Google Earth is a valuable resource for monitoring changes in topography, forest cover, urbanization, and history. Many scholars and researchers, however, have remarked that satellite historical imagery of India over the last two decades has vanished from the program. This has prompted speculation about why this occurred and what it signifies for researchers and policymakers.
Historical satellite imagery has become an invaluable resource for monitoring terrain changes. However, many users of the free online mapping service have raised worry over the deletion of high-resolution pictures dating back to 2000. When compared to Amritsar’s scrubbed clean historical pictures, the difference is apparent. Surprisingly, Lahore, Pakistan, which is only 50 kilometres distant, still has historical pictures from the last few decades available.
Why did this happen?
When asked about the absence of historical material, a Google official indicated that the company is reprocessing some of the historical imagery in Google Earth Pro 7’s Historic Image database and will make it available again later this year. However, it is unclear whether the deletion of data is due to policy norms or a government of India directive. It is unclear whether this is due to a technical problem or a policy change or request from the Indian government.
What is the impact of this disappearance?
The historical data clearly shows the removal of lakes, encroachment on water bodies, and even municipal initiatives such as the Secretariat in Hyderabad or alterations in New Delhi due to the new Parliament building. The loss of this data might have serious consequences for researchers and politicians who use it to make decisions about land use, environmental protection, and urban development.
What is being done about it?
The Union Cabinet has approved a ‘National Geospatial Policy-2022,’ which states that geospatial data is now universally recognised as a crucial national infrastructure and information resource with demonstrable societal, economic, and environmental significance. One of the policy’s goals is to create an enabling ecosystem for Indian enterprises, allowing them to make India self-sufficient in producing and exploiting their own geospatial data/information and compete with foreign companies on a global scale. It remains to be seen whether this strategy will address the issue of old satellite imagery disappearing from Google Earth.
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