Sustainable City
Volunteered Geographic Information

Sustainable City VGO

© Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom

Many citizens still remember the few hours that phone lines were locked and people's access to each other was cut off after the 5.8 magnitude Istanbul earthquake in 2019. A similar process was unfortunately experienced in the Izmir earthquake in 2020 has recalled the questions that have been asked for years about access to information and data after the disaster. Forest fires in the summer of 2021 has again showed how much making incisive decisions and organizing necessary resources depends on the data flow between the disaster area and the center and the help of volunteer networks.

Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) has been working on “Supporting Sustainable Cities” since 2016 with the support of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. Within this framework, Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) for Sustainable Cities project that started in 2022 questions how a process can be designed to allow the free flow of local information and with the voluntary participation of communities in disaster management.

Being able to make quick and accurate decisions after an earthquake is directly related to the preparations made before the disaster. For this reason, project sets out with the assumption that technology will not work after a disaster and makes a new proposal for mapping, especially housing stock, with using only paper and pencil. In the mapathon, organized in partnership with TESEV and Yer Çizenler Mapping for Everyone Association, we worked on the completion of the Open Street Map base maps of Hasanpaşa, Eğitim and Fikirtepe neighborhoods in Istanbul Kadıköy. In the event that disaster volunteers from Kadıköy mainly attended, we talked about both the project and the use of open-source tools to managing disasters such as Open Street Map (OSM).

Open Source Data and Volunteer Network in Disaster Management

 “The Open Street Map (OSM) provides a network of volunteers and data that you can quickly access for mapping before or after a disaster,” says Hüseyin Can Ünen while underlining that these maps, which can be viewed and edited online for free, can provide a base even when there is no internet connection. Therefore, drawings made with satellite images by volunteers from different corners of the world can be detailed again with volunteer work in the field at the neighborhood scale. For example, the building base maps completed by OSM network after the Izmir earthquake can be detailed again by volunteers with field papers method that only needs paper and pencil. This makes it possible to determine how durable a building is before the earthquake, while after the earthquake the demolished buildings therefore, the help needed can be mapped.

In the next phase of the Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) for Sustainable Cities project, field studies will be carried out in two neighborhoods of Istanbul by TESEV and Yer Çizenler with the help of volunteers by using OSM base maps. Mapping studies will be carried out by using field papers technology with the help of MAGAME (Neighborhood Disaster Volunteers Emergency Response Association) and TRAC in the neighborhoods of Caferağa in Kadıköy and Gümüşpala in Avcılar.

Open-Source Mapping for Disaster Preparedness: Field Study with Bodrum Disaster Volunteers

According to the evaluation report published by the Muğla General Directorate of Forestry, in 2021, and 52219.50 hectares of land burned with 369 forest fires across the province. While this number is 815,192 hectares with 329 fires in 2020, the number drops to 302 fires in 2019. This shows that the increase of forest fires as well as wider fire zones because of delayed response due to flames that broke out at the same time.

Muğla's Bodrum district is one of the places that is in danger of fire and corporates with volunteers on this issue. The district is also working on earthquake preparedness. It can be thought that the 6.6 earthquake and flood experienced in 2017 accelerated these studies. Bodrum Municipality and Bodrum MAGAME (Neighborhood Disaster Volunteers Emergency Response Team) is working to be prepared for all disasters. For this reason, within the scope of the Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) for Sustainable Cities project, a study was carried out in Bodrum by the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) and Yer Çizenler Mapping for Everyone Association, in order to both get information about their efforts and organize a workshop on new tools that can be used.

Bodrum Municipality in Disaster Coordination

Bodrum Municipality was visited first in order to learn about disaster measures and coordination studies and to give information about the project. Emphasizing that Bodrum has 11 centers, Executive Assistant Çağdaş Uyar stated that communication between these centers is necessary for disaster coordination, but also one of the biggest challenges, due to district’s topographic structure and road networks. Underlining the necessity of a volunteer network in order to provide communication with the districts in cases such as earthquakes, fires and floods, Çağdaş Uyar also stated that the tools that will provide the communication between these networks are also important.

Bodrum Municipality IT Directorate is working on a disaster coordination center project for similar purposes. Director of Information Technologies Kaan Yorga states that if the center, of which volunteers and non-governmental organizations are a part, is completed, the effects of disasters in Bodrum will be reduced and it will set an example for other municipalities. The project process continues.

Bodrum Disaster Workshop
© Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom

Mapping Workshop with Bodrum Volunteer Network

As part of the study trip, a workshop was held with Bodrum MAGAME in the Umurça Park Nazım Hikmet Library. Orkut Murat Yılmaz and Eray Öztürk from the Yer Çizenler Mapping for Everyone Association gave information about open source and free software mapping interfaces within the scope of the workshop. They also exemplified how these tools can be used in case of a disaster. In this context, Umurça Park base maps which is an emergency assembly area that does not have data on OSM, were first completed by participants from the neighborhood disaster volunteers. Field Papers maps were prepared, and volunteers did a field study to complete the data.

Volunteers, who mapped the road, court and other details of the park using paper and pencil during the fieldwork, transferred this data to OSM base maps after the field study was completed. In addition, volunteers stated that this method could be used especially to mark the roads they use in the fire and to share with other volunteers or to develop alternative transportation routes to the roads deteriorated in the earthquake.

Umurça Park data, which is one of the activity outputs, can be viewed on OSM. Within the scope of the project, a similar workshop will be held in Istanbul by TESEV and Yer Çizenler Mapping for Everyone Association.

Bodrum Disaster Worskhop 2
© Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom