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CW Innovation Awards: How open source mapping is bringing clean water to Andhra Pradesh
The state government of Andhra Pradesh has digitised information on water supply pipelines and implemented a geographical information system to help deliver clean drinking water to rural communities
Providing access to safe drinking water in rural areas has been a big challenge for governments around the world, particularly in India, which has a large rural population.
In the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, a project to digitise information on rural water supply (RWS) pipelines and implement a geographical information system (GIS) is seen as a big step towards delivering sustainable water supply and sanitation services.
Accordingly, both India’s federal and state governments are committed to achieving 100% coverage in the supply of safe drinking water in rural India.
But attaining this goal isn’t easy, as most communities in rural India depend on uncovered drinking water, which is unsafe for human consumption. There is also a huge gap between urban and rural areas in storing and maintaining good quality drinking water. This can lead to acute water stress, a situation where water scarcity occurs when demand for safe, usable water exceeds supply.
To address the challenge, the Andhra Pradesh Space Applications Centre (APSAC) created a digital infrastructure for sourcing data on water assets in collaboration with water resources department officials, and to make the data available on a GIS platform. Engineers can then use the data to analyse, plan, operate, optimise and maintain water pipelines.
The creation of this digital pipeline network is also in line with the federal government’s mandate, which stipulates that all existing water supply network plans should be in GIS format. The GIS data can then be uploaded to the federal government’s Gati Shakti portal and be used for nationwide planning, management and development of future water infrastructure.
To successfully guide this project, APSAC created a geospatial database of the pipeline network, which spans 140,000km across the state of Andhra Pradesh. Then, it geo-tagged all the water supply pipeline components, and provided a web service for operational and maintenance purposes. Finally, it integrated all the geospatial data with the Gati Shakti portal for infrastructure planning throughout India.
The fully funded project by the government of Andhra Pradesh took place between September 2022 and April 2023. The budget for the project was approximately $122,000. The entire RWS pipeline mapping was conceptualised by APSAC and implemented in collaboration with Indtrack Technology, a GIS technology supplier.
The main software development platform used was Java and Node.js, while the rest of the solution was developed using open source platforms, languages and databases.
One of the main challenges of the project, which was named Public Sector Project of the Year in the 2023 Computer Weekly Innovation Awards APAC, was to digitise paper-based information. Previously, all RWS pipeline schematics were hand drawn on paper maps and could not be read by any digital platform. Furthermore, there was no way to link this to a digital database.
APSAC had to convert these hand-drawn maps into their digital equivalents by using a combination of mobile applications and geospatial technology developed in-house.
Sundar Balakrishna, APSAC
Without digitisation, the estimated cost of using legacy methods employing differential GPS and manually compiling the maps to obtain pipeline locations would have taken 30 months and cost about $306,000, half of which would have been spent on capital expenditure alone.
By digitising the whole system using a combination of location-based applications, mobile devices, big data analytics and open source software, the time taken was reduced from 30 months to about seven months, and the cost by 60%, from $306,000 to $122,000.
Besides these tangible benefits, implementing real-time live data collection and approval within the workflow has enhanced transparency in monitoring mapping activities at both state and district levels. It has also improved efficiency in decision-making, planning, maintenance and risk management.
The availability of GIS data on an open platform also allows for effective use by multiple stakeholders in other areas and states in India. Today, the applications deployed by APSAC have up to 6,000 concurrent users across Andhra Pradesh.
“I’m thankful for the support of Gopal Krishna Dwivedi, principal secretary of the Panchayat Raj and Rural Development department [PRRD], who offered financial and information support to this project,” said Sundar Balakrishna, vice-chairman of APSAC.
“The funding for the project by the PRRD and the enthusiasm of all those who participated in the project was the main force behind the successful implementation of the RWS pipeline project.”
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