eGovWatch: Realtime dashboard helps in reducing damage of natural catastrophes in Karnataka

The solution developed by ESRI India has enabled KSNDMC to retrieve large amounts of data within milliseconds and send alerts like ‘high intensity rainfall’ to end users on-the-fly

By Rashi Varshney

Natural catastrophes can cause a massive destruction and can impact negatively the economic conditions of any nation or state. Since natural disasters cannot be eliminated, can technology be used to lessen the disastrous impact of a natural catastrophe? For example, when heavy rains wreaked havoc in Chennai with floods, could city authorities planned a better evacuation? Could citizens have been better prepared? Could colleges have been closed? While there are no clear concrete answers, there is a ray of hope from the example of the Karnataka Government, which has used technology to improve its ability to respond to natural disasters.

The Karnataka government has installed various sensors to monitor natural hazards and provide scientific input for preparedness and management of disasters. The Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre (KSNDMC), which is a common platform for various organizations in the area of natural disaster management, is providing real-time weather (15 minutes interval) related information forecasts, early warning and advisories for management of natural disasters in the state.

The department realized the need to automate its weather data collection methods and use database technology that supported quick analysis and generated reports and maps on time. The department partnered with ESRI India who developed an internal and external GIS portal for KSNDMC which helped it perform data analysis, data visualization and data retrieval. ESRI India Technologies (erstwhile NIIT GIS Ltd.) is a Geographic Information System (GIS) software and solutions provider.

The company provided a real-time data inserting solution and developed the internal and external GIS portal. The solution was capable of handling large amounts of data, supporting real-time analysis of weather information and disseminating it in the form of alerts, reports, maps, charts and through emails, SMSes and websites to end users. The aim was to automate and speed up processes to avoid errors due to manual interference.

States Agendra Kumar, President, ESRI India, “Rain gauges and weather stations are linked to an Oracle database which is further connected to a GIS system. Once the data comes in, we can run various analysis tests for each area, monitor how the rainfall is changing from a year-on-year perspective and provide predictions for future rainfall. The rest of the tools involve putting the data on the map and publishing it on the website, where the data is accurate as of 15 minutes ago.”

For the WebGIS system, KSNDMC uses ArcGIS. “Two versions of the software – ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Server – together form the heart of the solution and the application has been created using .NET. The rain gauge sensors are using Airtel and BSNL SIM cards. So the cost of collecting data and transmitting it is extremely cost-effective and is available pretty quickly across the state.

Speaking about Chennai floods and other such disasters in the world, Kumar says that with the climate changing, there are certain areas that receive heavy rains and certain areas that are dry, so the weather is changing very fast. “Such an application which has an automated rain monitoring system will be useful for every state. This definitely would have helped Chennai as the citizens were caught unaware. Hence, if there is a system where forecast is available to the citizens as an SMS, then people can be better prepared and local authorities can take quicker steps,” says he.

For the state of Karnataka this solution is more important as the state has more rainfall, with three monsoon seasons. “The technology developed by the ESRI India team has been immensely helpful in efficiently handling ever growing data sets, checking errors in the reports/maps owing to manual interference and increasing the pace of data processing, report generation and information dissemination. KSNDMC’s use of technology has been appreciated by many national and international agencies working in similar areas,” says Dr GS Srinivasa Reddy Director, KSNDMC.
There is also a forecasting system by weather forecasting agencies that the department provides through a portal to citizens. Citizens can create an account and log in and get trigger updates once they have registered their mobile number. The idea therefore was to predict the rainfall and make sure people and different government organizations are prepared to beat any eventuality which can become a disaster later on. “An example of this is the Karnataka customer care centre which received 3000 calls a day ago when the flooding in Tamil Nadu happened,” says Kumar.

Challenges of manual processes

KSNDMC had installed over 6,000 Telemetric Rain Gauges (TRGs) and more than 750 Telemetric Weather Stations (TWSs) to transmit data every 15 minutes (24x7x365). Prior to using technology solutions, KSNDMC collected weather data manually and stored it in an MS-Access database. The database however, was unable to support quick analysis owing to limitations of size and performance.

The data furthermore, was available in different formats such as MS Word, MS Excel, MS Access, DBF, etc. and there were data redundancies in different machines. Also, the time taken to generate reports and maps ranged from 7.5 man hours to 20 man hours. The daily report generation process involved data downloads, data verification, data processing, map generation, formulation of the final report and dissemination of data to users via SMSes. The process was cumbersome and time consuming, especially during the monsoon season.

Twenty man hours to less than 30 mins

The real-time data inserting technology and the application developed by ESRI India has enabled KSNDMC to insert or retrieve large amounts of data within milliseconds and send alerts like ‘high intensity rainfall’ to end users on-the-fly. The deployment also helped the government to minimize human intervention (physical presence of scientists) in report generation through the automation of applications and reduce the time taken for report generation, which was earlier around 20 man hours, to less than 30 minutes. Additionally, the solution now provides access to multiple users from various locations to a centralized database server in the new system. KSNDMC now send lakhs of automated SMSes and reports through the automated applications.

The real time weather dashboard developed is enabling users to visualize real-time weather parameters such as rainfall, temperature, relative humidity and wind speed and direction. The portal meanwhile is helping public users to query the weather database.

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