public and policy makers since it is the technical basis for the multimedia approach in environmental decision-making. The evolution of spatial data standards, the Internet, and the next generation of GIS technology allow all types of users to access the environmental information in its proper spatial context.

GIS in Environmental Studies
GIS is a powerful tool for environmental data analysis and planning. GIS stores spatial information (data) in a digital mapping environment. A digital basemap can be overlaid with data or other layers of information onto a map in order to view spatial information and relationships. GIS allows better viewing and understanding physical features and the relationships that influence in a given critical environmental condition. Factors, such as steepness of slopes, aspects, and vegetation, can be viewed and overlaid to determine various environmental parameters and impact analysis.

GIS can also display and analyze aerial photos. Digital information can be overlaid on photographs to provide environmental data analysts with more familiar views of landscapes and associated data. GIS can provide a quick, comparative view of hazards (highly prone areas) and risks (areas of high risk which may occur) and areas to be safeguarded.

On completion of Data analysis GIS helps in Planning and Managing the environmental hazards and risks. In order to plan and monitor the environmental problems, the assessment of hazards and risks becomes the foundation for planning decisions and for mitigation activities. GIS supports activities in environmental assessment, monitoring, and mitigation and can also be used for generating Environmental models. Below are some of the applicable areas where GIS can be implemented for effective planning and management (See also Figure 1)

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