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Mapping

The town of Fazilka comes of age The citizens of Fazilka, an Indian town close to Pakistan, embarked on a novel mission of preparing a digital map with an aim of promoting their town and bringing back its glorious days, Beyniaz Edulji speaks to some of the residents to know how they went about their passion

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ver heard of Fazilka? The chances are low. This sleepy little town with a population of a lakh may not be on everyone’s lips, but it has its own identity and uniqueness. Not so long ago, Fazilka was in the thick of the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars. Situated just 11 km from the border with Pakistan, it had its fair share of fame and glory. Today, however Fazilka’s inhabitants pass their days without much fuss leaving behind the glorious days. But some citizens of Fazilka, especially the Graduates Welfare Association Fazilka (GWAF), had other ideas. They were not content by the fact that their town was fading away in the pages of history. They wanted to put Fazilka back on the map and what better way than come up with a digital map. The GWAF and Guru Nanak Dev Engineering College (GNDEC), Ludhiana came together to develop the map under the Openstreet Map ���������������������������������� software and the service for the project.

There is more to Fazilka There is more to Fazilka than meets the eye says one of the members of GWAF. Our town is just 14 km from the border 28 | geospatial TODAY june 2011

Ghantaghar (clock tower) the most famous icon of Fazilka.


Raghuvar Bhawan

Railway Station

Goal Kothi

Places to see in Fazilka.

post of Sadqi. If one wants to witness the jingoistic retreat ceremony, where the Border Security Force from our side and Pakistan Rangers display their skills with gusto, you may as well do that, but before that a visit to the famous Ghantaghar (clock tower) is a must. Vinod Kumar Jangira, Director, Geeta Softech says, “This project of digital mapping was expressly started to put the city of Fazilka on the world tourist map.” The 165-year-old historical town is also known as Bangla. There were no maps available and people from other parts of India and the world just did not know enough about their township. Fazilka is famous for its handmade footwear (jutti), and sweet meat Tosha both of which are indigenous. Vinod says, “People should know about Fazilka. They will do so once the maps are ready within a few days’ time.” As a part of the project, a mapping party was held on April 16, 2011. Geeta Softech was the local host for the map party at Fazilka. The day started with an introduction on Digital Mapping and GPS devices. Field data was collected, web-based maps were made and views were exchanged.

This was followed by a discussion on mapping and editing. The unique part of the project is that people from diverse ������������������������������ landmarks, eating places and and ������������������������������� using GPS. Draftsmen, students of engineering and architecture, members of the Defence services and farmers, or simply map lovers actively participated in the project. Those who did not own a GPS or laptop computer were given GPS units on loan. Rajvinder Kaur, a resident of Fazilka says, “Our town is unique and it needs to be projected. It not only has historical importance but has tremendous potential for tourism.” Fazilka will gain importance within the next few years due to

OpenStreetMap OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a mapping project that bases itself on the idea of collaboration. The project, which is inspired by the concept of Wikipedia, allows anybody to contribute, edit and use the maps. Local knowledge plays a key role. The maps are created using data from portable GPS devices, aerial photography, other free sources. OpenStreetMap (OSM) was founded in July 2004 by Steve Coast. In 2006, the OpenStreetMap Foundation (OSMF) was formed with the aim of providing free geospatial data for anybody to use and share. By the end of 2009, OSM had more than 200,000 registered contributors.

the Tapi Gas Project which has a 1,735 km long pipeline laid from Turkmenistan to Multan that will end at Fazilka. With the second largest TV tower in Asia and a major rice exporting centre, Fazilka is all set to regain its past glory. There are only three joint check posts (Wagah in Amritsar, and Hussainiwala in Ferozepur district are the two others) where a retreat ceremony is performed by the Border Security Force and the Pakistan Rangers. The Asafwala War Memorial nearby was built in memory of the soldiers of the 1971 IndoPak war. With a digitised map, Fazilka and its citizens are ready to map a story of success and put it back to where it belongs. This initiative not only helps the people to be proud of their town, but also helps the government in undertaking development programmes. The Fazilka story is bound to ���������������������������������� places as well and with modern technology and the internet available in every nook and corner of the country, in times to come we would surely hear more initiatives from citizens of other towns going for mapping their regions. For now, it’s Fazilka that is in the limelight. june 2011 geospatial TODAY | 29


The town of Fazilka comes of age