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News — 25 August, 2010

Pakistan floods

In July Pakistan was hit by massive flooding. Monsoon rainfall continues to feed the floods and the flood itself has killed tens of thousands of people. But now destroyed homes, destroyed crops, and spread of disease are threatening millions.

As we know, maps can help with the relief efforts as responders on the ground grapple with problems like lack of road access for distributing aid. Coordination of long term recovery will also require maps. So...

How can OpenStreetMap help?

We are coordinating mapping activities on the Pakistan Floods wiki pages. This includes:

  • Map resources - For end users, perhaps on the ground responders. Downloads etc generated from our open data.
  • Mapping coordination - Where we can try to direct the community of mapping contributors
  • Imagery & Sources - A list of available imagery to trace from, and other sources to use for mapping.

But you'll notice it all still feels a little unclear. In the Haiti disaster we had two large cities to create a streetmap for, and we had high-res aerial imagery to use. The Pakistan floods present a very different disaster mapping challenge. The flood affected area is massive. A "streetmap" of rural roads is harder to get a handle on, and track tangible progress with.

But perhaps most importantly for our mapping community, who are ready and itching to help, we don't have much good imagery. Providers of aerial/satellite imagery can help us with this but, perhaps because of the large area needed, we have so far seen few of these data sets being opened up (compared to Haiti)

SPOT Imagery WMS

Last week SPOT broke the silence with an offering of open satellite imagery. This has it's limitations. It's pre-flood, and lower resolution than some of the Yahoo imagery we already have (Yahoo overlaps one of the three areas of the SPOT imagery). If it feels like a quite a tiny little area, we have to remember that Haiti was different. This time we're comparing areas on a massive scale across rural Pakistan.     UPDATE the coverage has since been dramatically extended

Thanks to SPOT we have some new areas of tracing to work on. Mappers interested in joining in with this will need to get set up with the WMS Plugin in JOSM. I've created a tutorial video to show the set-up process

If JOSM is too complicated, there is still mapping to be done using Yahoo, which is available on the edit tab (Potlatch) You may find this easier, though you'll still need to be willing to spend the time to learn to tools. Use the wiki links above, for ideas about where to map.