“Tools like OpenStreetMap could provide crucial topographical details, identify disaster-prone areas and inform us on the status of roads on whether they have been washed out after a flood,” explains Niraula. “All of these are live-saving information for community people, for them to be prepared for untoward situations.”
OpenStreetMap (OSM) is an important tool to enhance community engagement, it is free and an open web map that anyone can edit as required. Its significance was first realised during the 2015 earthquake response where more than 7,500 contributors worldwide supported logistics of the Nepal Government and non-government organisations involved in the relief.
Many OSM-related data mapping and validation projects have been run in coordination with local government and non-government organisations in a few municipalities including Chautara Sangachowkgadi and Melamchi in the Sindhupalchok district.
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These municipalities have developed a BIPAD portal to enhance disaster preparedness and coordination post-incident, strengthen disaster communication and emergency response. To improve the database of the municipalities, the portal has used free tools, open street maps and stored geo-data of schools, hospitals, banks and other infrastructures located within the municipality.
“The development of the portal was crucial and timely. We have free information sources at our fingertips if only we are aware and are trained to use them,” says Sujan Dulal, disaster focal person of Melamchi Municipality.
The portal has geospatial data that has helped enhance understanding of navigating locations and infrastructure located within Melamchi. This means it can identify open spaces, emergency shelters to be used post-disaster, areas that can serve for relief distribution and also mark vulnerable structures.