Benefits of GIS in Environmental Management (by FALAE Philips)


Benefits of GIS in Environmental Management (by FALAE Philips)

By: FALAE Philips Omowumi

Over the years, the bulkiness of data has made the study of environment management a tedious field of study. Since the study involves several data ranging from water, sewage, soil, air and other important information. An attempt to control human impact on and interaction with the environment in order to preserve natural resources is the basic idea of Environment management. Environmental Management focuses on the improvement of human welfare for present and future generation.


Environmental management is inherently a spatial endeavour. Its data are particularly complex as they require two descriptors; namely the precise location of what is being described, as well as a clear description of its physical characteristics. For hundreds of years, explorers produced manually drafted maps which served to link the “where is what” descriptors (Goje and Lanjewa 2011). With an emphasis on accurate location of physical features, early maps helped explorers and navigators chart unexplored territory. Responsible and successful environmental management is necessary for protecting and restoring the natural environment. The interdependency of the earth’s ecosystems and the human impact on the environment present complex challenges to governments and businesses as well as scientists and environmentalists in every discipline (


Today, these early attributes of maps have evolved from exploratory guides to physical space into management tools for exploring spatial relationships (Joseph K. Berry). This new perspective marks a turning point in the use of maps, setting the stage for a paradigm shift in environmental planning and management— from one emphasizing physical descriptions of geographic space, to one of interpreting mapped data and communicating spatially-based decision factors. What has changed is the purpose for which maps are used. Modern mapping systems provide a radically different approach to addressing complex environmental issues and their managements (Kavita Tariyal 2015).



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An understanding of the evolutionary stages of the new technology, its current expression, and probable trends are essential for today’s environmental policy-makers and administrators, hence a need for a tool that can combine these spatial data into a more precise and accurate single data. Until the arrival/ introduction of Geographic Information System (GIS) into the field of Environment, the study has been lacking in some basic information.


GIS is defined as a system of hardware, software and procedures that facilitate the management, manipulation, analysis, modelling, representation and display of geo-referenced data to solve complex problems regarding planning and management of resources. GIS is a powerful software technology that allows a virtually unlimited amount of information to be linked to a geographic location (Kavita Tariyal 2015). Coupled with a digital map, GIS allows a user to see locations, events, features, and environmental changes with unprecedented clarity, showing layer upon layer of information such as environmental trends, soil stability, pesticide use, migration corridors, hazardous waste generators, dust source points, Lake Remediation efforts, and at-risk water wells (Goje and Lanjewa 2011).


Effective environmental practice considers the whole spectrum of the environment. ArcGIS technology offers a wide variety of analytical tools to meet the needs of many people, helping them make better decisions about the environment. Responsible and successful environmental management is necessary for protecting and restoring the natural environment ( The interdependency of the earth’s ecosystems and the human impact on the environment present complex challenges to governments and businesses as well as scientists and environmentalists in every discipline.



GIS allows the combination and analysis of multiple layers of location-based data including environmental measurements. The environmental application areas of GIS are varied in terms of potential users, environmental spheres, and the specific environmental issue being investigated.


The usefulness to the user includes the following. It:

  • Ensures accurate reporting with improved data collection.
  • Improves decision making.
  • Increases productivity with streamlined work processes.
  • Provides better data analysis and presentation options.
  • Models dynamic environmental phenomena.
  • Creates predictive scenarios for environmental impact studies.
  • Automates regulatory compliance processes.
  • Disseminates maps and share map data across the Internet.



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Areas of environmental management GIS applications
Environmental Resource Inventories – Rangeland surveys

– Coastal zone resource surveys

– Wildlife and endangered species inventories

– Wildlife and endangered species inventories

Environmental Audits – Contaminated land inventories
Enivironmental Impact Assessments – Route selection for roads and pipelines

– Oil field development

– Mines and quarries development -Agricultural development (including irrigation)

Environmental Risk-Hazard Assessment – Flood hazards -Landslip hazards -Geological hazards
Environmental Sensitivity Analysis – Oil spill sensitivity analysis -Aquifer vulnerability mapping -Coastal zone sensitivity mapping
Environmental Contingency Planning – Oil spill contingency planning -Flood contingency plans
Environmental Planning And Monitoring – Conservation area planning -Coastal zone planning -Land use planning -Air quality monitoring – Noise pollution monitoring – Water quality monitoring – Aquifer and well head protection zones – Wildlife protection and monitoring



  1. Nitin Sukhadevrao Goje and Ujwal A. Lanjewar 2011: GIS Solution for Environmental Management and Natural Resources Development. International Journal of Research in Engineering & Applied Sciences 46 Volume 1, Issue ISSN: 2294-3905
  2. (
  3. Joseph K. Berry: GIS Technology In Environmental Management: a Brief History, Trends and Probable Future. [Invited book chapter in Handbook of Global Environmental Policy and Administration, edited by Soden and Steel, Marcel Dekker, 1999, ISBN: 0-8247-1989-1]
  4. Kavita Tariyal 2015: Importance of GIS in Environmental Management. Journal for Studies in Management and Planning. e-ISSN: 2395-0463 Volume 01 Issue 04 May 2015


FALAE Philips Omowumi is a Research Fellow at the Geotechnical Division (GED), Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), India. He volunteers with



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Kunlere Idowu

Kunlere is an environment and sustainable development strategist with years of active experience in environmental compliance monitoring and enforcement. You may follow him on Twitter via @kunlere_idowu


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