Complex highway projects require meticulous planning and consideration. At SMEC, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology has emerged as a powerful tool, adding value for our clients and partners across all stages of the project lifecycle as well as ongoing asset management.

At the Marine Drive Expressway, Bangladesh, SMEC’s integration of GIS and web GIS platforms has not only improved efficiency and accuracy but also enhanced collaboration, communication, environmental management, and sustainability. By leveraging the capabilities of GIS, stakeholders can ensure the successful implementation of expressway projects while minimizing social and environmental impacts.


Below we take a deeper dive into five value adds that SMEC delivered during the projects preliminary design stage.


pplication of GIS on Marine Drive Expressway, Bangladesh (Part 2)


Enhanced Stakeholder Engagement

The GIS provided a centralised platform that facilitated data analysis, visualization, and efficient collaboration. This played a pivotal role in enhancing decision-making processes and improving communication between teams.


One notable example is the engagement with the Forest Department Bangladesh. The project team actively collaborated to ensure alignment decisions met the department’s existing and future forestry plans along the road corridor. GIS, particularly web GIS, served as a comprehensive platform for sharing and analysing data, enabling stakeholders to gain a holistic view of the project’s impact.


Detailed GIS data also proved beneficial for specific project aspects, such as bridge planning and obtaining navigational clearance from the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority. GIS pinpointed bridge locations and associated land information, helping estimate distances and chainages of embankments from water level gauge stations.


The web GIS platform served as a centralised hub where stakeholders contributed data to the GIS team, who then processed and uploaded the information for seamless accessibility. This encompassed a wide range of data, including existing and planned capital works programs, interfacing projects, area boundaries, drone image orthomosaic pictures, land patterns, resource collection points, and disaster-prone areas. Through this platform, team members had real-time access to data updates, empowering them to align their work accordingly.


The web GIS solution played a pivotal role in visualizing social, environmental, and structural information, providing clients and stakeholders with practical field insights from anywhere. They could easily explore and compare various alignment options, track version changes, assess land acquisition requirements, and evaluate space utilization in stakeholder plans. Additionally, the implementation of a digital report submission system within the web GIS platform streamlined the process of accessing and downloading submission reports.


Traffic Survey

Traffic surveys played a crucial role in gathering information and data related to road usage and traffic congestion. By integrating GIS data with traffic modelling, the project team has gained valuable insights into traffic behavior, enabling SMEC to make informed decisions regarding road design, capacity planning, and optimisation.


The synergy between GIS and traffic surveys enabled the project team to develop comprehensive and accurate traffic models. These models assisted in understanding the current traffic conditions, predicting future demands, and identifying potential bottlenecks or areas requiring improvement.


For traffic-related considerations, GIS supported road network analysis, including traffic surveys, road categorization, and traffic zone boundary fixation for city traffic surveys. Road inventory work was also efficiently conducted through GIS applications.


Application of GIS on Marine Drive Expressway, Bangladesh (Part 2)


Land Acquisition

Land acquisition is a complex task in any development project, but the implementation of GIS has helped to streamline and simplify the process. In the case of the Marine Drive Expressway, GIS technology played a pivotal role in informing the land acquisition process through a series of five steps:

  • Land Classification and Cost Calculation: GIS technology and remote sensing were extensively utilized to classify land according to mouza land class and calculate the cost of land acquisition. The project team collected mouza data, mouza-based land unit costs, and land use data, which underwent thorough analysis and desktop assessments.
  • Land Use Database: The team obtained GIS shapefiles from the Survey of Bangladesh (SOB) to develop the land use database. These shapefiles were verified using satellite imagery in ArcGIS and cross-checked with the latest data from Google Earth Pro. The drone survey outcomes also served to validate the accuracy of the data.
  • Mouza (Land Plots) Database: Paper copies of mouza maps were collected and converted into mouza shapefiles using georeferencing techniques. Additional fields, such as mouza name, Upazila name, and district name, were incorporated into the attribute tables.
  • Mouza-Based Land Use Data: In this stage, the land use shapefile and mouza shapefile were merged using various tools in ArcGIS to create a comprehensive mouza-based land use database.
  • Unit Cost for Each Land Use: The unit costs for each land use category were gathered from local land registry offices in Chattogram and Cox’s Bazar. These costs were then aligned with the study-specific land use categories.


The land area for each type of land was calculated using ArcGIS, enabling precise determination of the area associated with each land category. Finally, the unit cost was multiplied by the land area to obtain the final cost of land acquisition.


By integrating GIS technology into the land acquisition process, SMEC was able to enhance accuracy, efficiency, and transparency in determining land classifications calculating costs, and establishing a comprehensive land acquisition strategy.



Hydrography surveys supported data-driven decision-making, visualisation of water conditions, assessment of water circulation, consideration of environmental factors, and mitigation of risks. Key applications included:

  • Data Management: Hydrography surveys collect accurate hydro-geological data, which is organized and analyzed using GIS for efficient data management.
  • Visualization and Analysis: Integration with GIS allows visual representation and mapping of hydrological conditions, aiding in identifying critical areas and optimizing infrastructure planning.
  • Water Circulation Assessment: Surveys help assess water movement, identify flood-prone or erosion-prone areas, and inform decisions on alignment, bridges, and drainage systems.
  • Environmental Considerations: Hydrography surveys identify sensitive ecological areas and guide measures for minimizing environmental impact and ensuring sustainable development.
  • Risk Mitigation: Understanding hydrological conditions helps identify flood risks, enabling the implementation of appropriate mitigation measures.

Identification of Culvert Locations

In the Marine Drive project, culverts are planned at intervals of 500 meters to ensure effective water drainage. Utilising the complete GIS procedure enhances the applicability and precision of culvert placement decisions. The following methods have been applied:

  • Contour Analysis: Digital Elevation Model (DEM) data is used to create contour lines, which provide information about the height above sea level. This helps in identifying suitable culvert locations based on the elevation and flow direction. Stream links can be derived from this information, and stream orders (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) can be determined. Higher stream orders indicate better water drainage.
  • Snap Pour Point: Along the alignment, “Snap Pour Points” can be created to determine how many areas will be covered by a specific culvert. This analysis ensures comprehensive coverage of drainage requirements.
  • Watershed and Basin Analysis: Extracting watershed and basin information from DEM data aids in decision-making regarding the design and location of bridges or culverts. These analyses provide insights into the flow patterns and drainage characteristics of the terrain.