Feel the freeze

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

Of­fi­cials in one of In­dia’s fastest grow­ing cities are us­ing un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles to up­date land records in a pi­lot project that could be rolled out across the coun­try if rules gov­ern­ing the use of drones were sim­pler, au­thor­i­ties said.

Haryana state’s Project Udaan, or flight, is map­ping the tech­nol­ogy hub of Gur­gaon, a satel­lite town of Delhi, and the towns of Sohna and Mane­sar in north­ern In­dia.

The drone images are be­ing used to up­date decades-old land records, check en­croach­ments and re­solve dis­putes over land and prop­erty.

“While land records are meant to be up­dated ev­ery five years, this is not done reg­u­larly and there are in­vari­ably er­rors, even with satel­lite im­agery,” said T.L. Satyaprakash, deputy com­mis­sioner in Gur­gaon.

“That is why we are us­ing drones, as they are more pre­cise. So we can ver­ify and rec­tify the land records be­fore they are dig­i­tized,” he said.

will be in­vested in the five-year sur­vey­ing project by the In­dian gov­ern­ment. Vis­i­tors watch as mem­bers of a lo­cal win­ter swim­mers club pour buck­ets of cold wa­ter over their daugh­ters, 7-year-old Liza Brover­man and 2-year-old Alisa Smag­ina, dur­ing a cel­e­bra­tion of Po­lar Bear Day at the Royev Ruchey zoo in Kras­no­yarsk, Rus­sia, where the air tem­per­a­ture fell to -5 C.

In­dia has em­barked on a land record mod­ern­iza­tion pro­gram to sur­vey land, up­grade records and es­tab­lish own­er­ship. The project is sched­uled to con­clude in 2021 at a cost of 110 bil­lion ru­pees ($1.6 bil­lion).

De­lays in map­ping land and au­then­ti­cat­ing own­er­ship have caused dis­putes that stall de­vel­op­ment projects, spark­ing lengthy court bat­tles. Mat­ters re­lated to land and prop­erty make up about two thirds of all civil cases in In­dia, ac­cord­ing to Daksh, a le­gal ad­vo­cacy group based in Ben­galuru.

Haryana state of­fi­cials sourced drones from Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Park in Pune to take high-res­o­lu­tion images ev­ery three months to record bound­aries, il­le­gal con­struc­tions and en­croach­ments of forests and pub­lic land, Satyaprakash said.

Th­ese images were then checked against ex­ist­ing land records and ver­i­fied with vil­lage coun­cils in ru­ral ar­eas be­fore be­ing up­dated, said R.S. Hooda, chief en­gi­neer at Haryana Space Ap­pli­ca­tions Cen­ter, which is also work­ing on the project.

“This project can be repli­cated else­where quite eas­ily, but the guide­lines for drone use are rather strict, in­clud­ing where they can fly, so their use is lim­ited,” he said.

Rules gov­ern­ing UAVs dif­fer in ev­ery state, with per­mis­sion needed from lo­cal po­lice and the De­fense Min­istry.

“It is a chal­lenge — if it were a lit­tle eas­ier to use drones, we can map more ar­eas quickly. We can do so much more in land-re­lated mat­ters with drones,” Hooda said.

At first glance, Mashvi­sor is just one of thousands of web­sites spe­cial­iz­ing in United States real es­tate.

But it has a unique fea­ture, un­de­tectable to cus­tomers: its de­sign­ers cre­ated it in the West Bank and it is run from the Is­rael-oc­cu­pied Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory.

“The great thing about a startup is you can work on it any­where in the world. You can be in Pales­tine, you can be in Cam­bo­dia, Viet­nam, China. It doesn’t mat­ter,” ex­plains Peter Abu al-Zolof, who co-founded Mashvi­sor more than a year ago.

Last week, Mashvi­sor be­came the first Pales­tinian com­pany to get the sup­port of the in­flu­en­tial US cit­i­zen 500 Star­tups ven­ture cap­i­tal fund.

It is one of a num­ber of star­tups in the oc­cu­pied Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries, long over­shad­owed by Is­rael’s so-called “Startup Na­tion”.

The on­line plat­form au­to­mates and analy­ses US real es­tate data to find in­vestors the best prop­erty deals.

As in Sil­i­con Val­ley, the staff dress ca­su­ally, drink cof­fee from state-of-the-art ma­chines in gar­ish col­ors, and pad through the of­fice wear­ing US-made head­phones around their necks.

But work­ing in the West Bank brings some unique chal­lenges.

In Oc­to­ber 2015, a wave of vi­o­lence broke out across Is­rael and the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries.

Abu al-Zolof ’s friend and found­ing part­ner Mo­hamed Je­brini, who lives in He­bron, found him­self stranded in the city as roads were closed, 45 kilo­me­ters from their Ra­mal­lah of­fices.

“He was stuck in He­bron and I was stuck in Ra­mal­lah and we were still work­ing on our com­pany,” ex­plains Abu al-Zolof.

And the Amer­i­can-Pales­tinian says the on­line na­ture of what they do means they can avoid many of the frus­tra­tions for other com­pa­nies in the West Bank, where the Is­raeli army check­points of­ten present very phys­i­cal chal­lenges to com­merce.

“There are no walls, there are no chal­lenges, there is noth­ing that can stop this kind of thing,” he said.

“It’s a vir­tual mar­ket, so there are no check­points where they tell you: ‘You can’t sell this. You can’t take this out of the coun­try.’ ”

The com­pany ben­e­fited from the sup­port of the Ra­mal­lah-based Lead­ers, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that helps nur­ture star­tups.

Shadi At­shan, Leader’s di­rec­tor gen­eral, told AFP that in the startup scene there was “no un­em­ploy­ment — un­like al­most all other in­dus­tries and eco­nomic sec­tors in Pales­tine which have high un­em­ploy­ment”.

“Those with good skills can earn a very high in­come.”

The un­em­ploy­ment rate in the oc­cu­pied Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries is 27 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from the Pales­tinian Cen­tral Bureau of Sta­tis­tics.

There are no chal­lenges ... there is noth­ing that can stop this kind of thing.” Peter Abu al-Zolof, co-founder of Mashvi­sor.

Cre­at­ing com­pa­nies

The Ibtikar in­vest­ment fund has in­vested around $800,000 in 10 star­tups so far, ac­cord­ing to its ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Am­bar Am­leh. She stresses their work is not char­ity.

“This isn’t work that should be funded by donors or grants. The expectations of mak­ing money should be there from the be­gin­ning be­cause we are cre­at­ing com­pa­nies,” she told AFP.

Pales­tini­ans are still a long way be­hind Is­rael, where com­pa­nies in Tel Aviv’s startup scene reg­u­larly sell for tens or hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars.

But Am­leh points out the huge gov­ern­ment sup­port for Is­raeli star­tups, which don’t ex­ist in the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries.

“I think more and more peo­ple are start­ing to see that they re­ally can make some­thing they have been dream­ing about come true.”

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