Google is to team up with India's government and use its expertise in digital mapping to improve forecasts for deadly floods.
India's Central Water Commission has signed up with the Silicon Valley colossus to try to reduce the devastation from flooding which can kill large numbers, destroy property and spread disease.
The collaboration aims to find better ways to give timely warnings to those at risk of being caught in flooding and also give better information for flood planners hoping to manage the waters.
Officials have until recently been unable to get flood warnings to people more than one day in advance.
Harnessing Google's knowledge of 3D mapping of the earth's surface and artificial intelligence methods to analyse river and rain readings, Indian officials believe they can deliver forecasts three days in advance. Forecasts would predict the extent and depth of any flooding and be used to model which communities might be in danger. Alerts and warnings could then be shared on Google platforms with those in the danger zone.
Flood maps drawn up with Google's help will be used by emergency and disaster services.
India's government said the tie-up “is expected to be a milestone in flood management and in mitigating the flood losses in India”.
The country regularly faces devastation from floods, particularly parts of the north-east and centre, during the monsoon season from June to September.
Floods in 2017 killed more than 1,300 across India, Bangladesh and Nepal and more than 40 million people were affected.
A trial of the partnership is underway for this years' monsoon season, which has already killed around 200 people from flooding and landslides brought on by heavy rain.
As well as death by drowning and loss of houses and shelter, widespread flooding outbreaks can increase the spread of water-borne diseases, such as typhoid fever, cholera and hepatitis A, the World Health Organization says.
Google's Google Earth engine has used satellite imagery to create a detailed map of the earth's surface including 3D models of its mountains and valleys.
The Indian government said that by joining forces with Google, it would save vast sums otherwise needed to develop its own computing and digital mapping power.
A government statement said the joint venture would look at “improving flood prediction systems, which will help provide location-targeted, actionable flood warnings”.
It would also deliver a “high priority research project utilizing Google Earth Engine to help visualize and improve flood management”.
India has also asked for “a cultural project to build online exhibitions on the Rivers of India”.
Over all, the collaboration will “enable the government as well as disaster management organisations to identify well in advance the locations and population, which are at risk from floods and require warnings and information,” the statement said.
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