Mumbai Free Map Community GIS

NASA LandSAT 7 self-made composited imagery with my GPS tracks overlaid, Greater Mumbai and Vasai-Virar 2004-2006
NASA LandSAT 7 self-made composited imagery with my GPS tracks overlaid, Greater Mumbai and Vasai-Virar 2004-2006

This is both the first project proposal (2004-5) and final report (2009) to the Pan-Asia ICT R&D Grants Programme of the Asia Pacific Development Information Programme of UNDP (United Nations Development Programme),

CRIT (Collective Research Initiatives Trust) obtained a grant to pursue this project and organise workshops and labs. In recent years this work has been  superseded by OpenStreetMap.


Proposal Abstract

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region is one of Asia’s largest cities, in which urban spaces are the central arenas of political imagination and intervention. The past decade has seen the articulation of a new politics of space in Mumbai — through the contesting claims of the urban poor majority in slums and squatter settlements, assertive residents’ associations and civic reform movements, the prosperous construction industry and builder-politician nexus, and concerned practitioners in the design, architecture and research professions.

In spite of this increased awareness and concern with urban spaces, basic information on housing, land, infrastructure and environment — the right of citizens — remains largely inaccessible, because of bureaucratic obstacles and vested interests. This asymetry of information has given rise to predatory classes of builders and speculators, whose privileged access to information is transformed into “development rights” for construction, eroding accountability to local communities and urban stake-holders, and the planning policies meant to uphold their rights.

Existing applications of new spatial technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS) for commercial services or scientific research remain distant from the needs of these grass-roots communities and local decision-makers. Citizen increasingly demand their rights to information on urban space — and recent legislative enactments and public interest litigation on freedom of information have recently institutionalised this right.

We believe that communities can harness the power of new geo-spatial imaging and mapping technologies to strengthen their demands for secure tenure and housing rights, open and vibrant public spaces, and ecological conservation and sustainable development in the mega-city. This proposal outlines a project to develop an open-access spatial data infrastructure, and a set of simple tools and applications in localised in Indian languages, for knowledge transfer and participatory urban planning by communities and citizens in Mumbai, and other global cities in the Asia-Pacific region.

Project Proposal

Through this project, we seek to integrate GIS and other networked mapping and spatial imaging technologies into our existing infrastructure and research practice, enhancing our projects and interventions through the use of Internet technology and networks.

The key objectives and outcomes of this project are:

  1. The creation of an online open-access spatial database and base map of key areas within the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, on the cumulative basis of the urban research, design and development studies and interventions conducted over the past six years by our Members, with our partner organisations and stake-holders in Mumbai.
  2. This will be deployed through a web-based geographic information system (GIS) for local communities to use for their own mapping, planning and development needs and aspirations, with the base map forming a platform for public dissemination and intervention.
  3. The development of a set of simple, cross-platform and Unicode-compliant spatial tools and mapping applications in English and localised in Hindi and Marathi, to enable participation of communities, citizens, and stake-holders in spatial planning and decision-making in Mumbai and other global cities in the Asia-Pacific region. These tools will be developed by the project team through visualising communities’ own needs for information housing, land, infrastructure and environment.

The deliverable results of this project include making the base map, tool sets and source code (hereafter referred to as the “platform”) freely available online, as well as through a self-booting ‘live’ CD through which the platform can be used and modified on a computer desktop with or without Internet access, in English, Hindi and Marathi. The online (web) and offline (live CD) platform will include examples of work from mapping projects where we already have data and documentation, and will include simple how-to explanations and tutorials for how to make your own maps.

Stakeholders and Focus Areas

We seek support for the development of a set of simple and localised spatial tools and applications for stake-holders to create and maintain their own community maps and databases of their localities, neighbourhoods and settlements. These community stake-holders — the prime beneficiaries of the project — represent diverse and often competing interests in the key areas of the city in which we work, from state authorities to residential associations to slum communities and grass-roots activist groups.

The project seeks to develop a GIS-enabled and web-based public platform for these various stake-holders and the public to access and produce spatial information of crucial relevance to urban development in the four key areas of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region in which we have worked:

In the Inner-City of South-Central Mumbai, the platform will assist residential and slum communities in claiming their right to quality housing, sanitation, and civic services, and security of land tenure and development rights, by allowing them to visualise the redevelopment potential of their housing and land assets, and assess the impact on local infrastructure and environment of the rampant and ill-planned construction activities currently transforming the area. The platform will also permit the documentation of structures and spaces for heritage conservation in Central Mumbai.

In the Post-Industrial Landscapes of Central Mumbai, the platform will assist state planners, labour activists, architects, heritage conservationists, port authorities and company managements to visualise and plan for urban regeneration and integrated redevelopment of the historic textile mill districts and port areas. The Mill Lands and Dock Lands — the two largest continguous land holdings in the city — have seen an extensive spatial restructuring in the past twenty years, with the decline and closure of manufacturing and shipping activities, the evacuation of factories and the industrial waterfront, and the large-scale retrenchments of working class populations. The platform will assist in visualising the use of these lands for public spaces, social housing, local institutions and employment generation.

In the Western Suburbs of North Mumbai, the platform will be utilised by residential communities and local civic associations to continuously document, monitor, and keep vigilance over the open commons and public spaces which are currently threatened and contested by elite private interests, encroachers and the builder politician nexus. With the ratio of open space per person in Mumbai one of the lowest of any large metropolis in the world, public space is one of the central arenas of conflict in the city. The platform will allow citizens to propose and assess political and design interventions to safeguard the open, non-exclusive and cosmopolitan character of these designated common spaces, and ensure their continued public access for recreation, sport, leisure and community activities, against the concerted efforts to enclose and privatise them.

In the Metropolitan Periphery north of Greater Mumbai, the platform will provide a basis for for local rural communities, tribal cooperatives and activists, and district and village authorities to negotiate the rapid and unbalanced development of these peri-urban regions, and their appropriation by city-based interests in the construction and tourism industries. The serious threat posed to sensitive ecologies and built environments by urbanisation — existing community-based systems of water and land management, the conversion of agricultural lands to urban uses, and the increasing migration from the city and other parts of the country — is largely unrecognised in the land-use and development plans for these regions proposed by state authorities in these “greenfield” sites.

Project Methodology

As a collective of architects, artists, designers, social scientists, and technologists concerned with the city, we feel that inter-disciplinary collaboration is essential to research and intervention, and we are committed to working across sectors and institutions to articulate a public debate on the representation and dissemination of spatial information through the proposed GIS platform.

In our six years of work with local communities, state authorities, and civic groups on urban design, research and development projects, our ultimate aim — of skill and knowledge transfer to stake-
holders — has often proven elusive. Mostly published in printed form and privately circulated, our projects started as static representations of a fast-changing urban environment, with a normative bias towards immediate problem-solving and crisis resolution. The form and method of our urban projects — in spite of our commitment to participatory, action-oriented research and public dissemination — thus often ended up addressing our stake-holders as passive participants or consumers of the spatial information which we produced.

This project reflects our desire to shift the form and method of our research towards a more dynamic and networked use of spatial information, where the stake-holders are themselves the producers and owners of the information, to which they have a right as citizens. The platform described above has the potential to unlock new means of dissemination and interaction within and among urban communities, enhancing their participation in development and planning processes, and reclaiming an urban imagination dominated by elitist and exclusive visions of the city’s development.

Project Report, May 2009

Mapping the Maximum City

Our project was designed to fulfill a significant and critical lacuna shared by academics, researchers, and planners in Mumbai – the lack of publicly available geographic data of the city and its metropolitan region. Our rationale for undertaking the project was clear from the beginning and remains valid – the lack of freely available and commonly referenced public datasets forces every urban researcher in Mumbai to reinvent the wheel.

Studies of individual neighbourhoods or regions suffered from the lack of base map against which to compare and project spatial datasets; researchers interested in particular phenomena such as housing, infrastructure, or transport were forced to redraw new base maps for every project; and the lack of availability of public base maps rendered this data into a commercial opportunity for vendors less interested in the use of maps for public good than in their use as opportunities for private consulting.


CRIT was founded in 2003 after several years of work with state agencies, community organizations and groups of urban planners and designers primarily concerned with mapping different neighbourhoods and regions of Mumbai in the interest of community housing, urban design and environmental and heritage conservation.

As a non-profit trust with no commercial interest in selling our data, and with a vast mass of accumulated data in our project archives from prior work on different parts of Mumbai, we in CRIT decided to undertake an effort to synthesize these previously unconnected datasets. Our objective was to stitch them together, fill in the uncovered areas, and make available a a complete public basemap of Mumbai, which we sought to publish online for use by urban researchers, activists and the public. This effort became informally known as the “Mumbai Freemap”.

Achieving this goal would require significant resources, hence our grant application. Despite CRIT’s vast experience in documenting urban environments and acquiring and manipulating map data from numerous sources, we had little knowledge of the two fields crucial to the development and publishing maps online – GIS (geographic information systems) and open source web development. While a GIS database was an answer to the problem of the basemap, the lack of free or open source alternatives to the ArcGIS application package – the proprietary software which is the industry standard for almost all spatial data processing – prevented our use or experimentation with GIS, since we could not afford the prohibitive price of a software license.

Through our exposure to the rapidly changing field of web development between 2005-2009 – and the emergence during this time of web products as Google Maps/Earth and Yahoo Maps – and support from open source web GIS developers, our project team committed itself to an idea of the base map in GIS somewhat analogous to the role of source code in the world of free software. Both the base map and source code must be free and open for others to build on it and study, modify and share the results with others under the same conditions.

Given CRIT’s strong commitment to the sharing and reuse of public goods such as maps and plans for community development, we were determined to build the Mumbai Freemap using only public datasets powered by free software and delivered through open web mapping services such as WMS (web mapping service) and WFS (web feature service) which could be used in other web sites and geospatial applications. This combination of public data, open source software, and standard web services was our hoped-for solution to the constant reinventing of the wheel – the problems of the missing base map, expensive proprietary software, and the difficulties of sharing and disseminating our geodata in the public domain.

Fulfillment of Objectives

In spite of the bureaucratic delays and other changes, to date we have made significant progress on our original project goals. Due to the recent termination of the project, work initiated since March 2009 is only due to be completed in July 2009 to complete the funds granted to CRIT under the first year of the grant.

In our original proposal accepted for funding by APDIP/AMIC in May 2005, the four key objectives and outcomes of our project were stated as:

  1. The creation of an online open-access spatial database and base map of key areas within the MMR, on the cumulative basis of the urban research, design and development studies and interventions conducted over the past six years by the CRIT Members, with our partner organisations and stake-holders in Mumbai.

  2. This will be deployed through a web-based geographic information system (GIS) for local communities to use for their own mapping, planning, and development needs and aspirations, with the base map forming a platform for public dissemination and intervention. The key areas of the city for which we plan to develop the base map — based on our existing record of work in these areas — are the Western Suburbs, the Inner City, the Post-Industrial Landscapes, and the Metropolitan Peripheries of Mumbai.

  3. The development of a set of simple, cross-platform and Unicode-compliant spatial tools and mapping applications in English and localised in Hindi and Marathi, to enable participation of communities, citizens, and stake-holders in spatial planning and decision-making in Mumbai and other global cities in the Asia-Pacific region. These tools will be developed by CRIT and the project team through visualising communities’ own needs for information housing, land, infrastructure and environment.

  4. The deliverable results of this project include making the base map, tool sets and source code freely available online, as well as through a self-booting ‘live’ CD through which the platform can be used and modified on a computer desktop with or without Internet access, in English, Hindi and Marathi. The online (web) and offline (live CD) platform will include examples of work from mapping projects where we already have data, and will include simple how-to explanations and tutorials for how to make your own maps.

Of these four key objectives, we have successfully accomplished the first two through the creation of the online Mumbai Freemap (described below) and related software and web tools on which we undertook significant research and development. Of the third and fourth objectives, we continue to pursue development of a web-based community mapping system in local languages, though we have discarded the idea of a live CD in favour of devoting more resources to eventually merging the base data in the Mumbai Freemap into the OpenStreetMap (OSM) project. Additionally, we have successfully completed development of new open source tools for georeferencing and warping raster imagery and vector data for use in web GIS systems.

Since our grant was awarded, there have been rapid developments in the field of what has become known as the “geospatial web”. Our project both anticipated and participated in these changes. Most significant and well-known was the debut and rapid expansion of Google Maps and Google Earth, particularly as Google expanded its coverage of Mumbai and other Indian cities since 2006. Less well-known has been the development of OpenStreetMap (OSM), a freely editable and community-managed map of the world on the web.

While originally focused on Western Europe and initiated by volunteers tracing and mapping urban streets with GPS, over the past three years OSM has begun to provide a viable online platform and growing set of offline open source tools with a vibrant and supportive community of thousands of enthusiasts all over the world. The appearance of Google and OSM on the scene shortly after the start of our project compelled a change in our project objectives, especially with regard to OSM.

The lack of any public geodata in the Indian context has created a vacuum which is strongly felt by NGOs, citizens, researchers and even state officials, who themselves increasingly rely on Google Maps and especially Google Earth. While Google has done a great deal to make maps and particularly satellite imagery available to the public – their commercial orientation towards location-based information, and earlier barriers to editing and publishing one’s own maps with their tools – they increased access to maps but still limited full freedom of geodata. On two occasions in January 2006 and August 2007, CRIT was invited to meetings with Google India in Bangalore and Mumbai, to discuss sharing data from the Mumbai Freemap. Since Google sought to restrict the public dissemination of the raw data of Mumbai, we did not follow up with the collaboration.

By contrast, we began networking with the OpenStreetMap community in 2006, and in February-March 2008 planned a series of workshops with their volunteers in Mumbai and other cities in India (see below) which helped to seed local OSM communities which have continued to grow over the past year. In 2008 we also decided to merge our basemap layers of Mumbai into OpenStreetMap, and henceforth rely on OSM for these layers inside future versions of the Mumbai Freemap. Therefore, in the past year, we have dedicated the project’s resources to assisting the OSM community to undertake software development (see below) – producing tools which will assist in migrating our basemap to OSM, as well as making a contribution to the growing open source OSM toolkit.

The rest of this report will document the processes by which we accomplished the first two project objectives and how we plan to address the latter two objectives in our ongoing work. The following three sections on data gathering and processing, and on software development and web development, describe in detail our project design and implementation in fulfilling our overall project objectives. As of May 2009, we are continuing to develop mapping tools and localized interfaces, and new map layers and research datasets through our own Mumbai Freemap, while we plan to rely on OpenStreetMap to host, maintain and grow the basemap which we have spent years developing and want to share with a worldwide community.

Data Gathering and Processing

At the heart of any GIS is the spatial database, the raw data through which maps and other spatial representations are generated. The rationale of our project – to develop a web GIS in local languages of the MMR – required us to both convert our existing archive of spatial data on Mumbai into a GIS, as well as learn new ways of gathering and creating spatial data in the future to make them spatially accurate and of good quality for public reuse.

Since 1999, the members of CRIT have spent a great deal of time tracing maps and gathering data on behalf of communities and other clients in Mumbai to produce local area studies and documentation of the urban environment. Through the course of the projects, we had accumulated a large archive of map data of contemporary Mumbai in the form of CAD vector drawings produced originally using AutoCAD (stored as .dwg, a closed format). Given the training of most CRIT members in architecture and not in GIS, the use of CAD has been integral to our mapping practices for years.

However, CAD is not GIS, and it proved very difficult in practice to convert vector drawings into the universal GIS database format (stored as .shp or shape files, an open format). Additionally, CAD drawings are neither georeferenced nor are they in projected coordinate system – its vectors and extents have no relationship to the real geographic space as in GIS – and attributes of features are stored as simple labels, not in a database as in GIS.

We thus confronted three problems in moving our datasets from CAD to GIS:

  1. actual conversion of the geometries and attributes from dwg2shp;

  2. subsequent georeferencing of the geometries and warping the vectors into real geographic space with coordinates;

  3. joining of textual and spatial attributes and geometries in the database which store information such as names, physical types, and other attributes of the geometries.

Confronting and solving these three problems successfully took longer than we expected, but has also yielded this project’s single greatest achievement – the creation of a relatively accurate and full GIS database of the Greater Mumbai and Vasai Virar areas of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. Our work in data gathering and processing determined the course of our subsequent software and web development (see next two chapters) as well as built significant capacities and knowledge within CRIT of the requirements of producing and maintaining accurate spatial databases. Indeed through the work described below on the Greater Mumbai dataset, we learned lessons which we applied to the creation of the Vasai Virar dataset and which we hope to address in future CRIT projects – for which we now have a base map which is cumulative and doesn’t require reinventing the wheel.

Step I – dwg2shp

We knew that the first step of dwg2shp conversion was possible using ArcGIS, but lacking access to it we paid for membership in the Open Design Alliance, a group in California which distributes the opendwg software libraries for converting proprietary AutoCAD .dwg to other vector formats. With these libraries we could convert and export all AutoCAD data, and we first completed a successful dwg2shp import in early 2005. This was done with the help of Schuyler Erle – our project mentor who wrote the book Mapping Hacks and whom we first met at the AsiaSource in Bangalore in December 2004 – who compiled the opendwg libraries with GRASS to open the AutoCAD files1.

After the initial success in importing dwg2shp in 2005, we spent several months assembling and stitching CAD vector drawings in our archive of Greater Mumbai, an area of approximately 60 These were originally traced into CAD from the separate sheets of the 1981-2001 Development Plan of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai – which in their printed form are available in public libraries and municipal offices and which we had scanned, traced in great detail, and assembled into files containing separate layers with detailed coverage of buildings and other built-up and open spaces, roads streets and highways. This was the dataset that we began calling the “Mumbai Freemap” and which would comprise our future public basemap.

Step II – Georeferencing

While dwg2shp import was relatively straightforward – compiling opendwg with GRASS or using the shareware CAD2Shape – the second step of georeferencing vector data from CAD was unconventional for any GIS, and a problem which it seemed that few developers had confronted. Since most GIS datasets in public use in other countries are produced directly from satellite imagery or other remote sensing data, the problem of georeferencing and warping vector data – as opposed to raster data like scanned maps – was uncommon. As we later learned, CRIT was in many ways doing things backwards by attempting to convert CAD to GIS. We were trying to georeference a dataset which was originally produced without concern for accuracy into an accurate representation of features in geographic space.

In CRIT, we purchased and began using consumer GPS devices to collect tracks and ground control points in Mumbai from 2006 onwards, points for which we would record the geographic coordinates using the GPS and which we could later identify on the vector drawings in their own pixel space. With Schuyler’s guidance, we began to discover the robust free and open source GIS tools could be used to do unconventional things with geodata. The tool which Schuyler developed for georeferencing the imported Mumbai Freemap was called ogrwarp, and is based on the free and open source ogr2ogr allowed us to retrospectively georeference our vector drawings of the entirety of Greater Mumbai with GPS ground control points (see below under ‘Software Development’ for full description of the ogrwarp tool which we developed for the project). While we were able to complete the initial “warp” the vector data imported into shape files into a projected coordinate system2.

Step III – annotating attributes and geometries in the database

The first and second steps yielded a rich and complete set of vector data for features in Greater Mumbai, which we extracted as individual shape files for each layer of geodata – buildings, plots, roads, highways, railways, and “reservations” (schools, municipal properties, open spaces, and other areas reserved under the Development Plan for specific land uses). However since the digitization was originally done in CAD without regard to any predefined database schema, and the geometries which were extracted were not connected to their attributes or a database, after the first two steps we had a beautiful vector map but it was only suitable for display, not analysis.

The third step of mapping these attributes and geometries – or feature sets – into a relational database posed further challenges. Though we could georeference the vector data imported from CAD, there was no direct relationship between how CAD and GIS represented features such as streets, plots, buildings, or boundaries, or other textual information such as labels, names, and related statistical or numerical data about the features. The two major problems which we encountered were on the one hand with snapping and repairing geometries and on the other hand joining and identifying attributes on the other.

Geometries in CAD are almost entirely stored as points and lines, whereas in GIS there are three basic types of geometry – points, lines and polygons. Crucially, polygons often represent the most important features on a map such as individual buildings and plots, about which additional data is stored in a database. In CAD, polygons are often represented as collections of lines which are not closed – and therefore when importing them into GIS it is unclear where the boundaries of polygons lie. This problem of creating closed polygons is almost intractable when there are literally more than a million lines in a large dataset such as the Mumbai Freemap.

A related problem is in how CAD stores textual information and other attributes. Since CAD, unlike GIS, does not use a database, all attribute data is stored as points. While these points are usually located near or on top of the feature they describe, the problem of too many lines was compounded by hundreds of thousands of points containing text describing all kinds of features, which needed to be merged into a relational database.

Without digressing into lengthy technical explanation for this odd problem, we can describe how the joint problems of unclosed polygons and attributes as points was partially solved. We were able to successfully extract almost 90% of the possible closed polygons from selected lines layers by “snapping” lines within a .1 to .5 meter threshold of proximity to each other. This process was initially done using the commands v.clean, v.edit and c.snap in GRASS and later using the Feature to Polygon tool in the proprietary ArcGIS3. We wanted to create polygons only for certain features which were appropriate geometries – buildings, plots and reservation but not railways, roads or highways, which remain as line segments. Once we successfully created these new polygons layers, it was simple to join them to the point layers containing their names or other attributes through what is known as a spatial join in GRASS, ArcGIS, GDAL – that is, to merge the attributes of one layer to another layer based on their spatial intersection.

After snapping and creating the new polygon layers and identifying and joining the attributes from the point layers through a spatial join, we substantially completed the three steps outlined above, though the third step presented only partial solutions, as some polygons could not be extracted from the imported line layers due to the fragmented nature of the original dataset, and many attributes remain stored simply as points with labels since for certain features either the join was not accurate or the feature was not a polygon (i.e. roads and highways remain as disconnected lines with a separate point layer containing their names).

Lessons from the Mumbai Freemap

The reasonably successful import, georeferencing, and annotation of the meta-dataset for Greater Mumbai in 2005-2007 was a major initial breakthrough which determined the course of the rest of our project. The next two sections, on software and web development, report on the tools we developed and how we decided to put them on the web.

The compilation of the Mumbai Freemap was very instructive to CRIT in that it demonstrated the problems in our own workflow which had to be addressed in order to create GIS data – of the unsuitability of AutoCAD vector format for data creation and layer annotation; the need for collecting GPS points and tracks prior to drawing and mapping and not afterwards; of the need to store attributes of the spatial data and other statistical information in table form connected directly to the geometries.

These lessons were applied to our subsequent data gathering initiatives, most notably for the Vasai Virar Sub-Region (VVSR), a 350 area north of Greater Mumbai where we undertook base mapping in 2007-2009 using GPS devices, and employed the ogrwarp tool developed by Schuyler Erle for our project to georeference the basemap and other layers for our documentation of VVSR (see below). In our studio we also began using the free and open source desktop GIS package QGIS – which over the course of our work has quickly grown to maturity and stability and recently released a 1.0 version called “Kore” – to identify, join and annotate labels and attributes to closed polygons. In future projects we hope to natively author geospatial data in QGIS and further integrate the use of GPS information at the time of preliminary base mapping and surveying of new areas of the MMR which we have not yet covered.

For Mumbai and VVSR, we have used “Freemap” to signify freedom in various senses. Traced from public maps on which there is no copyright, they were rendered into a digital form through voluntary efforts of students and researchers connected with CRIT, and having no legal restrictions as derivatives of public data, they are free to share with others, who could help extend and improve it. Having been converted from a proprietary file format into a standard file format (dwg2shp) we could convert and manipulate the data in new ways using other tools available in the burgeoning world of open source GIS. We sought to make it free in other senses as well – to publish it on the web for the public to browse, link and download; to localize the interface and map in Hindi and Marathi; and to eventually allow the public to create, edit, annotate and upload their own information and map features.

Web Development

The overall trajectory of our project implied a workflow of processing data from from CAD to GIS, and subsequently rendering this data from GIS to the web in a form that the public could access, download, and eventually edit themselves. This section reports on our Freemap community server and the development of two major web mapping demonstrations from our project which have for the first time made available full maps of the MMR available publicly online.

Freemap Web Maps

In mid-2005 – while the above research on data gathering and processing of the Mumbai Freemap continued – we launched the first version of the online Mumbai Freemap to display the richness of our datasets, and how they could be hosted and rendered online using open source web GIS. In 2008 we launched an online Vasai-Virar Freemap to extend our coverage of the MMR outside of the municipal limits of Greater Mumbai, and to embark on a new mapping project where we could apply the many lessons learned in creating the Mumbai Freemap.

Both the Mumbai and VVSR Freemaps were built on a number of open source GIS tools which have rapidly grown in maturity and stability during the course of our project. We employed UMN MapServer on the backend for serving geo-data stored as shape files and in a PostGIS spatial database – essentially PostgreSQL with spatial extensions to store geometries of the features in the database. On the frontend, we employed the now-popular web mapping client OpenLayers (which was founded by our project mentor, Schuyler Erle). This system was deployed on the community server (see below) at which ran on 64-bit Debian Linux.4 On the VVSR Freemap, our new web developer Sanjay Bhangar is extensively using the web framework geodjango for construction of custom widgets and search functions for development of an interactive heritage assets database for regional environmental planning.

VVSR Freemap

In VVSR, CRIT has been part of an ongoing effort to network local communities around ecological and heritage conservation in a large region of the MMR north of Greater Mumbai. Lessons drawn from the Mumbai Freemap (see above) were applied to the production of the VVSR datasets from 2007 onwards, when we conducted extensive georeferencing and revamped the geometries and attributes within the dataset to match the needs of a web GIS. As CRIT has undertaken extensive photographic and other documentation of nearly two hundred individual sites and structures in VVSR for preparation of an official listing for conservation and protection, we plan by July 2009 to complete the VVSR Freemap as an online map-based heritage information system for local communities5.

The VVSR project has been undertaken in stages by CRIT since 2004 by Anirudh Paul, Yogita Lokhande, Vinesh Iyer, Supriya Thyagarajan, Benita Menezes, and Rohit Mujumdar. The project is focussed on community planning processes in different parts of the region, and is supported by the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA). While the basemap of the entire region was produced and georeferenced from 2005-2007, since then data gathering has focussed specific feature set – urban heritage conservation assets which are to be legally demarcated and protected by state authorities. Since March 2009 we have been engaged in the development of an online VVSR Freemap heritage information system with full information on the surveyed assets, photography and documentation, and community information in English and Marathi.

Mumbai Freemap

In the dataset discussed above, the single most important non-spatial information contained on the original Development Plan sheets are the land use codes, which are colour and letter coded to indicate sanctioned uses (i.e. RG = recreation ground, SS = secondary school, H = housing, etc.). Hence, in transforming this into a dynamic web GIS, our demo had to include land use and municipal plan reservations from the municipal Development Plan rendered directly from a database. This database was created by extracting land use codes from the reservation polygon layer and used a look-up table with the full form of the codes, to render them in full form on a dynamic land-use map of Mumbai6. We are still working on manually improving the accuracy of both the geometries and attributes in this land use layer – the joining of the reservation vector layer with the corresponding codes in the attribute database.

Additional raster layers which we have acquired for Mumbai include historical City Survey maps – georeferenced and warped in the Freemap Warper – of Bombay from 1926 and 1965 against which the historical morphology of Mumbai’s environment may be compared and assessed against the contemporary urban fabric. Through the project we have acquired numerous high-resolution scanned survey maps of colonial Bombay from the libraries of architecture colleges in Mumbai, as well as from the British Library and the University of Chicago (see Data Inventory in Appendix). These scanned raster images of the city can now be easily georeferenced through a simple point-and-click interface with the Freemap Warper (see below).

Impact of the Freemaps

These ongoing, iterative demonstrations permanently hosted at and constitute the single most important web-based output of our project. From 2005-2009 we have continued to occasionally refine and improve the geographic accuracy of our dataset, in successive versions of the demos – major milestones include version 0.1 (June 2005), 0.2 (February 2007), and 0.9 (September 2008) during which we added new layers and datasets that we have acquired and processed using the techniques documented above.

The appearance of the Mumbai Freemap online from 2005 onwards was a major achievement for CRIT Going public online led to CRIT receiving continual requests for sharing our data on Mumbai – from academics and scientists, NGOs and activists, and even other state agencies and corporations like Google. Our reputation within the global web mapping community grew further after Schuyler Erle’s keynote address in 2007 to the O’Reilly Media annual conference in geospatial technologies, Where 2.0, called “Mapping the Maximum City”, detailing CRIT’s efforts to build the Mumbai Freemap using open source GIS tools7.

We continue to receive several emails each month requesting data, which in the next version of the Mumbai and VVSR Freemaps we hope to explicitly cater to by employing GeoServer on the backend. Similar to MapServer but more robust in its management of a number of geodata file formats and standard, GeoServer allow users to excerpt and grab of any part of the map via web mapping services such as WMS, WFS and GeoRSS as well as export and downloading as shape files for use in GIS, KML for browsing in Google Earth, and as PDFs and other image formats.

Freemap Community Server

In November 2005, D. Nagarjuna, Schuyler Erle and Shekhar Krishnan attended presented our work on the Mumbai Freemap at the World Summit on Free Information Infrastructures (WSFII) in London. At WSFII we were presented with an opportunity to join with friends and collaborators from other open source web mapping initiatives in London, Boston, and New York in purchasing and setting up a community server dedicated to geospatial applications and open source GIS and which would provide free hosting as well as mentoring and support to like-minded initiatives – what we called the Freemap Collective.

Purchase and installation of the server was funded by the Arts Council of England through the Wireless London project managed by Saul Albert, with whom we in Mumbai had been collaborating since mid-2005. Installation and maintenance of the server has been the responsibility of Locative Technologies in California, where the server is located. Thus alongside the Mumbai Freemap grew other kindred projects such as the London Freemap, Boston Freemap, and other efforts to demonstrate the potential of public geodata, open source GIS, and web mapping services. The availability of this server and the community of developers who shared their resources and expertise to voluntarily keep it running was absolutely crucial to our efforts in Mumbai, as well as to workshops which we held in 2007 and 2008 (see below).

Software Development

While the preceding section described our experience with processing data and web development, it also identified priority areas for tool development where we encountered obstacles in rendering the Mumbai Freemap dataset from CAD to GIS, and from GIS to the web. Broadly, new tools and enhancements of existing tools remain required to support a virtuous cycle in which non-technical individuals can create and edit geographic data in a central, global database, using a web-based graphical user interface; import geographic data gathered from external sources into same; and export collaboratively edited data into forms usable in other projects.

This section reports on our efforts to customize open source tools, and develop new software, based on our experience with data gathering and processing. Our software development efforts have been in two broad areas – tools for georeferencing both vector data as well as raster imagery such as scanned maps; and tools for OpenStreetMap by which we can export our basemap in shape files into OSM and render Indian languages within OSM. As of May 2009, work on the georeferencing tools has been substantially completed, whereas work on the OSM tools is ongoing and we expect to have a working prototype of these by July 2009.

OGRWarp: Vector Georeferencing

As mentioned already, Schuyler Erle wrote a custom script in Python called ogrwarp to assist in geoferencing imported shape files after the fact of their digitization in AutoCAD. Using the free and open source ogr2ogr and gdalwarp utilities in the GDAL (Geo-Data Abstraction Library) maintained by Frank Warmerdam, the ogrwarp tool we developed allowed us to match ground control points from geographic space from our GPS with the same locations in pixel space on our vector drawings. The tool would then “warp” the drawing into geographic space within a specified coordinate system using one of three transformations – linear warp, quadratic warp, or thin plate spline warp.

We have completed final development of this tool in early 2009 and continue to use it in refining the accuracy and quality of our GIS databases for Greater Mumbai and VVSR. More importantly, we can use it for doing after-the-fact georeferencing of other archived project drawings and maps in CRIT’s archives. While we have already discussed (above) the unconventionality of attempting to retrospectively georeference vector data, there is no doubt that this tool has wider application, if only as a way of unlocking vast archives of CAD maps, which have become a common solution in India and other parts of the developing world to the lack of free public maps or other GIS solutions.

In Mumbai and Maharashtra, AutoCAD still has a near total monopoly amongst engineers and planners in municipalities and state government – this is both because they have not invested in expensive and unsustainable proprietary workstations based on ArcGIS and because they are unaware of the emerging free and open source alternatives for making maps for planning, surveying and development. Similarly, we learned from a Freemap/OpenStreetMap workshop in the West Bank held in August 2008 led by Schuyler Erle and Mikel Maron that Palestinian engineers and architects also most commonly use AutoCAD for making their own maps of the Occupied Territories based on tracings of official maps.

While dwg2shp conversion is now simple and trivial (see above), vector warping still remains an exotic but necessary addition to the toolkit of citizen map-makers. With Schuyler Erle, we are currently in the process of packaging the ogrwarp tool for public release as open source software on our community server at

Freemap Warper: Raster Georeferencing

While the above description of our work on data processing and georeferencing was defined by the dilemmas of CAD to GIS conversion, it also revealed the limits of this approach, and the need to reorient our geodata production workflow within CRIT more drastically. Most crucially, after-the-fact georeferencing of imported CAD vector data was unsatisfactory for various reasons, and we needed a tool to replace AutoCAD at the primary stage of data creation – in the case of CRIT, tracing the original scanned plans and maps from which we created our digital drawings. Georeferencing the scanned maps before tracing the vectors on them is the “best practice” which we did not follow when we only knew CAD mapping.

With the aid of Schuyler Erle and Tim “Chippy” Waters in our Freemap Collective who led its development, and based on the free and open source gdalwarp libraries, in January 2009 we completed and launched a Freemap Warper at This web-based tool answered a crucial function missing from our geodata workflow. With it one can load a scanned map in jpeg, tiff, or png format into a dual pane, point-and-click interface, with the scanned image on one side and a web map of satellite imagery drawn from Google, or street maps from OSM, against which one can “rectify” the scanned map by identifying ground control points in common between the maps, and then “warp” and export the newly georeferenced map created from the scanned image.

Similar in function to ogrwarp for vector data, the source code for Freemap Warper was inspired by the GeoNames Warper developed by Chippy, which was later extended as the Map Rectifier by Schuyler, Chippy and Shekhar under a free software license for the New York Public Library in 2008-2009 – with the ultimate aim of developing a “crowdsourcing” platform for public georeferencing of scanned maps.

For our project’s purposes, this answered the problem of georeferencing the original scans of historical Bombay and contemporary Mumbai which CRIT has collected (see the Map Inventory in the Appendix for a full listing of our geodata repository). This includes the original sheets of the Development Plan for Greater Mumbai 1981-2001 from which the Mumbai Freemap was originally traced, as well as historical maps of the city and region produced by the Survey of India in 1919, 1945, and 1965. Using the Freemap Warper, in future projects CRIT is planning to undertake georeferencing and warping of imagery when can then be traced/digitized and its database annotated directly in QGIS, thus avoiding use of AutoCAD altogether and eliminating proprietary software from our geodata workflow. We are also currently in development of web-based Map Digitizer and Gazetteer using the open source GIS package GeoServer to do distributed digitization and annotation on the web.

OpenStreetMap Development

As mentioned in the Fulfilment of Objectives (above), with the emergence of OpenStreetMap at the same time as our project, we were increasingly convinced that OSM should become the final repository of our datasets, as it would relieve us of the burden of maintaining our own server infrastructure to host our base maps. More importantly, the growing OSM community of volunteer map-makers fit well with our founding vision of free and community data combined with free and open source software – and as OSM has grown, its own data formats and map rendering tools have become open and subject to development.

Given the outstanding coverage of the Mumbai Freemap and the level of detail it represented, there had been a longstanding desire to contribute to OSM – especially given the inaccurate and largely nonexistent coverage of the MMR in OSM right now. Therefore in early 2008, we decided to dedicate the project’s resources to assisting the OSM community in two main areas – developing tools for importing and loading geodata to and from OSM and localization of OSM rendering into Indian languages (to meet one of the key objectives of our original project).

To serve these fundamental goals, Indictrans will undertake the following work within the CRIT Community GIS Project, in order of priority:

  • Import of existing Mumbai Free Map data into OpenStreetMap (OSM), which will henceforth serve as the global repository of free and open geographic basemap of Mumbai for the purposes of the project.

  • Development of extensions to existing OSM rendering techniques (i.e. mapnik, osmarender) to fully support localisation of map tiles into Indian languages.

  • Development of Extract-Transform-Load (ETL) tools to support loading other ESRI Shapefile formatted data into the OpenStreetMap database.

  • Development of web-based tools for generating extracts of OpenStreetMap data in a variety of formats (e.g. SVG, ESRI Shapefile) suitable for use in other common end-user applications (e.g. Adobe Illustrator, AutoCAD, ArcGIS, GRASS).

  • Improvement and Indic localization of the Java OpenStreetMap Editor (JOSM) to facilitate use by non-technical and non-English-speaking individuals.

We eventually supplement the English names present in the OSM data set for Mumbai with their Hindi and/or Marathi counterparts. We also would like to enhance the current OSM tile rendering tools, Mapnik and Osmarender, to generate Indic language versions of the OSM tile set for local use. In July 2009 we hope to present some of this work alongside a new hybrid Mumbai OSM-Freemap demo at State of the Map 2009, the global OSM conference to be held in Amsterdam, which Shekhar Krishnan will attend along with several key members of the growing OpenStreetMap community in India.

OSM Extract-Transform-Load (ETL) Tools

The current state of the art in the OSM community with regard to mass import of external datasets is extremely fragmented, typically demanding intensive custom scripting tailored to each individual data set. A shp2osm tool – allowing import from ESRI standard shapefiles and geodatabases into OSM’s own .osm data format – would be a significant contribution to the growing open source OSM toolkit, and one which would potentially allow OSM to tremendously expand its coverage.

We hope that these tools will provide the basis for subsequent data imports of the Mumbai Freemap and other geodatasets of the MMR by CRIT into OSM, and for the generic tools to be contribution to the OpenStreetMap project at large. Our colleague Chris Schmidt – a key member of Freemap and coordinator of the Boston Freemap – has led the way with polyshp2osm script in Python and shp2osm script in Perl8 which, while catered towards Boston datasets, have formed the basis for our ongoing work. To facilitate the inclusion of further datasets, and to extend the state of the art in OSM mass import techniques, CRIT and the Freemap Collective are currently developing a generic Extract-Transform-Load framework for OSM in Python. The “OSMETL” framework will be developed approximately as follows:

  • Data Extraction: A class or set of classes for reading GIS data in a variety of formats will be created, using the Python OGR bindings from the GDAL project, a Free and Open library from OSGeo previously built for reading and writing standard GIS data formats.

  • Topology Creation: In the standard case where line strings will be read from a data set, a quadtree index of the line strings will be built, and then the intersections will be computed, to generate a topology from the original line geometries.

  • Attribute Mapping: A simple application-specific mapping language will be defined whereby combinations of attribute column and values in the original dataset are mapped to OSM key/value tags. The framework will employ a user-specified definition written in this language to generate a set of key/value tags for each node and line segment in the derived topology. If necessary, the framework will permit the use of a user-supplied Python module defining callbacks for computing tag values from a set of original attributes.

  • Reduction: For each set of lines and/or nodes sharing a common set of tags produced by the previous step, the framework will generate a description of an OSM “way” consisting of the constituent lines, nodes, and associated tags.

  • Export: Finally, the framework will output an OSM XML file, describing the ways and nodes generated by the previous steps. It will then be possible to load this output file into JOSM, resolve any conflicts with the existing OSM database, and then upload the result.

The framework will be designed in an object-oriented fashion, to make it possible to replace any of the steps of this process with custom code as needed. As of May 2009 our project team members Swapnil Hajare, Kanhaiya Kale and Arindam Ghosh are continuing work on OSMETL and Indic localization of OSM.


The software development we have undertaken on georeferencing and data extraction tools, and the web sites and services we have offered on the Freemap community server have all been key technical outputs and dissemination of the project. In our original proposal accepted by ADPIP/AMIC we had also proposed to organize workshops to further disseminate our work and help to build a community around the project.

Mumbai Freemap Workshop, January 2007

Our first workshop was held over three days from 12-14 January 2007 at the campus of Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE) at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai in January 2007 and was led by Schuyler Erle and Shekhar Krishnan from representing the Freemap initiative, and D. Nagarjuna of HBCSE. The workshop was co-sponsored by HBCSE, CRIT, the Freemap Collective, Free Software Foundation of India (FSF-I), the Gnowledge Project and the Srishti School of Art Design & Technology. 9

It was attended by over forty people – half from Mumbai and the rest from Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore, New Delhi and Ludhiana – including architects, software developers, teachers from engineering and science colleges, geographers and GIS scientists, and other enthusiasts who came to learn more about free and open source GIS and geospatial web development. Registration was free and open to the public whom we notified via email and through networks of GNU/Linux User Groups throughout the country. We attempted to cater to the different skill sets of a broad range of participants, both those with technical expertise as well as technological enthusiasts.

The objective of the workshop was to teach and guide participants through all the steps of producing an interactive spatial database and web map using open source GIS tools – essentially sharing our experiences with data gathering and processing and tools for GIS and web mapping from the Mumbai Freemap. We followed through this activity in stages and through groups in which participants volunteered based on their skills and interest: 1. Cartography, 2. GIS (Data Processing and Analysis), 3. Database (Design and Localization), 4. GPS (Hardware and Data Gathering), 5. Web Services.

The groups documented their work and experiments on and on the last day they presented their work to each other and we attempted to re-integrate their work into an overall understanding of the geospatial data workflow as well as the current state of the art in free and open source software tools and infrastructure. We wound up with a late-night hackers’ sprint in which workshop participants constructed a “Mumbai Mobile Mapping Unit” – a Linux laptop with a customized GSM/GPS chipset and scripts which published its location to the freemap server over mobile broadband, allowing the workshop participants track the location of the person or vehicle moving around Mumbai live in real time on the web and in QGIS.

The first workshop at HBCSE in January 2007 was judged to be a great success by everyone involved, and established networks which remain strong today. Through the workshop mailing list, the freemap wiki, and our community server space, we were able to include new developers into our project network. We were eager to establish groups with whom we can collaborate through hosting, mentoring and sharing of tools and skills. This first workshop to an expansion of our Freemap network with groups in Bangalore and Ludhiana.

Freemap India Workshops, February 2008

There was also significant demand for more such workshops in other parts of India over the rest of 2007. The first workshop focussed mostly on the technical infrastructure of GIS and web mapping, and introducing the open source GIS software stack – from spatial database management and analysis to geodata manipulation to geospatial web services and cartography design. Given the vast scope of the field, and the overly technical orientation it required of the participants, we hoped for future workshops to be more user-friendly and broadly pitched.

In this as in other areas described above, we turned to OpenStreetMap as our solution, and planned to organize a series of workshops with the explicit aim of seeding or growing OSM communities in Mumbai and other Indian cities. In February and March 2008, with the support of the Free Software Foundation of India (FSF-I), the OpenStreetMap Foundation, the Freemap Collective and CRIT, and other local partners and hosts, our members held an intense month-long workshop series called Freemap India 200810. These were held as one to three-day sessions in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Trivandrum, Calcutta, New Delhi and Ludhiana, and were attended by a wide spectrum of participants, from NGOs to college students to government officials.

Led by Schuyler Erle and Mikel Maron on a gruelling schedule over a single month in all these places, the workshops involved our project members with participants from the first workshop in Mumbai in 2007, many of whom hosted and supported the 2008 series in their own cities. Both workshops in 2007 and the series in 2008 were coordinated by D. Nagarjuna and supported by FSF-I. They would not have been possible without the support of local GNU/Linux groups and local volunteers and participating NGOs. While introducing the some of the technical innards of open source GIS, the wider objective of the workshops was to recruit local OpenStreetMap communities throughout India and train them in use of the OSM toolkit.

Judging by the growth of OSM in India in the past year11, the workshops were a great success in evangelizing open source GIS and OSM in India. The workshops reached several hundred people throughout India and many new young developers and organisations have since joined OSM, most notably in Chennai and Bangalore. In Mumbai, with the completion of Indic localization and the OSMETL tools (see above) we look forward to integrating CRIT’s own extensive datasets with the worldwide OSM geodatabase online, and subsequently relying on its infrastructure to power our future web mapping initiatives in Mumbai.

Assessment and Evaluation

As was noted in the introductory Project Background (see above), our project was plagued by significant delays in clearing and receiving the funds because of the Government of India’s delays in issuing FCRA prior permission to CRIT. Once CRIT finally received the funds from AMIC in September 2007 in Mumbai, our key software developers had moved out of the city to start a new company, and our main project coordinator began his PhD in the States, allowing him to return to Mumbai for only several months each year to direct the project. Due to lack of clarity regarding the projected timeline of the project in light of these delays, and the unavailability due to his medical condition of the project coordinator Shekhar Krishnan from September 2008 to March 2009 – we were unable to file this report, until we were notified of the closing of the project in May 2009.

While managing this work has been a challenge – and has been achieved through the generosity and support of the funders as well as many volunteers – in the four years of research and development which we have pursued, we are proud of what we have learned and accomplished. We knew very little about GIS or web development when we embarked on the project, and in both these fields we have built our capacities in CRIT and transformed our geodata production workflow. We have also disseminated this knowledge broadly through training, networking and evangelism.

CRIT is now connected to the state of the art in this field as well as closely networked with a global community of developers and volunteers who are building the geospatial web, especially through our network in the Freemap Collective and worldwide projects such as OpenStreetMap. Concretely, the substantial successes and “best practices” which we have embodied in this project are the following:

  • Development of the first truly free and public geodatabase for Greater Mumbai and Vasai-Virar Sub-Region of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region based on CRIT’s data gathering and mapping;

  • Development of the ogrwarp tool for georeferencing and warping imported vector data from CAD into GIS;

  • Launch of for georeferencing and warping scanned maps and raster data from scanned imagery into GIS;

  • Launch of Mumbai Freemap and Vasai Virar Freemap to disseminate CRIT’s datasets to the public, and applications to view and edit heritage and municipal information on the web;

  • Organizing of two workshop series in Mumbai and other cities in 2007-2008 and hosting of mapping projects and networking initiatives through the Freemap collective and community server.

Due to difficulties in project management and personnel changes over the term of the grant, even as the project is now closing, we are still at work on Indic localization for map rendering and the OSMETL tools described above. We plan to complete this work as well as new demos of the Mumbai and VVSR Freemap systems by July 2009, when we also plan to seek fresh funding for the project.

Appendix – Mumbai Map Archive and Layer Inventory

This inventory of data collected over the past several years is exhaustive, and contains three major sections. GIS Layers are georectified shape files containing mostly geometries exported from AutoCAD, with labels and other text attributes stored either in tables or as point layers. CAD Layers are datasets created from case studies of localities or regions in Mumbai which are in the process of being georectified and converted to shape files from their native dwg format. Raster Layers are maps scanned as high-resolution jpeg or tiff images.

These layers will eventually comprise a geodata repository indexed through the Mumbai Freemap. Everything listed here is either already in the public domain, are derivative works of public documents, or have been cleared for public redistribution online. Vectorised layers have in all cases been manually traced from publicly available development plans of the relevant authorities, and are derivative works produced by CRIT under contract with various government authorities and non-government organisations.

CRIT is now connected to the state of the art in this field as well as closely networked with a global community of developers and volunteers who are building the geospatial web, especially through our network in the Freemap Collective and worldwide projects such as OpenStreetMap. Concretely, the substantial successes and “best practices” which we have embodied in this project are the following:

  • Development of the first truly free and public geodatabase for Greater Mumbai and Vasai-Virar Sub-Region of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region based on CRIT’s data gathering and mapping;

  • Development of the ogrwarp tool for georeferencing and warping imported vector data from CAD into GIS;

  • Launch of for georeferencing and warping scanned maps and raster data from scanned imagery into GIS;

  • Launch of Mumbai Freemap and Vasai Virar Freemap to disseminate CRIT’s datasets to the public, and applications to view and edit heritage and municipal information on the web;

  • Organizing of two workshop series in Mumbai and other cities in 2007-2008 and hosting of mapping projects and networking initiatives through the Freemap collective and community server.

Due to difficulties in project management and personnel changes over the term of the grant, even as the project is now closing, we are still at work on Indic localization for map rendering and the OSMETL tools described above. We plan to complete this work as well as new demos of the Mumbai and VVSR Freemap systems by July 2009, when we also plan to seek fresh funding for the project.

GIS Layers

1.1. Greater Mumbai Development Plan (1981-2001)

These shape files were sources from tracings of the development plan for all of Greater Mumbai, the area covered by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) Development Plan. Originally created without reference to geographical accuracy, imported from AutoCAD dwg format into shape files using the OpenDWG libraries and the freeware CAD2Shape converter, were subsequently geo-referenced with ground control points collected from GPS receivers, and geo-rectified by warping the vector imagery.

1.1.1.    Buildings

1.1.2.    Plan Reservations

1.1.3.    Footprints

1.1.4.    Railway

1.1.5.    Highway

1.1.6.    Roads

1.1.7.    Water

1.2. Vasai-Virar Sub-Region (VVSR) Plan and Heritage Property Demaracation

These shape files were traced by members of CRIT as part of an ongoing project funded by the Heritage Conservation Society of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) from various sources.

1.2.1.    VVSR Boundary

1.2.2.    Municipal Boundary

1.2.3.    Village Boundary

1.2.4.    Water Bodies

1.2.5.    Streams

1.2.6.    Topography

1.2.7.    Heritage Demarcation

1.2.8.    Major Roads

1.2.9.    Highways

CAD Layers

2.1.    Mumbai Metropolitan Region Boundaries

2.2.    Historical Development of Mumbai 

2.3.    Bandra Reclamation

2.4.    Dadar-Matunga 

2.5.    D Ward Inner City

2.6.    P Ward Western Suburbs

2.7.    Mill Lands

Raster Imagery: Scanned Plans

3.1. Government of Maharashtra Electoral Commission Ward Maps

Greater Mumbai electoral wards, with maps for every municipal ward, each of which contains several corporator constituencies within each ward boundary. These originally hand-drawn and labelled maps were scanned by PRAJA from the Maharashtra Electoral Commission and shared with CRIT by Yazad Jal. They are most useful in that they contain the boundaries for municipal wards as well as individual corporator constituencies for elected members of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai.

3.1.1-9.     Island City

3.1.1. A Ward

3.1.2. B Ward

3.1.3. C Ward

3.1.4. D Ward

3.1.5. E Ward

3.1.6. F North Ward

3.1.7. F South Ward

3.1.8. G North Ward

3.1.9. G South Ward

3.1.10-24. Suburban Mumbai

3.1.10. H East Ward

3.1.11. H West Ward

3.1.12. K East Ward

3.1.13. K West Ward

3.1.14. L Ward

3.1.15. M East Ward

3.1.16. M West Ward

3.1.17. N Ward

3.1.18. P North Ward

3.1.19. P South Ward

3.1.20. R North Ward

3.1.21. R Central Ward

3.1.22. R South Ward

3.1.23. S Ward

3.1.24. T Ward

3.2. Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation Development Plan Sheets 1981-2001

These are the original scanned development plan sheets from which the above GIS layers in 1.1. have been traced and labelled, and which were later georectified into shape files. The original scans indicate more cartographic detail than is contained in the layers now in 1.1, and due to the lack of closed polygons in AutoCAD, the development plan reservations for plots and areas and their classifications were not fully retained. Therefore these sheets may be useful in correcting the 1.1 layers. NOTE that right now we only have complete sheets for the Island City (A through G Wards).

3.2.1.   A Ward    A Ward Part 1    A Ward Part 2    A Ward Part 3    A Ward Part 4

3.2.2.   B Ward (Single Sheet)

3.2.3.   C Ward (Single Sheet)

3.2.4.   D Ward    D Ward Part 1    D Ward Part 2    D Ward Part 3

3.2.5.   E Ward (Parts 1-4)

3.2.6.   F North Ward (Parts 1-7)

3.2.7.   F South Ward (Parts 1-5)

3.2.8.   G North Ward (Parts 1-5)

3.2.9.   G South Ward (Parts 1-5)

Raster Imagery: Scanned Historical Maps

4.1. 1919 Bombay City Survey Sheets

Scale: 1 : 4,800

These are very high resolution TIFF files of the wartime city survey conducted between 1916-1918 and published by the Survey of India in 1919. They were scanned by Chris Winters at the Regenstein Library of the University of Chicago and shared with Shekhar Krishnan in 2007.

4.1.1.    Sheet 1

4.1.2.    Sheet 2

4.1.3.    Sheet 3

4.1.4.    Sheets 4 & 5

4.1.5.    Sheet 6

4.1.6.    Sheet 7

4.1.7.    Sheet 8

4.1.8.    Sheet 9

4.1.10.  Sheet 10

4.1.11.  Sheets 11 & 12

4.2. 1933-1965 Bombay City Guide Maps

These are high resolution TIFF files of City Guide Maps of the Island City, Salsette Island (Bombay Suburban District) and Bombay Harbour, published by the Survey of India. They were scanned by the Regenstein Library of the University of Chicago and shared with Shekhar Krishnan by Professor Carol Breckenridge.

4.2.1.   City, Suburban, Colaba and Thana Districts 1926

Scale 1:63,360 covering Bombay Harbour, Uran and Alibaug

4.2.2.   City, Suburban and Thana Districts 1926

Scale 1:63,360 covering the Northern Island City and South Salsette District

4.2.3.   Island City Guide Map 1933 

Scale 1:25,000 covering the Bombay City Survey from 1922-193

4.2.4.   Island City Guide Map 1969

Scale 1:25,000 covering the Bombay City Survey from 1962-1964

1In spite of being free and open source, GRASS remains legendarily difficult to use and requires knowledge of a command-line interface. Therefore in our studio in Mumbai we have since opted to use a Windows-based utility available as shareware online from Guthrie Software called CAD2Shape, which performs the same function of importing .dwg files into shapefiles and is also compiled from the opendwg libraries.

2Initially using UTM 43 North in which Mumbai falls, and later WGS-84 which is the global standard projection used by other geospatial web services such as OSM and Google Earth.

3This process was attempted at repeated at the Limehouse Town Hall Map Room with the assistance of Schuyler Erle using GRASS in 2005-2006, and at the GIS Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the help of Lisa Sweeney in 2008-2009.

4Due to the expiry of our hosting arrangement for the Freemap community server, will remain offline until June 2009 when we upgrade our now-three year old system and renew our hosting.

5While the freemap server is offline, ongoing work on the Mumbai Freemap is at and the VVSR Freemap heritage information system may be seen at

6For a full technical report of how we completed this process, see e


9See for the full detailed program, names of participants, and extensive documentation of the workshop.



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