Mapping schools and health facilities in Kathmandu Valley

Interaction type Public → Government → Public
Trigger Event No single event has triggered it. But increasing number of disasters around the world including the earthquake in Haiti has inspired discussion about the safety of school and hospital buildings in Nepal.
Domain Generic mapping of major points-of-interest and critical infrastructure as well mapping schools and health facilities.
Organisation Department of Education and Kathmandu Living Labs with support from the World Bank/GFDRR.
Actors Citizens, Department of Education, Kathmandu Living Labs, The World Bank/GFDRR, Nepal Risk Reduction Consortium, NSET
Data sets in use Aerial Imagery from Bing and HIU, and list of schools and hospitals from government were used. Datasets on road network and other points-of-interest with focus on school and health facilities have been generated.
Process 1. Initial lists of schools and hospitals were received from government

2. Features on the list were located and mapped using a variety of techniques

3. The results were presented to authorities and discussed

Feedback Interactive Thematic map (for schools and hospitals) showing structural and non-structural attributes; Higher detailed online map of Kathmandu Valley.
Goal To increase resiliency of schools and hospitals against earthquake risks.
Side effects None so far. This could be because it is too early for those to appear, if there are any.
Contact Point Nama Budhathoki (namabudhathoki [at] gmail [dot] com)

Nepal, a country in South Asia, is considered one of the most exposed countries to natural hazards and especially earthquakes. The capital city of Kathmandu, which is the biggest and most important urban area, is located in a value that has known a rapid urbanization the last decades. For example, the population has grown from 1.6 million in 2001 to 2.5 million in 2011.

However, Kathmandu is considered the most risky city of the planet due to the earthquake vulnerability as the majority of the houses do not meet the safety requirements of the specific earthquake zone. According to Forbes Magazine, if a 6.0 earthquake hits the city the estimated casualties will reach 70,000 lives. In another estimation, at a 8.1 earthquake approximately 250,000 people are expected to be killed, 500,000 may require hospitalization, 50 percent of the population will be left homeless, and 60 percent of all buildings will be heavily damaged. The Haiti 2010 earthquake has presented a very terrifying example of the consequences that can be caused by an earthquake in an unprepared territory. Moreover, the Haiti case has shown that that the lack of a solid mapping backdrop considerably hinders any search and rescue, humanitarian and first-aid effort. After the earthquake in Haiti the OSM and HOT community undertook that task to complete a detailed local map as soon as possible. In Kathmandu, the local stakeholders have recognized the danger that looms over the local population and try to be proactive. They have initiated an effort to create an OSM map of the city. The aim is to provide a critical resource for disaster risk mitigation and emergency planning.

In this context, in 2012, the World Bank’s South Asia Region launched the Open Cities Project with two initial goals of creating asset and exposure database for urban areas, and facilitating civic technology engagement in leveraging the use of this database for urban planning and disaster resilience of the region. Open Cities Kathmandu was started in November 2012 as a pilot initiative along this line. It had three main objectives:

  1. collecting and mapping exposure data for schools/colleges and hospitals,
  2. digitizing building footprints in the Kathmandu Valley, and
  3. building a robust OpenStreetMap community.

The process followed to successfully complete the task, was first to divide the Kathmandu Valley into zones – each one consisting of several wards. OSM champions were assigned the responsibility of one or more of these zones. Using GPS, field-paper, satellite imagery, web and mobile technology, they would go to field, collect exposure data of schools/colleges and health facilities in their respective zones. Then they would upload all these data onto OpenStreetMap database using an in-house web application called WebDRI, developed by Kathmandu Living Labs. This was followed by a rigorous data validation process which ensured that data which went to OpenStreetMap were accurate and reliable for making informed decisions. However, since this project is not only about collecting exposure data but also about building resilient communities, these champions worked simultaneously towards building OSM community in Nepal. To achieve it, they delivered OpenStreetMap Sensitization Presentations and trained other people through Mapping Parties. As a result, this effectively took the project back to its direct recipients – the community. Furthermore, it also multiplied the number of ‘surveyors’ in the project because it produced new mappers and data providers, whose contributions enriched map data and solved our main problem of not knowing the exact locations of schools/hospitals in field. Mapping was done in multiple stages, focusing on different geographical features at different times, and regular validation was a part of the mapping process itself. Moreover, in November 2013 the GeoCentre of the USAID supported this effort by organizing a distant mapping party in Washington DC with the collaboration of George Washington University. In just a Friday evening, ninety students managed to digitize more than fifteen thousand buildings in Kathmandu. This effort implemented a hybrid model of crowdsourcing which, nonetheless resulted in a detailed map of the entire Kathmandu Valley. Open Cities Kathmandu has to date mapped over 100,000 buildings and collected exposure data for 2256 educational and 350 health facilities within Kathmandu Valley.

The outcome of the project has sparked a policy-level discussion for building the capacity of private schools to handle emergency situation. Previously, discussions were limited to government schools only. The data is being used in disaster risk mitigation under NRRC’s Flagship 1 program. Following the outcome of the project, the Department of Survey, Nepal’s authoritative mapping agency, is now exploring ways to integrate VGI in their workflows. Additionally, the National Society for Earthquake Technology in Nepal has decided to share its own datasets with the public. The data will be available on the Open Cities website. Also, as part of the Open Cities program, more than 1500 received training on the OSM procedures and mapping and a large number of presentations have been delivered to universities in an active effort to build a robust OSM community. At the same time, Open Data for Resilience Initiative (OpenDRI) is continuing the effort of creating a complete map of the Kathmandu area.

Overall, this work is regarded as a successful, viable and reproducible model that can serve as a basis for disaster risk reduction activities which employed and successfully demonstrated the use of open data sharing platform (OpenStreetMap). It has also initiated dialog between National Mapping Agency and Crowdsourced mapping communities in Nepal. Finally, it should always kept in mind that crowdsourcing is a dynamic work environment. Things may not and do not always go as planned and thus flexibility and adaptation is the key to a successful project.


Main lessons:

  • Being proactive is a key element to ensure that an area is prepared for future natural disasters.
  • A solid mapping background is a basic step needed for relief efforts to achieve their goals when a disaster strikes. Creating or updating an existing one is of great importance.
  • A well managed and coordinated effort to drum up crowd support can provide valuable input from both local and international contributors.
  • Apart of a short term intensive mapping effort, it is also vital to create a community that will continue the task to complete or update the maps of the area in focus.




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