GIS in Environmental Studies - An overview

Abstract Enormous variety of environmental data is generated from different sources. Many people who work on environmental aspects feel the paucity of right tools to perform an effective spatial analysis. Apart from this lack of awareness on existing tools and high investment on the tools also hinders the usage of these tools. GIS is a readily available spatial analysis tool which gives unique and unparalleled insights into the natural and man made environments due to its strength to link the "generic information" with its "location". GIS is a powerful tool which not only analyses the present environmental scenario but also helps in projecting the future, in other words, one can effectively use the GIS tool for past, present and future studies on environment and its protection for the generations to come in future. The few examples where GIS can be effectively used are in Environmental planning, Ground water contamination, Fresh water and saltwater interface, Water quality, Solid waste and Waste water management, Air & Water pollution, Natural Hazards and their mitigation etc. This paper primarily focuses on the application of GIS in different environmental scenarios in brief and the merits and constraints. Introduction 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) GIS applicable Areas : • • • • • • • • • • • Wild Land Analysis Emergency Services like Fire Prevention Hazard Mitigation and Future planning Air pollution & control Disaster Management Forest Fires Management Managing Natural Resources Waste Water Management Oil Spills and its remedial actions Sea Water - Fresh water interface Studies Coal Mine Fires

Figure 1: Diagram showing the application of GIS for various environmental solutions.

GIS in Field Apart from data analysis in laboratories GIS can also help the environmental data analysts in the field, the GIS tool is flexible enough to work in the field to give the exact location of devastation and amount of devastation. Some of the examples in field where GIS is applicable are • • • • Using GIS in the field, an environmental inspector can rapidly map waste storage sites; describe the volume, content, and state of waste containers. Retrieve previous inspection records to compare with the existing environmental conditions. View environmental data in relation to adjacent geographic features such as waterways, neighborhoods, or other sensitive areas such as high-risk zones for landslides, water pollution etc. Integrated with a global positioning receiver, a field crew can use GIS to accurately ground truth satellite imagery in oil spill mapping and its affects on surrounding ecosystem.

Constraints using GIS There are some intricate problems in implementation of GIS in Environmental studies in India. The problems posed with our Indian scenario are 1) Non availability of properly spatial data 2)

Lack of proper infrastructure with the Government bodies 3) Meager skilled Manpower in the government planning and development departments 4) GIS softwares being more costly. Some of the probable solutions are 1) Availability of map data in a centralised facility 2) Awareness and increasing the skills proficiency in GIS in government and private sector. 3) Increasing the infrastructure facilities to cope up with the latest technologies and 4) Supplementing the Environmental planning division with adequate funds Conclusion In summary, GIS technology will continue to play a vital role in environmental system management. GIS becomes the primary repository of information that can be quickly accessed and viewed when required. GIS is becoming more suitable for emergency operations and is integrating tools that allow real-time display of information. Rapid access to information, safety, efficiency, and better resource management decisions can be made with the use of GIS. GIS technology can provide critical information at the need of the hour to take the remedial measures in no time as effective as possible.

GIS ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESMENT
Enormous variety of environmental data is generated from different sources. Many people who work on environmental aspects feel the paucity of right tools to perform an effective spatial analysis. GIS is a readily available spatial analysis tool which gives unique and unparalleled insights into the natural and man made environments due to its strength to link the "generic information" with its "location". GIS is a powerful tool which not only analyses the present environmental scenario but also helps in projecting the future, in other words, one can effectively use the GIS tool for past, present and future studies on environment and its protection for the generations to come in future. The few examples where GIS can be effectively used are in Environmental planning, Ground water contamination, Fresh water and saltwater interface, Water quality, Solid waste and Waste water management, Air & Water pollution, Natural Hazards and their mitigation etc 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. . 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.

Estimation of runoff
Abstract Estimation of runoff in the statisticless hydrometric river basins is one of the most important cases of applied hydrology. In area of runoff volume prediction there is one method which in my opinion, stand out as clearly superior to alternative methods for use on ungaged areas. It was developed by the U.S.Soil conservation service and is called the Direct Runoff Analysis Method. One of major procedure must be developed before this technique can be applied to a particular watershed. That step involves relating physical characteristics that influence runoff include size, shape, and topography, soils, and vegetation. At first drainage analysis was performed on a terrain model. The Arc Hydro tools were used to derive several data sets that collectively describe the drainage patterns of the catchments. Raster analysis was performed to generate data on flow direction, flow accumulation, stream definition, stream segmentation and watershed delineation. Hydrologic soil groups (A,B,C,D) and landuse map were determined in region and my case study.

Then two landuse maps and the hydrologic soil groups were combined and the CN map of the region will be developed. The calculated runoff was compared with observed runoff and it was found that the SCS method is efficient for the estimation of runoff.

Satellite Remote Sensing data helps in wildlife management
Traces elephant movements in North Bengal According to a recent study, the satellite remote sensing data can be of great help in quick assessment and real time monitoring of existing resources and wildlife habitat management. Two scientists, Dr. S. Sudhakar and Dr. K. Rajesh from the Regional Remote Sensing Service Centre, Kharagpur and Mr. A. K. Raha of wildlife division, State Forest Department, West Bengal submitted a study paper at an international workshop on "Image and Shape Analysis" at Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta. The scientists have used the satellite data to trace the elephant movement in North Bengal that has become a big worry to forest officials in view of widespread depredation by marauding elephants in this region every year. Three major elephant routes could be identified by the study team – West of Teesta river, between Teesta and Torsa rivers and East of Torsa river, with the route between Teesta and Torsa considered as ‘high conflict zone’. The study also traced five other elephant corridors cutting across the international border, involving India, Nepal and Bhutan – Nepal-Panighata, Jiti-Bhutan, Bhutanghat (India) – Bhutan and Sankosh (Assam) – Bhutan

GIS for Environmental Management

Available now for immediate delivery Complex environmental challenges increasingly demand sophisticated solutions. GIS for Environmental Management outlines the ways that GIS is fulfilling the need of humanity to better manage, protect, and preserve the environment. Along the U.S.-Mexico border, choking dust threatens the health of residents in Douglas, Arizona and nearby Auga Prieta, Mexico. GIS identifies the sources of the dust and aids in efforts to solve the problem. The Missouri Botanical Garden uses GIS-based data gathered during 25 years of research to help Madagascar expand its ecologically protected areas as part of a campaign to preserve the Earth’s biodiversity. A Japanese university professor uses GIS to create an Internet site linking scientists and the people interested in the preservation of an historic wetland. An American university professor relies on GIS to assess the health of wetlands along the shore of Lake Ontario near Rochester, New York.

These case studies explore some of the innovative GIS projects presented in GIS for Environmental Management. Each study showcases GIS solutions and balances GIS technology with the human element. GIS for Environmental Management covers topics ranging from biodiversity and pollution to more specific subjects such as coastal zone management and change detection. This reader friendly text is relevant for non-technical audiences and GIS professionals. Participants in each case study tell in their own words how they made use of GIS. GIS for Environmental Management shows how this powerful technology is helping us manage our environment.