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The University of Southampton
The India Centre for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development

Mapping India's Population at High Resolution

Producing data on population numbers, particularly for small areas, is vital for supporting reliable decision making, producing accurate health metrics and delivering fair resource allocation, among many other uses.

WorldPop, in the school of Geography and Environmental Science, is a research group lead by Professor Andy Tatem, which focusses on the integration of census, satellite, survey and mobile phone data to produce detailed maps of population distributions, demographics and dynamics.

These maps which show the characteristics of populations, such as age and gender structures to numbers of births and pregnancies, are extremely useful for planning and implementing programmes to help key vulnerable groups and keeping a track of progress towards development goals.

In India, WorldPop have worked with national census, survey and satellite datasets, integrating them to map out population numbers and age/gender breakdowns for each year from 2000 to 2020, for each 100x100m grid square in the country. This is very detailed information, never produced before.


India population estimation
Estimated number of people per grid square - India

In addition, the integration of data on fertility, stillbirths and abortions has enabled mapping of births and pregnancy estimates for each 1x1km grid square, and the mapping of characteristics such as poverty and vaccination coverage at similar scales.

Through mapping factors such as settlement patterns, land use, landscape and infrastructure from satellite imagery through time, the WorldPop researchers have been able to take 2001 and 2011 India census data counts and map out population distributions through time and space at very detailed small areas.

The datasets are freely available to download from the WorldPop website and are widely used by a range of governments and other organisations.

For instance, the population maps have been used by governments to assess how many children are in each area, and therefore how much vaccine is needed and what it will cost. The mapping of changing population distributions over time has been used to measure precisely how much extra demand there will be for services such as healthcare in urban areas, and how numbers of people at risk of malaria has changed, resulting in changing amounts of drugs and bednets required.

The World Bank has also utilised the data to develop urban planning strategies and the World Health Organisation has used it for constructing health metrics.

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