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Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, has welcomed the island’s first Virtual Reference Station Network (VRS), gFIX.net, as a useful tool in mapping natural hazards.

The Ministry’s Spatial Management Division handed over the system to the National Land Agency (NLA) at a launch event held at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston, on Thursday, February 7.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Pickersgill said that as natural hazards become an increasingly regular feature of life for many people around the globe, “gFIX.net will be a useful addition to the tools we have available to map them.”

“This service will support disaster management and mitigation activities. It will also help persons to identify and locate shelters within their communities and identify areas prone to hazards,” the Minister added.

Mr. Pickersgill said this will enable the country to stop second-guessing about the areas that are most vulnerable to the effects of natural hazards and to plan accordingly.

The Minister added that the technology will enable the development of a comprehensive profile of a particular area.

“In addition to an in-depth look at the physical layout of the land for development purposes, it will also provide us with the ability to determine the proximity of water sources; and enable us to better manage our sewerage and electricity services,” he outlined.

Mr. Pickersgill said that gFIX.net will promote the greater management of the island’s natural resources and provide an in-depth look at what green spaces can be allocated for recreational use. The system will also draw attention to developments that infringe on preserved natural habitats, such as forestry reserves and watersheds, wetlands and bird sanctuaries, as well as aquifers.

The $33 million network, which was established by Spatial Innovation Limited, is a new technology that provides a more accurate means of collecting and processing geo-spatial data, which is helpful to surveyors, developers, planners and the Government.

It is an integrated system of Global Positioning Systems (GPS), which uses data from a network of fixed reference stations to model errors near surveying locations. This data is then relayed to a roving receiver, and used to improve the accuracy of reading in a particular area.

The gFIX.net comprises 13 high precision global navigation satellite systems, which are strategically placed across the island to facilitate the accurate collection of data.

It is useful in a wide array of operations which require high precision positional accuracy, such as: surveying; urban and municipal mapping; land information management and maintenance of the titling cadastres; the preparation of development plans, and the facilitation of the development approval process; road maintenance; navigation, vehicle location tracking; environmental management and community development; and hazard mitigation management.

In fact, the NLA is already using the system to advance the Land Administration and Management Programme (LAMP) for titling and registration, and cadastral surveying activities in the parishes of Clarendon, Manchester, and St. Elizabeth.