Main Article Content
Participation of citizens in political, economic or social decisions is increasingly recognized as a precondition to foster sustainable development processes. Since spatial information is often important during planning and decisionmaking, participatory mapping gains in popularity. However, little attention has been paid to the fact that information must be presented in a useful way to reach city planners and policy makers. Above all, the importance of visualisation tools to support collaboration, analytical reasoning, problem solving and decision-making in analysing and planning processes has been underestimated. In this paper, we describe how an interactive mental map tool has been developed in a highly interdisciplinary disaster management project in Chennai, India. We moved from a hand drawn mental maps approach to an interactive mental map tool. This was achieved by merging socio-economic and geospatial data on infrastructure, local perceptions, coping and adaptation strategies with remote sensing data and modern technology of map making. This newly developed interactive mapping tool allowed for insights into different locally-constructed realities and facilitated the communication of results to the wider public and respective policy makers. It proved to be useful in visualising information and promoting participatory decision-making processes. We argue that the tool bears potential also for health research projects. The interactive mental map can be used to spatially and temporally assess key health themes such as availability of, and accessibility to, existing health care services, breeding sites of disease vectors, collection and storage of water, waste disposal, location of public toilets or defecation sites.
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