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The last few days have been no less than a nightmare for Bengalurians, especially the daily commuters. The incessant rains have made the pitiful traffic situation in the city even worse. There are horrific images and videos from around the city showing buildings and roads submerged under water. The city administration and police forces are even deploying boats to fasten the relief and rescue operations in the city. Then there is a whole different problem of associated challenges like power cuts, lack of clean water, and dangers of water-borne diseases.
As per a report, Bengaluru IT companies faced a loss of INR 225 crore on August 30 alone when most of the employees were stuck in traffic for up to five hours in the heavy flood situation. The Outer Ring Road Companies Association—named after the ORR area, which houses some of the major tech parks and also one of the worst affected—even wrote to Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai about the urgent need to redevelop the city infrastructure.
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While the administration may take its own time in resolving the infrastructure issues of the city, citizen-powered bodies and institutions are doing their part to lessen the impact of the crisis. One such initiative is called ‘#LetsMap’. A crowdsourced data project by Reap Benefit, World Resources Institute (WRI) India, Citizen Matters, and Open City, #LetsMap intends to map all the flood-prone areas in the city.
Let’s map the city
“The idea is to have open source data about locations that are getting flooded on a regular basis. We started this three months back when Bangalore received summer showers. Even 15–20 min of rain would leave parts of the city waterlogged. We decided to collect these data points and create visualisations and engage citizens to be centres of local data,” said Tejas Mahajan, Civic Tech team lead, Reap Benefits, in conversation with Analytics India Magazine.
By collecting data from the public, the team is able to triangulate the reasons behind certain areas in the city getting waterlogged. This information can also be relayed to action teams and agencies for appropriate redressal of the issue. Since #LetsMap is an open source platform, citizens can take these maps to their ward councillors, and with the visualisations offered by the team, actions can be taken to mitigate the crisis.
While the initiative started in Bengaluru, Mahajan tells us that its growing popularity has had people from Mumbai, Delhi, and Kerala also sharing their requests. When asked about the goal of the project, Mahajan told us that the idea is to collect as many data points as possible and offer collective solutions involving all stakeholders.
Currently, the team is using two major ways to collect data—one allows users to share their location or pictures of their flooded locality via WhatsApp and the other is through Jotform—an online form builder. All the information that is collected is linked with a Google Sheet, and the same data is used for visualisation using simple data studio. The team is in the process of building a platform called ‘Samaaj’, which will streamline the process and would also allow visualisations to be integrated with maps.
Talking about the challenges faced, Mahajan tells us that data collection is a major challenge. “Since we depend heavily on social media platforms, we understand that people worst affected by such flood-like situations may not have access to them,” he concluded.