The following discussion is an excerpt from our December 2016 submission to the World Bank Big Data Innovation Challenge. We trust it provides some more detail around the mission of ChennaiFloodManagement.org.
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ChennaiFloodManagement.org provides an online collaboration platform for citizens, engineers, property developers and Government organisations to develop coordinated, sustainable solutions to the city’s flood challenges.
We recognise that sustainably developing a city to manage flood risk requires a transparent, data-driven and adaptive approach. We make big data easily available, provide cloud-based open source flood modelling tools, and a transparent reporting portal for communication of results.
This allows us to break down the contractual silos that can limit individual projects. It enables mobile, social, satellite and internet-of-things data sources to integrate into the “best available” data for transparent, resilient, sophisticated decision making.
Flooding is a global challenge causing significant economic damage and loss of life each year. As urban populations increase, and our climate changes, the economic impacts of flooding are increasing significantly.
We selected Chennai as the city to prototype our collaborative flood management solutions because it has a significant flood management challenge that is typical of cities around the world. Flood impacts occur in Chennai because:
We aim to address this by providing a transparent, defensible and data-rich environment for these calculations to be undertaken online, reducing approvals risk and cost (where appropriate) and saving developers money on expensive, often conflicting consulting engineers advice.
ChennaiFloodManagement.org is a web application made up of three components. It currently runs on Amazon Web Services’ cloud infrastructure.
Component 1 - A content management system for geospatial, social and IoT data.
We use the open-source Geonode geospatial content management system to ingest, track and integrate our geospatial data.
This software has benefited from significant World Bank contributions over the years, and provides a well-developed and tested framework. This is where we store and serve data over the internet using Geoserver to allow ourselves and other users access to consistent, up-to-date datasets.
Component 2 - A calculation platform to turn this data into online, agile flood maps and flood warning systems. We use the open-source hydraulic model ANUGA to calculate flood maps from the terrain and rainfall inputs. The hydraulic model code is open source, and available online at http://github.com/Hydrata/ChennaiFloodModel. Contributions to improve the accuracy of the model can be made from anyone around the world, using GitHub’s collaboration tooling.
ANUGA is connected to Geonode through a custom developed web interface, allowing users to run the ANUGA hydraulic models on Hydrata’s Amazon computing cloud. Results are stored back in Geonode.
Component 3 - A publication platform to publish and update results.
We use the open-source Django CMS content management system to produce online, collaborative text reporting. We integrate the geospatial data inputs and flood result outputs into these reports using a custom-written plugin for Django-CMS, available as open source on Hydrata’s GitHub page here - https://github.com/Hydrata/geonode_cms_map. This platform allows us to coordinate all the work, data and results into a single Flood Management Plan, available here:
(Apologies for the jargon in this paragraph...) The platform is build using a DevOps approach, and new instances of the entire system architecture can be automatically created within an hour. We maintain our source code in GitHub, and create our servers using Vagrant. We utilise AWS tools to provide automated system data backup and restore capability.
Our incorporation of Django-CMS means we can create a template of our application to roll out to any city in the world, with site-specific data and content uploaded and edited by users in that city. This provides an inherently scalable platform where we can create custom sites for many cities, but still roll out software updates to all these sites in a consistent, maintainable, reproducible manner.
The long-term financial viability of our solution depends on providing value for those who have a commercial benefit from accurate flood data. Potential commercial funding sources include
Experiments to understand and validate the market requirements for each of these business models are ongoing.
ChennaiFloodManagement.org has been operating as a geospatial data store and reporting platform since June 2016. We have hosted reports and datasets from Non-Government Organisations, including
One theme consistently emerged from these data management exercises. To gain sustainable traction for the project, we needed a form of online flood mapping. Flood maps are, by far, the most requested feature.
Based on this feedback we worked to incorporate a hydraulic model into our application, with the aim of providing flood maps that can be calculated on-demand, and easily updated as new information, such as stormwater infrastructure surveys, new building footprints, landuse data or terrain data, becomes available. We published our first low-resolution outputs from this model on October 5, 2016.
We are currently in the process of collecting the additional terrain, rainfall and infrastructure data required to improve the accuracy and resolution of this flood map product.
Shortly, we will push two more features into a validation phase:
Development of ChennaiFloodManagement.org uses an agile project management approach, together with lean start-up techniques to validate our assumptions.
Our solution currently utilises
Our computing infrastructure and flood models are built and ready to ingest remote sensing products such as
We are currently working to negotiate appropriate access to these valuable sources.
Our flood mapping solution uses the ANUGA finite-element solution to the shallow-water equations to produce flood mapping. The model outputs are at the same resolution as the terrain data we feed in. However, the model accuracy is very dependent on having high-resolution terrain data that recognises the ground features that can control flooding in an urban environment – roads, buildings, channels and gutters.
The ANUGA code can be run on multiple AWS computers, in parallel, to reduce run times for high-resolutions models from weeks to down to hours.
ChennaiFloodManagement.org has been designed from the ground up to uniquely play a role that no existing organisation can fully cover. Existing flood management solutions rely on a professional services provider entering a contract with a client. This creates silos, both culturally and contractually, and results in a data environment where:
By acting as an independent third party, ChennaiFloodManagement.org can play a facilitator role and add value to these various data sources, whilst still requiring the end-user to be responsible for their use-case.
Because our solutions are provided through a web-application, we can scale up our methodologies in a manner that a traditional engineering consultancy could not. By keeping our input data, calculations and outputs online and in version control, our solutions can evolve over time into accurate, trusted assets for a city.
This contrasts with the traditional static PDF style reporting from a traditional consultancy service provider. These PDF documents are difficult to build upon, and expensive to update, particularly once the service provider’s contract is finished.
Partnerships with government
It is vitally important that the information we manage is coordinated with, and beneficial to, government at all scales. We aim to supplement government efforts with results and data that would not typically be collected by government, and develop an effective synergistic approach.
We have significant interest from highly qualified volunteers around Chennai, India and the world, who would like to donate their time and expertise. Feedback from these volunteers is that we need to show on-ground results and action by government to make their contribution worthwhile.
Access to data with appropriate licencing
A key factor for this project’s success is access to quality terrain and rainfall data, largely held by Indian government agencies. Open data policies in India are becoming stronger, however it is currently a time-consuming challenge to access the data sets we to provide value. By coordinating with Government and demonstrating the value and benefits of this project, we anticipate these access issues will decrease.
Marketing and training
Citizen data contributions such as those through Twitter, and potential citizen data uses, such as using our flood maps to inform a property purchase decision, require us to understand exactly how citizens will interact with our project. We would like to run a series of workshops throughout Chennai. These workshops would allow us to evolve our product in an appropriate manner and ensure we are providing the right advice in the right format. We are currently seeking a funding source for these workshops.