GIS in policy making 

How would GIS help to develop policies related to urban sprawl?

The different stages in the formulation and implementation of a sustainable regional development strategy or a policy can be generalized as determination of objectives, resource inventory (data), analyses of the existing situation, modeling and projection, development of planning options, selection of planning options, plan implementation, and plan evaluation, monitoring and feedback (Yeh and Xia, 1996). GIS and other techniques (RS, DBMS and other software) are used to operationalize, implement and monitor such a proposed strategy or a policy.

As mentioned before that the urban sprawl has its effects on transportation, environment, land use management, etc. GIS can be used to make the different policies like Transport Policy, Land use Policy, Socio-Economic Policy, Environmental Policy, Business Policy, etc. GIS can be used in analysis of policy, in selecting the alternative, in implementing and in monitoring for the problem of urban sprawl.  Say for example


  • The spatial patterns of urban sprawl over different time periods, can be systematically mapped, monitored and accurately assessed from satellite data (remotely sensed data) along with conventional ground data (Lata et al., 2001). Mapping urban sprawl provides a “picture” of where this type of growth is occurring, helps to identify the environmental and natural resources threatened by such sprawls, and to suggest the likely future directions and patterns of sprawl.
  • There would be a land use change in the region due to urban sprawl.  Making a land use policy many actors would be involved like the citizens, ministry of transport, water and infrastructure, municipalities, banks, etc. and hence there would be multi criteria evaluation in the decision. The decision is based on a choice between the alternatives arising under a given set of criterion for a given objective. Here the objective is to urbanize there would be constraints like built up area, road rail network, water bodies, drainage system, etc. where there is no scope of further sprawl and factors like population growth, density, proximity to cities, etc.. All this data is handled with GIS. The decision support system evaluates these sets of data and selects an alternative using multi criteria evaluation.
  •  There would be increase in pollution as a result of urban sprawl.  If the amount of poisonous gas increases it leads to lungs cancer or asthma. GIS would help to monitor the change in the level of different poisonous gases at the selected location which are most vulnerable. The set is collected by some tests and stored in GIS. This information can be updated over a period of time. Satellite images can also be used to determine the level of pollution. And when the it has reached a certain level hedging actions or mitigating actions can be decided. 
  • The other applications of GIS related to urban sprawl are: Map generation and updating, Zoning, Recording zoning changes, resource management, Habitat prediction, land use calculations and allocation,  temporal analysis, environmental modeling, etc.


Hence GIS can be used in most effective and efficient ways in dealing the problem of urban sprawl and it seems to have no boundaries of application. A case studies is discussed which shows the application of GIS in policy making for urban sprawl.







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