Land-Use Maps Will Make Urban Data Easily Available: Akshay Kore
Akshay Kore, a 24-year-old student of interaction design at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Bombay, recently shot to the limelight for creating a land-use map of Mumbai. While these data were always publicly available, it was not easily accessible to the general public. In an interview with Shanu Athiparambath, he says such maps will help both researchers and students. Edited excerpts.
Athiparambath: How would the land-use map you created make the development process in Mumbai more transparent?
Kore: The data I have made available in the land-use map are already there. The biggest problem people face is that of access. What often happens is that when urban planners, activists or researchers try to find these data, they have to file Right to Information requests. If a journalist wants to analyse the land-use policy in Mumbai, he has to go to officials, file an RTI and then get data. So, much time is wasted. All these data are already available on the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai website. But, people need to dig very deep.
Athiparambath: PropTiger.com has made the masterplan on Indian cities available on its website, superimposing it on the existing map of cities. Can you tell me how data visualisation will help urban planning?
Kore: Let us take a possible scenario. There are many things computers can do faster than human beings. But only human beings can take some of the more complex decisions. Suppose that there is an outbreak of malaria in a city. Using the land-use map, the government can quickly find out the areas that have a mosquito outbreak and those that are affected. Mosquitoes are often near water bodies. If an area has a combination of water bodies and grass, you will see a large number of mosquitoes there. By looking at the land-use map, you can filter out possible areas. This will save precious time and resources.
Athiparambath: How would the land-use map help in environmental planning?
Kore: How do you find out higher amounts of pollution? There are certain areas in the city that are known to have more pollution. These are, at times, industrial and commercial ones. By looking at the land-use map, you can find out where there is a cluster of primary activities, and a cluster of industrial areas. You can also find out the residential areas that are going to be affected by pollution. If these residential areas are nearer to high-pollution ones, you can propose to plan a large number of parks in that area.
Athiparambath: How can this help manage floods?
Kore: Floods happen every year in Mumbai, in different parts of the city. Data on the areas in Mumbai that are flood-prone are already available. You can find out which are commercial areas, and which residential ones. You just have to trace out all this land and analyse. It is not really helping anyone.
Athiparambath: How can people see how the city develops? Are these data periodically updated?
Kore: The data are updated every 20 years. The data I have used in this land-use map came out in 2014. The previous set of data came in 1991. The proposed date was 2011, but it came out three years later.
Athiparambath: Wouldn't land use change much in 20 years?
Kore: One building often lasts more than 20 years. When a company moves from one part of the city to another, this does not change the land use. When PropTiger moves from Noida to Gurgaon, for example, the land use does not change. If a certain plot is intended for commercial use, it will still be intended for commercial use.
Athiparambath: Authorities often propose changes in land use.
Kore: If your building is on residential land, unless the government changes the land use, this will not change. Proposals for land-use policies are often for the long term.
Athiparambath: How much does urban planners and government officials know about idle or underutilised land in a city?
Kore: Government officials and planners already have enough information on how much of land is idle in Mumbai. Even when land is underutilised, land-use is fixed. The tool I have made is meant for researchers and analysts, and not for the government. This is for doing a quick analysis. If an urban planner wants to study Mumbai and propose to build more commercial areas, or find out which areas have more parks, this helps.