Book Review

Campagna, M (ed.), 2006: GIS for Sustainable Development,
Taylor & Francis, Boca Raton, pp535

Reviewed by Dr Pramod K Singh, Assistant Professor, Institute of Rural Management (IRMA), Anand, Gujarat, India.

Sustainable development is a complex process that encompasses the different dimensions of development such as economic, environmental, and social. The book by Michele Campagna presents recent research results and case studies which offer a diverse perspective of the problem, taking into account methodological, technical, organizational, and societal issues related to the use of GIS to solve complex problems faced by practitioners in planning and implementing the objectives of sustainable development.

The book has 29 chapters - the first chapter is designed to provide overviews and rest of the chapters is structured in three parts. The first part (Chapters 2 to 6) sets the framework of basic assumptions for the implementation of geographic information based collaborative processes to support governance, spatial planning, and decision-making for sustainable development. It pays attention to the cyber planning, dealing with the issues of public participation in terms of theoretical and methodological premises. The authors have mentioned that societal, cultural, cognitive, organizational, and economic issues have to be seriously taken into account when implementing new processes on innovative technology platforms. However, they failed to recognize the relevance of effective project management and process re-engineering in such processes.

The second part of the book presents methods and techniques of GIS science, which can be used to solve particular problems relating to sustainable development planning and decision-making. In this part, chapters 7 to 13 discusses a number of topics, such as remote sensing data collection, spatiotemporal data modeling for '4D' databases, spatial multimedia for environmental planning, online computer-based collaborative tools, geo-demographics, (multivariate) spatial analysis, and zone design techniques and tools to solve problems such as environmental modeling, socioeconomic system analysis and planning. Thus, chapters 7 to 13 present several GIS methods, which may help to solve information management, and analysis for sustainable development planning and decision-making. Methods and techniques for data generation, data modeling, system integration, and advanced spatial analysis are proposed in this part of the book. This part of the book could be proved background readings for those planers who do not have sufficient exposure to GIS.

Chapters 14 to 17 of the second part address specific sustainable development objectives with regard to health, safety, and risk mitigation. These chapters could have been placed in the third part, which presents GIS applications and case studies from research and real practice projects.

The third part of the book (chapters 18 to 29) is grouped into five thematic sections each discussing different sustainable development issues, such as urban dynamics, natural and cultural heritage, society and environment, public participation, and SDI and public administration. A separate section on health theme could have been created in this part, where chapters 14 and 15 of the second part could have been placed.

The first section (chapter 18 to19) presents a methodology for generation of multi-scale geographic dataset by integrating different satellite data sources and processing techniques. This could be helpful especially in case of lack of quality data availability to monitor urban sprawl. The second section (chapter 20 to 21) deals with the preservation of natural and cultural heritage. The third section (chapters 22 to 24) addresses specific societal and environmental issues. Application of methodological approach and the reliability of the analysis results are also found in this section. Chapters 16 and 17 from the second part could also have been brought into this section which presents tools in the spatial analysis in offences and sustainable hazard mitigation.

The theme of geospatial technologies as empowering tools for communities and citizens, discussed from the theoretical and methodological points of view, respectively, in Chapter 3 and in Chapters 9 and 10, is further investigated in its practical implementation in the fourth section (chapters 25 to 27). Chapter 28 of the last section represents one of the best practices of the spatial data infrastructure implementation while the last section is concluded by offering several interesting insights into both the organizational and technical problems relating to information system development in an urban setting (chapter 29).

The book could be equally useful for students, researchers and planners. A reader will enjoy the diverse perspectives offered by the contributors in each chapter and will be able to discover additional facets of GIS applications for sustainable development. Topics such as data, technology, and knowledge integration, data sharing, and public participation, etc. are dealt with through the different chapters in a diverse mixture of perspectives, giving the reader deeper insights of each issue. While most of the chapters of the book will flow easily for the average reader, a few of them, especially in the second part of the book, would require some understanding of GIS technology.

The book offers integrated perspectives on societal, technological, and organizational issues in collaborative decision making using GIS, which may be treated as special strength of the book. However authors of different chapters have not been very successful in devising methods/ strategies for dealing with power relations in the society especially when economic, environmental and social issues are integrated under sustainable development framework. I hope the book would trigger further discussion on use of GIS in sustainable development process which may eventually lead to defining a structured research agenda in this complex thematic area. Overall, this is a good reference book for both GIS professionals and planners.

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