GIS advances widen the horizons for environmental professionals

Geographic information systems (GIS) have become an accepted high-tech IT tool for the management of a wide range of environmental and waste sector tasks, with applications include the mapping of contaminated land to the mapping of boundaries and the location of public utilities

The control of the foot and mouth outbreak, which has made a considerable impact on the environment and public health, represents yet another extension of the capacity and versatility of GIS.

By creating colour-coded "thematic" maps, of the Foot and Mouth spread, plotting suspected and subsequently confirmed cases, the rapidly changing scene has been monitored closely. Accurate geographic information on outbreaks and the associated 3km buffer zones has been essential for council departments such as highways, trading standards and emergency planning.

Cumbria's Emergency Planning Department had not been using GIS, but it was soon realised that it would be crucial in providing an effective information service to everyone in the region. The GGP system was installed and fully running within a few days, providing vital information for a special Foot and Mouth call centre.

Foot and Mouth data is also needed by the Council's Highways Contractor so that footpaths in restricted areas are closed and to ensure that disinfectant mats are located in the right place. Recently, certain rights of way have been opened. Road atlas type "raster" maps, produced from GGP, have been placed at access points and incorporated into a leaflet for walkers, clearly showing the areas to which access is allowed.

Environmental applications
As an additional aid for environmental professionals, Landmark Information Group has added new features to its digital Envirocheck product. It allows access to environmental information, together with current and historical Ordnance Survey mapping from a desktop. Envirocheck 5.03 has increased the maximum site area a customer can run an environmental search on to 10 hectares. The new features also include the ability to customise a report, with the inclusion of a logo or a customised panel on the site sensitivity maps produced. Envirocheck covers the whole of mainland Britain on 15CDs and is based on Promap, the digital mapping system, providing flexible access to current Ordnance Survey large and small mapping. Envirocheck incorporates all the features of Promap, which enable customers to view, locate, measure, customise and print large scale Ordnance Survey maps. New Promap features available to Envirocheck users include the ability to export Ordnance Survey current large scale mapping into a GIS or CAD system.

In addition, Landmark states that, in response to customer requests to mark the boundaries of landfill on the Envirocheck Site Sensitivity Map, a start has been made with the Scottish landfills held by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and the boundaries of closed landfills held by the British Geological Survey. These datasets have been digitised by Landmark from the paper records. The corresponding datasets from the Environment Agency for England and Wales are expected soon.

Other recent developments on the mapping front include the launch of a new, on-demand, large format plotting service from CRWorld, provider of geographic image solutions and published by The GeoInformation Group. By combining up-to-date imagery from CRWorld, which includes over 200 Cities Revealed aerial photography datasets, with the latest plotting technology from AGFA, City Vues, the new service, offers users of aerial photography an on-demand printing and plotting facility.

In order to meet the demands on local authorities to identify contaminated land sites GIS specialist Cadac BIS has developed specific tools to aid staff. For example, Ordnance Survey maps and aerial photographs can be downloaded, sites can be searched using addresses or grid references and there is access to a wide range of information, including the location of historical buildings, dating from 1880-1950. Other enhancements include input and output interfaces for mathematical modelling of air dispersion from transport and industry.


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