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Google’s historical satellite images for India disappeared

Google’s historical satellite images for India disappeared

Many scholars and researchers have noted that satellite historical imagery of India over the past two decades has disappeared from Google Earth. This service is relied upon to track changes in topography, forest cover, urbanization, and history. Although satellite imagery from 2020 is still available for certain locations in India, the difference is stark when comparing it to the scrubbed clean historical imagery of Amritsar. Surprisingly, Lahore, Pakistan, which is only 50 km away, still has historical imagery available from the past few decades.

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Google’s historical satellite images for India disappeared: Key Points

  • When questioned about the disappearance of historical data, a spokesperson for Google stated that the company is reprocessing some of the historical imagery in the Historic Image database of Google Earth Pro 7 and will make it available again later this year.
  • However, questions about whether this disappearance of data is linked to policy norms or a government of India diktat remain unanswered.
  • Historical satellite imagery has become an essential resource, as it helps track changes in the landscape.
  • The disappearance of lakes, encroachments on water bodies, and even civic projects, such as the Secretariat in Hyderabad, or changes in New Delhi due to the new Parliament building, can be seen in sharp relief in the historical data.
  • Many users of the free online mapping service have expressed their concern about the disappearance of high-res images that used to be available back to the year 2000.

The Union Cabinet has approved a ‘National Geospatial Policy-2022,’ noting that geospatial data is now widely accepted as a critical national infrastructure and information resource with proven societal, economic, and environmental value. Among the policy’s goals is the creation of an enabling ecosystem for Indian companies that will allow them to make India self-reliant in producing and using their own geospatial data/information and compete with foreign companies in the global space.

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