Use of GIS in Transportation for Disaster Management
Author: Anil Marsani
Transportation College, South East University, Nanjing, China.
Abstract: - This paper points out the probable consequences of natural disaster especially earthquake in Nepal. Different stages of disaster management are described and the role of transportation in disastrous condition with the use of GIS in transportation for disaster management is pointed out.
Key words: Natural disaster, Earthquake risk, Disaster management, GIS in transportation
Natural Disasters in Nepal
Disaster is a tragic interruption to development process. It causes great loss of lives destroying capital investments in infrastructures and disrupting social networks. Disaster can be artificial (man-made) or natural. Preventive measures should always be attempted to reduce the consequences of disasters though it is highly unpredictable especially the natural ones.
Nepal is a disaster-prone country because of its geo-physical condition, which is the main cause of natural disasters. It is vulnerable to natural disaster like floods, landslides, epidemics, fire, earthquake, windstorm, avalanche, thunderbolt, glacier-lake outburst and cold wave and they cause considerable losses to life and property in Nepal every year. The earthquakes of 1934, 1980, 1988 and the flood of July 1993 and July 2002 are among the most devastating natural disasters the country has seen in modern times .
Earthquake Risk in Nepal
Nepal is a seismic prone country with high risk of earthquakes. Past records have shown that Nepal can expect earthquakes of magnitude five to six on the Richter scale every two to three years, 7 to 7.5 every five years and two earthquakes of intensities 7.5-8 on the Richter scale every forty years and one earthquake of magnitude 8+ every eighty years. . Recent studies indicate the presence of a dangerous seismic gap in central and western parts of Nepal hinting towards another big magnitude earthquake anytime in future.
The last great earthquake to strike Nepal was in 1934 with a magnitude of 8.4 Richter. It caused considerable damage to buildings along with great loss of lives. Since then the population in Nepal has skyrocketed urban development unplanned and construction practices have deteriorated. It is reported that out of the 21 cities around the world that lie in seismic zones, Kathmandu is at the highest risk of death, destruction, and unprepared ness. If the similar earthquake to that of 1934 were to strike now it would cause a great loss of lives with devastating effects to social structure and national economy.
What will happen?
Experts say earthquakes don’t kill people, but building collapses do. Earthquakes are an unavoidable part of Kathmandu valley's future . A large earthquake in or around the valley today would cause significantly greater human and physical damage and economic crisis. The situation is even worse due to city’s extremely high urban density, unmonitored constructions, encroachment of public places, narrowed and cramped streets. Kathmandu has an uncontrolled urban development with a 6.5 percent annual growth rate. The population of the city is ever growing and is now around two million and some 6,000 concrete houses are built every year, usually without proper engineering supervision. It is not hard to imagine what will happen the next time an 8.0 magnitude earthquake hits Kathmandu is the real concern.
The study conducted by The Kathmandu Valley Earthquake Management Action Plan, has estimated the following consequences:
v Up to 40,000 people could be killed and close to 100,000 injured
v Over 60 percent of all buildings in the Valley would be severely damaged
v 95 percent of water pipes, 40 percent of electricity lines and 60 percent of telephone lines will be damaged
v Almost half of the bridges in the valley could be impassable
v 10 percent of paved roads will have moderate damage, such as deep crack or subsidence. In addition, many of the narrowest streets in the valley will be blocked by debris form damaged buildings. Bhaktapur may not be accessible form Kathmandu or Lalitpur because of road and bridge damage.
v The international and domestic airport will be out of order and be isolated from the rest of the Kathmandu Valley due to its location at liquefaction prone areas thereby limiting emergency aid from outside of the valley.
v The access roads to the Valley will be out of order.
v There will be a risk of fire breakout, caused by explosions due to gas, petrol or leaks of chemical products.
v The army will have the difficult task of maintaining order as well as coordinating first aid
v The estimation for the arrival of first aid from outside the Kingdom of Nepal is at least 3 or 4 days.
Disaster Management and transportation:
The disaster management can be classified into two parts: pre-disaster management and post- disaster management. Pre-disaster management concerns with the measures to prevent negative impacts from hazard events and to be better prepared for those that are not prevented whereas post-disaster relief and recovery measures. Pre-disaster management is risk management that has three components: risk identification, risk reduction, and risk transfer and preparedness, the post-disaster phase is devoted to emergency response, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
Transportation facilities can itself suffer from both artificial and natural disaster. Transportation system can play crucial role in disaster response if it is monitored well and assessed properly. An effective transportation system provides much help to take the affected peoples to safer places and rescue and relief material to the disaster hit areas with in very less time. In either a natural disaster or man made event the transportation network accommodates the following functions:
v Evacuate the population in the area of the event
v Provide emergency access to the site of the incident
v Allow the public to bypass the affected area
v Respond to the impacts of restrictions to access in the affected area.
For effective use of transport facilities for disaster management, damage assessment is one of the most important steps in earthquake-related emergency response. Quick and accurate identification of the nature, severity, and extent of damage is critical for timely route-open/close decisions. The available public transport system can be used to provide evacuations, transport, and shelter for emergency personnel and volunteers, and roadblocks as directed by police. It can also be used for evacuation of local residents; transport of emergency workers and volunteers to and from an emergency sites; supplemental transportation for people and supplies within a city or county during recovery; use of air-conditioned/heated buses as shelter/respite facilities for emergency workers and victims; communications support, if radio-equipped; monitoring of road and weather conditions; determining safe travel routes; and supplemental vehicles for police or other local agency.
Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) can track the movement of vehicles, monitor, control, manage the flow of traffic and reroute traffic in response to disasters. Advanced traffic management systems also can play a major role in disaster recovery and response. For example, a car navigation system can guide drivers along detour routes when they come across major damage caused by natural disaster. ITS can inform strangers by cellular phone of where to evacuate in case of emergency.
Use of GIS in transportation for Disaster Management
GIS technology can be effectively used to both pre-disaster and post-disaster planning. Planning for pre-disaster management involves predicting the area and time of a possible disaster and the impacts on human life, property, and environment. Some examples are planning and design of transportation network and the design of vehicles fleet and planning of its source for emergency purposes. It allows transportation facilities and network to be put to optimal utilization for relief and evacuation purposes. A reliable map depicting the location of the emergency resources like water, service units, food warehouses, transport and communication networks and other utilities is very crucial in disaster management with acquisition of real-time (RT) information about the status of the recourses.
GIS allows quickly accessing and visually displaying critical information by location that helps in developing action plans. Emergency disaster management requires response, incident mapping, establishing priorities, developing action plans, and implementing the plan to protect lives, property, and the environment.
Transportation facilities and network may again be under pressure due to the movement of the people to and from the affected area. Movement to the affected area may be in the form of relief or rescue teams (Police, Fire brigade, Ambulances) and material suppliers, while those from the affected area may be the injured being taking away to safer location, and those escaping from danger. This could be chaotic if the redundancy in the transportation system is not taken as a part of disaster management. The transport network has to be well managed with considerations for shortest time taken for traffic congestion, collision avoidance, and Police chases in case of terrorisms or sabotages. GIS can be used in managing traffic volumes in a spatially reference context, viewing the paths as a transportation network. The knowledge about the status of network at that instance is very significant to tackle such a situation. Some of the important decisions that need to be taken in this phase include route planning under cost, time and network congestion constraints for evacuation, medication and relief, prioritization of activities, tracking and scheduling of vehicles and location of service and relief station.
Route Planning is one of the aspects of Transport telemetics or application of computers to transport management systems. Roads are part of the infrastructure but can also turn into bottlenecks in case of disaster. When deploying vehicles to help mitigate disaster impacts, it is necessary to determine the best route to follow to save time and best cost/benefit ratio. It is also to quickly assess the extent of damage on individual routes so that alternative routes are planned. Congested routes as a result of movement to and from the scene can also cause transport problems. Therefore, the computation of shortest path/route needs to be done Real Time (RT). This is the area of GIS application where calculations are done in a short time using relevant data like the network map, expected degree of congestion on the routes, reliability of the routes and time of the day.
Tracking and Controlling of Traffic/Vehicles: Tracking and monitoring of vehicle movement is mostly achieved with mobile communication and Global Positioning System (GPS). The position of a vehicle is tracked via on-board GPS, transmitted to base via GSM (SMS or GPRS) and loaded into a GIS database where it is then managed and displayed on a mobile map. These days some mobile devices are capable of displaying GIS analyzed information. This combination of GPS, GSM and GIS for application into transportation is what is now referred to as Intelligent Transportation System (ITS).
Effective disaster management requires assimilation and dissemination of preplanned, historical and real-time information to many sources. Web based GIS makes spatial information accessible to a larger group of people in a fast, easy and cost effective manner and can be a one step forward in managing the multiple activities of the various agencies involved in the disaster management.
Among different types of disasters that Nepal is facing today, earthquake is the risky one because of its location in seismic prone area. Earthquake in Nepal is inevitable in future, as claimed by experts, and hence much to be done for effective disaster management. Transport sector has to play vital role in this regard. Though transport network may itself be affected by disasters, disaster relief work cannot go smoothly without first establishing efficient transport network. Use of GIS in transportation and disaster management is important aspect in moving towards establishing ITS within the country.
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