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India to Create Digital Maps of 600,000 Villages

The government is in the process of mapping over 600,000 villages and preparing pan-India 3D maps of 100 cities using geospatial technology and drones. The Union Minister of Science and Technology and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh, recently made the announcement while commemorating the first anniversary of the release of the geospatial data. The Minister claimed that geospatial systems, drone policies, and the potential from the space sector will be the hallmarks of India’s future economic progress. The size of the Indian geospatial market in 2020 was around IN₹233 billion (US$3.1 billion) and is projected to reach IN₹363 billion (US$4.8 billion) in 2025, according to reports.

The ongoing scheme, piloted by the Panchayati Raj Ministry, called SVAMITVA (Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas), was unveiled by the Prime Minister in April 2020. The updated guidelines will enable private companies to prepare a wide range of maps without needing approval from ministries, making it easier to use drones and develop applications through location mapping. When the scheme was announced, the Prime Minister had noted that the system would allow establishing ‘clear ownership’ of property in rural areas by mapping the land parcels using drones. The technology aimed to provide a ‘record of rights’ to eligible households by issuing them legal ownership cards.

Officials informed that the complete geospatial policy would be released soon, as the liberalisation of geospatial guidelines had yielded positive outcomes within a year. The geographical information-based system mapping would also be useful in forest management, disaster management, electrical utilities, land records, water distribution, and property taxation. So far drone surveys have covered close to 100,000 villages and maps of 77,527 villages had been handed over to states. Property cards had been distributed to around 27,000 villages, according to current information on the SVAMITVA portal.

Singh further stated that geospatial technologies are the nation’s “digital currency” that can be applied in multiple fields like infrastructure, manufacturing, health, agriculture, urban planning, highways, and service delivery. He added that open and easy access to geospatial information has helped maximise the use and reuse of data within a year of its launch. “We hope to see many more innovative solutions and new business models in the coming time building value upon existing resources,” he said.

The focus will be to strengthen the innovative startup ecosystem with huge financial implications and job generation. The government’s vision for a US$5 trillion economy rests on the key pillars of two flagship programmes: Make in India and Digital India. Singh explained that innovations in space, atomic energy, drones, and the liberalisation of geospatial data have been key drivers behind these industry milestones. They have boosted engagements, collaborations, and innovations efficiently and transparently.

As per data from a recent survey, in 2021, the geospatial market was dominated by defence and intelligence (14.05%), urban development (12.93%), and utilities (11%) segments, cumulatively accounting for 37.98% of the total geospatial market. The other two sectors contributing significantly were transport infrastructure (9.64%) and buildings and campuses (6.80%). These five sectors currently account for over 50% of the country’s total geospatial market. By 2025, transport infrastructure is projected to surpass utilities, while land administration could replace buildings and campuses to occupy the third and fifth spot, respectively, as the priority markets for the geospatial industry.

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