Saturday, October 06, 2007
I Love Google Earth
Google Earth is one of the best two products that Google has come up with. The other one being Gmail. Oh yes, and the search engine, of course.
For a "free" product, Google Earth is incredibly functional and detailed. It's highly entertaining and educational as well. Maybe not for everyone, but for the more geographically and spatially inclined, it's almost a revelation. I've also tried out NASA's Worldwind, but it doesn't seem to be as simple to use.
Google Earth's images may be a few years old, but those areas covered by high resolution images are simply amazing nevertheless. I can even count the number of the cars parked outside my office. And if I go to the airports, like KLIA or Hearthrow, I can even identify the airline of the planes on the tarmac. I've been told that the number of oil palm trees in a plantation can be counted. This is important information to some people.
Recently I scouted the area around Subang airport, and discovered that there is an old railway line branching off from the main railway south of the Batu Tiga toll plaza, between Subang Jaya and Batu Tiga. This railway branch looks abandoned, because part of it is overgrown with vegetation and paved over by the Glenmarie road. Anyway, it goes under the Federal Highway (I never realised there was a rail underpass) and emerges on the other side, and then extends northwards between the Glenmarie industrial park and golf course, over the NKVE and through the Saujana golf course before ending at what looks like a fuel depot beside the now-demolished Terminal One. I guess the rail line was used once upon a time to deliver jet fuel to the former Subang airport. Cool huh?
And I also found out that the Sungai Ara that flows through Ara Damansara actually originates in the hills of Bukit Kiara at Taman Tun Dr Ismail. It flows through TTDI, Bandar Utama, Damansara Utama, Damansara Jaya, Kampung Cempaka and Taman Mayang before going through Ara Damansara and joining Sg. Damansara at the Subang aircraft maintenance complex. Sg. Damansara later joins Sg. Klang at Shah Alam. Sg. Ara used to be a pristine stream long long ago, but now it is just a "drain". So, anything dumped in the drain in TTDI will end up in Ara Damansara. When you flush your toilet in TTDI, your by-products will (hopefully) go to a sewage treatment plant and then find its way downstream. Everything that the restaurants, coffeeshops and mamak stalls wash into the drains will end up in the river. And people who renovate their kitchens and redirect the kitchen sink pipe to the back drain are also part of the problem. The kitchen sink is supposed to go the sewer so that all wastewater is treated properly, but if it is diverted straight to the drain, it defeats the purpose. Drains are meant ONLY for rainwater. You might be interested to know that wastewater from kitchen sinks are as foul as your poo-poo water that you flush down the toilet. I'm not kidding. And there are thousands of households and restaurants and hawkers and car washes dumping raw wastewater into our rivers every day. So now you know why the Klang River is so dirty.
Google Earth is super useful to the general public and amateurs. Even the pros use Google Earth as a preliminary screening tool to check out a site before purchasing expensive up-to-date satellite images. The only setback is that you need a fast Internet connection to use Google Earth.
Some may complain about invasion of privacy and potential security risks, e.g. terrorists might use the data to plan attacks on sensitive sites. But I'd say the benefits have so far outweighed the risks. Google Earth promotes transparency. It's harder for cronies to hide misdeeds like illegal logging and devious land clearing. More power to the people!