While the Gati Shakti mission addresses critical infrastructure challenges in the country, an unassuming institution located in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, plays a pivotal role as its technological bedrock.
This hub, the Bhaskaracharya National Institute for Space Applications and Geoinformatics (BISAG-N), serves as the wellspring of everything, from on-ground intelligence through geospatial imagery to real-time application programming interfaces (APIs) for various ministries.
At the core of Gati Shakti is a digital platform built upon the geographic information system (GIS) developed by BISAG-N. This platform offers spatial planning tools, leveraging imagery from the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro).
Established in 2003, BISAG-N pioneers the development and integration of a range of technologies, including remote sensing, image processing, photogrammetry, cartography, GIS, global navigation satellite system (GNSS), artificial intelligence (AI), and mobile applications within a modular framework.
Until 2020, the organigation operated under the Gujarat government’s Department of Science and Technology. Its elevation to a national agency came about due to its potential in comprehensive planning and governance.
The advantage with Gati Shakti lies in its centralisation, enabling seamless adoption of the latest technologies, said Jaijit Bhattacharya, founder and president, Centre for Digital Economy Policy Research (C-DEP). “While some entities, for instance, were already using technologies like drones, others were not. Gati Shakti’s centralised institutional setup ensures the utilisation of cutting-edge technologies across the board, benefiting everyone involved,” he explained. Now, the ministries don’t need to independently monitor data; they can simply log into Gati Shakti and access this information, he said.
BISAG-N’s integrated portal has a map built on open-source technologies, hosted through Meghraj, the government’s Cloud infrastructure. This portal offers insights to different departments associated with the 16 ministries. Currently, the National Master Plan (NMP) integrates over 1,450 layers of data, including 585 from central ministries and more than 870 from states or Union Territories (UTs). This data includes every planned and existing project of various ministries, complete with the imagery and location of that particular project.
BISAG-N furnishes such valuable ground information, which various entities can employ to facilitate smooth infrastructure development, Bhattacharya said. Though challenges persist due to local regulations, Gati Shakti’s overarching goal is well underway, he affirmed.
Experts highlight that the technology has started yielding results within two years of being conceptualised.
For instance, earlier, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas spent six to nine months preparing 46 detailed route survey (DRS) reports. With the new integrated approach and NMP’s technological interface, an electronic DRS does this in just a few hours. Similarly, when the ministry planned the alignments of five pipelines under the North-East Gas Grid through NMP, the overall length got reduced by 42 km, saving Rs 169 crore.
“Our country has for long grappled with coordination issues in planning,” said Mohammad Athar, partner and leader of infrastructure and industrial development, PwC India. For instance, highway connectivity gaps to ports would be identified after the port had been built. Similarly, highways lacked integration with wayside amenities, logistics hubs, industrial parks, and power and water infrastructure. “This resulted in a lack of capital efficiency, increased logistics and business costs and project delays,” he said.
Gati Shakti addresses this by enabling coordinated planning, eradicating information asymmetry and fostering data sharing among ministries. This also helps in identifying and prioritising.
The Gati Shakti programme, Athar said, identified critical transport projects across shipping, defence, steel and ports for coordinated planning and execution. Each ministry has been asked to feed its information into the Gati Shakti portal. Thereafter, GIS-based infrastructure mapping has been done and a network planning group has been set up to enable integrated planning across ministries.
Amit Rishi, senior vice-president of RMSI, underscored the significance of the GIS technology, which has magnified Gati Shakti’s potential to save costs. RMSI, a global GIS consulting company, has undertaken projects on National Highway 5, assessing roads and bridges. The assessment covered a 400-km stretch of NH-5 in Himachal Pradesh, identifying road sections and bridges susceptible to natural hazards. The findings are aimed at bolstering the highway’s resilience.
Rishi emphasised that the GIS technology helped prevent project reruns due to delays caused by interdepartmental processes and approvals. And that it also enhanced infrastructure quality, while reducing disaster risks. Software applications use multi-hazard risk assessment outcomes for mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.
BISAG-N, Gati Shakti’s backend operator, is aware of the responsibility it shoulders as India gets moving on a criss-cross of coordinated infrastructure projects. Business Standard