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Role of internet-based GIS in effective natural disaster management

Naresh Raheja, Ruby Ojha, Sunil R Mallik
R. M. Software India Pvt. Ltd. (RMSI)
A-7, Sector-16, Noida (U.P)India-201301
Tel: 0091-118-4511102 Fax: 0091-118-4511109

GIS has emerged as a very important tool for effective planning, communication, and training in the various stages of the disaster management cycle. The prime concern during any disaster is the availability of the spatial information, and the dissemination of this information to all concerned. Internet-based GIS can play a key role in this aspect by providing cost-effective information at various stages of the disaster life cycle, with a much wider reach.

The following aspects have been covered: how Internet-based GIS can be used as a very effective tool for disaster management, in the various stages of the disaster management life cycle, some examples, the Indian perspective, and the SWOT analysis (strengths, limitations, opportunities and the risks) of using the Internet-based GIS for disaster management.

Introduction: GIS as a powerful tool for Disaster Management
Access to information is crucial for the effective management of disasters. All those who are concerned with managing disasters necessarily have the need to access timely and accurate information. Normally, a considerable amount of money is spent on just finding the relevant information. This happens because the information is stored redundantly in several places and in several formats. Maps and spatial information are important components of the overall information in case of any disaster event (flood, earthquake, cyclone, landslide, wildfire, famine, and so forth). Hence mapping and spatial information acquisition becomes vital for any disaster management effort. In general, GIS can be used in any part of the disaster management cycle; namely disaster preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation. But one important need for any disaster management effort is to have the spatial information accessible to a larger group of people, in a fast, easy and cost-effective manner. The use of GIS on the web can help a lot in achieving these objectives.

Figure 1: Access to Multiple
GeoSpatial Data Sources on
the Web.

The Emerging role of World Wide Web in Disaster Management
The World Wide Web is an effective tool for communication. It provides a platform for people across the world to exchange ideas, knowledge and technology. It brings together people with common interests irrespective of their geographical location and the distance separating them. In its role as an effective tool for communication, it can be invaluable for disaster management. The usage will only increase as the Web reaches out to every nook and corner of the world and more and more people become online. All the countries are recognizing the importance of developing an information infrastructure capable of sustaining state of the art technology for use at the time of disasters. Furthermore, there is a move towards globalization of disaster networks to provide speedy assistance to every disaster victim, irrespective of the national boundary and geographical location. This globalization will have far-reaching impacts, and hopefully, the catastrophic events will become less disastrous with the increasing use of WWW and networks. It is already being used for effective information management in various other areas, and it has started being used for managing disasters as well. But the use of GIS on Internet, which could have powerful implications for disaster management, is yet to be fully explored. Integration of GIS and the WWW will lead to an enormous increase of the usage and accessibility of spatial data. In today's context, the usage of GIS is normally restricted to a community of trained experts. Making GIS applications available through the World Wide Web could make this technology accessible for many more people. For the large group of GIS inexperienced users on the Net the handling of a WebGIS needs to be much simpler to use than existing stand-alone GIS.

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