Student develops low-cost disaster management tool25/05/2015
Vini Indriasari – a lecturer from the Universitas Pembangunan Nasional Veteran Jakarta (UPNVJ) and PhD student in Geospatial Information Sciences at the University of Texas (UT) at Dallas – worked with a team of geoscientists and civil engineers to develop a low-cost inundation mapping tool, that aims to help governments respond to floods and dam breaks in the most efficient way possible.
Ms Indriasari reveals the exciting details of how her team’s award-winning project came about and her plans to give back to her local community.
Can you explain what your project was about?
My team and I developed a tool called “iSIM” (Integrated Simplified Inundation Mapping) for dam breach inundation mapping. Essentially, the tool simulates where the water will go in the case of a dam break, and which areas will be under water.
It was designed to provide organisations with a low-cost automated method for creating dam breach inundation maps for use in emergency action plans for small and intermediate-sized dams.
By placing this information into the hands of first responders and decision-makers, they can plan and respond to floods and dam breaks in the most efficient way possible.
What were the GIS tools you and your team used?
Our tool combines ArcGIS and HEC-RAS (Hydrologic Engineering Center- River Analysis System) to create geometry data and determine flow rate data for the inputs of the simulation, run the simulation, and create floodplain maps derived from the simulation outputs. The whole process is automated using ArcPy.
As a GIS programmer, my contribution to the team was in the automation process of creating the geometry data. This data includes the stream centerline downstream of a dam and cross-section lines along the stream.
The cross-section lines provide topographical profiles around the stream, such as elevation and surface roughness, which are necessary to calculate water level.
What was the most challenging part of the project and how did you and the team overcome it?
The team’s goal was to tie separate tools needed for dam breach inundation mapping into a single tool with Python, and automate the whole process from start to finish.
The team identified several options for creating geometry data, such as using GeoRAS (GeoRiver analysis System) and ArcHydro. Our bottleneck at that time was that not all tools could run programmatically with Python, and thus the data creation process could not be automated.
Moreover, HEC-RAS had a set of very complex rules for geometry data and even using GeoRAS and ArcHydro cannot guarantee the data to conform to these rules.
To cite an example, the rules say that cross-section lines cannot cross each other and cannot cross the stream at multiple locations, which may occur in a meandering stream. This was the hardest part to handle in the automation process.
As a solution, I invented a technique to create geometry data using ArcPy that can ensure all hydraulic calculation rules are satisfied, especially for cross-section lines.
At first, the whole team worked together to find solutions to address this particular challege. We shared ideas and tried several approaches, but I was eventually the one who was able to come up with the final solution.
My technique involved several steps on computational geometry. I wrote a paper with Dr. Bryan Chastain, our project lead, describing the theoretical concepts that underlie my technique, and the paper is currently in review. With my technique, we were finally able to proceed and complete our project.
What was the most unforgettable part of the experience?
Working with the team at UT-Dallas was an unforgettable experience for me.
Not only was I given an opportunity to work closely with a group of experts from different countries, but I also gained friends and valuable learnings, which I can bring and apply once I return to Indonesia.
What are your plans upon returning to Indonesia?
I will return to work as a lecturer at the Universitas Pembangunan Nasional Veteran Jakarta (UPNVJ). I plan to grow GIS activities in this institution, and propose the opening of a new GIS program for post-graduate level studies, and a GIS research centre to help nurture the talent of tomorrow.
I also want to give back to my country by applying my knowledge and specialty in GIS in areas that affect the community. UPNVJ has a mission to use GIS for defence and intelligence applications due to their close association with the Ministry of Defense. We can potentially come up with GIS tools to improve public safety in communities.
Furthermore, my greatest desire is to apply GIS to natural resource management. To achieve my goal, I will attempt to collaborate with people from various institutions to promote the implementation of GIS to help them achieve sustainable outcomes.
In your point of view, why is GIS an important area of study?
GIS technology can play an important role in helping us better manage and sustain our cities and communities. From agriculture, health, mining, retail, utilities, public safety – GIS technology is becoming more pervasive now than ever before. It’s helping organisations around the world improve their work, facilitate transparency and accountability, and even engage citizens.
My specialisation is in spatial optimisation, a subject that concerns designing algorithms to maximise profits or services, and minimise costs or damages, in spatial problems. If this approach is implemented by governments and industries, I believe the benefits will be greatly felt by all Indonesians.