Google historical satellite images for India disappeared

Google historical satellite images for India disappeared

Google Earth no longer displays historical satellite images of India from the previous two decades. Many academics and researchers that use the service to study changes in topography, forest cover, urbanisation, and history have taken note of this.

Only areas in India have access to satellite imagery from 2020. The contrast between Lahore, Pakistan, which is roughly 50 km away, and Amritsar, India, where historical satellite imagery from the past few decades is available, is glaring.

Google historical satellite images for India disappeared
Google historical satellite images for India disappeared

When this writer contacted Google, a spokeswoman responded, “We are reprocessing some of our historical imagery in the Historic Image database of Google Earth Pro 7, and plan to make imagery available again later this year.” Questions about whether this data loss is related to policy standards or diktat from the Indian government, however, were unanswered.

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The historical imagery is still present in Pakistan, although it appears to be limited to India. I had intended to continue on my research during the summer, and comparing photos from year to year allows me to spot things that you might not notice while out and about at a particular moment.

According to Robert Simpkins, an anthropology professor at Porterville College who has conducted in-depth research on Hyderabad’s history, the picture from specific years — pre-2020 is occasionally significantly better than what is currently available.

Due to its ability to monitor changes in the terrain, historical satellite imagery has emerged as a valuable resource. The historical data puts the elimination of lakes, encroachments on water bodies, and even municipal initiatives like the Hyderabad Secretariat or the changes in New Delhi brought on by the new Parliament building into stark relief.

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“In my neighbourhood, high-resolution photographs dating all the way back to the year 2000 were once readily available. They’re all gone now. It’s okay if they’re trying to “remaster” them for more clarity. But if they entirely removed it as a result of a government directive or because of outdated photographs that revealed information the government didn’t want us to view, that’s just unfair, said another user of the free online mapping tool.

‘National Geospatial Policy-2022’ was approved by the Union Cabinet, which noted that “Geospatial data is now widely accepted as a critical national infrastructure and information resource with proven societal, economic, and environmental value that enables government systems and services, as well as sustainable national development initiatives, to be integrated using ‘location’ as a common and underpinning reference frame.”

The establishment of a supportive environment for “Indian Companies that will enable them to make India self-reliant in producing and using their own Geospatial data/information as well as compete with foreign companies in the global space” is one of the policy objectives.

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