Reuters

The Indian government is giving local officials satellite imagery to help plan their futures.

The Indian government wants its urban areas to have a plan. Right now, most don't. Formal master plans guiding the growth and development of infrastructure and land use in cities are somewhat rare in India, and the government is hoping a new technology initiative will encourage leaders in 7,935 cities and towns to start thinking about and planning for the future.

As Post Noon reports, the government is for the first time making available satellite imagery to the planners and development officials in these nearly 8,000 towns and cities. It's part of a National Urban Information System that is aiming to give municipalities access to the imagery and to help develop geographic information system databases that will be able to inform the needs of these areas as they develop over the next few decades.

Of these nearly 8,000 cities and towns, only about 24 percent have completed master plans. The government is hoping that this push will bring that up to 100 percent within the next few years.

According to The Hindu, satellite imagery has been used in recent master planning efforts in the city of Khammam, about 120 miles east of Hyderabad. Government officials are using this city's plan as a model for how other cities and towns can use the newly available imagery to inform the future direction of these places as they prepare to undergo massive demographic changes.

India remains a vastly rural place. Of the 1.21 billion people counted in India in March 2011, only 377 million are urban dwellers. More than two-thirds of India's population is rural.

But that's going to change in coming years. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce have estimated that the country's urban population would increase by 900 million people between now and 2050. Most of this growth is expected to result from rural-to-urban migration.

These dramatically changing demographics are behind India's move to better plan its cities and towns. The problems associated with places that have undergone rapid urbanization and population growth are well known, from inadequate sewage systems to clogged transportation networks to overcrowded housing. Master plans may not be able to stop these problems from ever recurring in this urbanizing country. But planning efforts like these may help local officials to better prepare themselves for the problems that can occur in these changing cities, and hopefully to prevent them before they happen.

Top image: Potters resting in Gurgaon, a city outside of New Delhi. Credit: Ahmad Masood / Reuters

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