Google Earth, Indian accountability tool?

Details are hard to come by reliably, but it would seem that the Andhra Pradesh state government is being rocked by a scandal concerning the acquisition of land for the building of a ring road around Hyderabad. A crucial piece of evidence in this affair was apparently gathered by firing up Google Earth and pointing out that imagery from 2004 showed no construction on land that a government official maintained did have construction on it then — presumably a retroactive fib to explain why the ring road had been routed around it.

Popular Indian IT blog Digital Inspiration flags the story and credits Google Earth, but the crucial source it links to is down, while an article referred to in the Hindu does mention the scandal but not Google Earth.

What to do? These stories coming out of India where Google Earth Saves are beginning to have the sheen of urban legends, but at the same time Hyderabad’s imagery is from 2004, and the color tone matches. I spent some time trying to locate the following image, but without luck. Perhaps Hyderabad locals could point me in the direction of the Puppalaguda suburb:


If the story is true, what delicious irony! Who’d have bought DigitalGlobe imagery from 2004 to verify a minister’s explanation? Not me. Who’d have started up Google Earth to verify a minister’s explanation? Definitely me. The democratization of access to geospatial data continues apace, to good effect, especially in India.

[Update 22:20 UTC: This story makes James Fee’s question especially pertinent: Had Google updated its imagery of Hyderabad sooner, the minister would have been scot free. A timeline for the baselayer would indeed rock — even if it were an affordable premium service.]

One thought on “Google Earth, Indian accountability tool?”

  1. I guess its too late to post this..but here is the link:

    Google has recently updated the data for Hyderabad (I would say in the last couple of weeks) and I can guess that the satellite data is as recent as August 2006

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