The UN Mapper of the month - March 2024

Our Mapper of the Month for March 2024 is Pawan Muddu, from India. With a background in Geography, Pawan has made notable contributions to UN Mapper projects and demonstrated dedication to enhancing Somalia's road network in our MapRoulette Challenge, among other impactful efforts within the OpenStreetMap community. He has shown dedication to improving his mapping skills and actively participates in humanitarian mapping efforts.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Pawan Muddu, I currently reside in Hyderabad, India. I have also lived in Pune, India, and The Netherlands. Presently, I am employed at an NGO called GREd Foundation (GRED INSTITUTE OF GEOINFORMATICS – GIS Training & Research Institute, Guwahati, Assam ( dedicated to spreading geospatial awareness and education, with a primary focus on the North Eastern part of India, which is still lacking in adequate Geospatial Education. 

Additionally, I am involved with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap – Asia Pacific Hub (OSM Guru Program). I hold an MA in Geography from SP College, University of Pune, and have completed a certificate program in NRM from ITC, Netherlands. Currently, I am pursuing a dual degree program called IGEON. Throughout my career, I have worked with prominent companies such as EXL, TomTom, and CSS Corp (Apple Maps).

I have been fortunate to receive recognition for various accomplishments, including being placed 2nd Runner up in the Smart City Contest (Shaastra), issued by IIT Chennai in February 2023:  A Report on Renewable Energy in India — Identifying Potential Area Using Geographic Factors (Report done for the Shaastra 2023 Event IIT Chennai). | by pawan muddu | Medium.

I also secured 1st place in the plastic story writing contest organized by We Naturalist. In my winning entry, titled "Say No to Plastic — A Hyderabadi Initiative by Pawan Muddu," I shared my experience in promoting cloth bags over plastic, particularly with vegetable vendors in my neighborhood:  Say no to Plastic — A Hyderabadi Initiative by Pawan Muddu | by pawan muddu | Medium

Additionally, I have been honored for my use of Sentinel Hub Interface technology to monitor urban growth areas in Mbouda, Cameroon, and to address the Assam floods in 2022: Natures Wrath-2022 Silchar Floods, Assam | Sentinel Hub Blog (

This latter endeavor is especially meaningful to me, as I am deeply concerned about the impact of natural disasters like the Silchar Floods in Assam.

In my leisure time, I enjoy playing the harmonica.

How did you know about UN Mappers?
I learned about the UN Mappers community through various channels, primarily social media, which is often the case in this digital age.

The Humanitarian maps resonated with me, particularly in conjunction with the UN Mappers program. Having extensive experience with similar interfaces through my work with corporate companies, I was drawn to this program. I am fully aware that the building footprints I map could assist someone in Somalia, the waterways I map may benefit individuals in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the roads I map could connect settlements in Yemen. 

You participated in our global training in English. How did it seem to you? Which topic did you find the most interesting?
Firstly and foremostly, I need to credit our trainer, Severin, for his serious perseverance and patience during the training. Secondly, there are certain aspects that could be added. Land cover mapping is the most important GIS database, yet I don't see many projects on the Tasking Manager. This program specifically focused on mapping residential settlements in Yemen, highlighting the need for a stronger, higher-quality database, essential for emergency planners and humanitarian missions on the ground. 

Another important aspect of the training was the focus on waterways. This training provided valuable insights into understanding simple geographical and topographical concepts, away from technical jargon, which is crucial for effective mapping efforts.

Severin’s approach of training on JOSM (Java OpenStreetMap) was notable, as JOSM offers operational features in areas with limited network coverage. This is vital for mapping in remote and poorly connected regions, essential for humanitarian workers operating in volatile regions worldwide.

The training also emphasized the importance of using mobile mapping applications, which can be vital and may be the need of the hour.

Regarding your mapping activity and your journey, what lessons would you like to share with other members of the community?
When reflecting on my mapping activity and journey, there are several lessons I have learned that I would like to share with fellow community members.

Firstly, it's essential to recognize that engaging in humanitarian mapping is an act of selfless sacrifice. While there may not be monetary benefits, millions of good-hearted individuals contribute to this cause, driven by the belief that their mapping efforts will serve humanitarian organizations.

What resonated deeply with me was an article on the BBC titled "Finding the 'invisible' millions who are not on maps"( Finding the 'invisible' millions who are not on maps - BBC News ) by Ivan Gayton. He highlights that 50% of the world remains invisible and left in obscurity. This insight underscores the importance of our lifelong mission to ensure that those people are represented on maps.

In the field of humanitarian mapping, there is no hierarchy of mappers. Each individual's efforts are valuable and worthy of recognition. In humanitarian mapping it is crucial to prioritize and support new mappers. Offering them a space to collaborate and contribute is essential, especially considering the lack of monetary benefits.

Furthermore, it's essential to recognize that humanitarian mapping is accessible to individuals from diverse backgrounds. I believe the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) HOT is making a serious commitment to quality.

When do you map? (Weekends, free time, in your working time?)
Whenever I get free time away from the study and teaching work for the foundation that I do, I engage in mapping activities. For example, while listening to YouTube, I contribute to mapping with UN Mappers roads to improve the road network in Somalia. Before going to bed, I keep my laptop by my side and still manage to plot a building or two.

Weekends are the best, with so many mapathons happening around. OSM Africa Mapathons, led by Geoffrey Kateregga, have been consistently ongoing for years. Similarly, the OSM Asia Pacific Hub and Guru Program, spearheaded by Mikko Tamura, organize mapathons within their regions. I would also like to acknowledge promoters like Miss Sanjana Binawal for their efforts in this regard.

Do you enjoy mapping? Why?
Geography and history have been ingrained in my DNA since childhood, particularly the artistic aspects of these subjects. 

At the age of 7 in 1994, my father bought me a globe during an official trip to Singapore, and from that day on I developed a deep fascination with maps.

Additionally, we have a vintage pocket map from Bartholomew Glasgow company, presented to my father in 1974 with the inscription "May quest for knowledge never cease," which I used to read during my teenage years.

This early exposure led me to pursue Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Geography in Pune, with the goal of completing a third degree from Europe through the IGEON program, a pursuit I've been dedicated to for some time.

I have realized that mapping is not merely a theoretical exercise emphasized by universities and academic institutions; rather, it is a practical and virtual discipline essential for comprehending our ever-changing world. Many individuals showcase thematic maps without truly grasping their significance, often creating visualizations that lack relevance.

The primary purpose of mapping is to convey information effectively. If this objective is overlooked, the essence of the subject is lost. It is essential to recognize how maps can make a tangible difference over time.

I firmly believe in the concept of MAD (Mapping with a Difference).

In which countries do you map the most?
As an Indian, I naturally have an affinity towards my own country, and that is where I primarily focus my mapping efforts. India, as a nation, is a blend of first-world ecstasy and the scars of the third world. It is these scars that we need to address. India still grapples with issues such as 25-35% child malnutrition, and state governments often struggle with the aftermath of natural disasters. The scope for humanitarian mapping is immense in our country, and organizations like ours, GREd Foundation, have incorporated it into our course syllabus.

Additionally, premier organizations like the HOT - Open Mapping Hub Asia Pacific have initiated numerous tasks on the OSM Tasking Manager. Meanwhile, community organizations like city-based GeoPune, Seeds, OSM North East, and OSM Kerala have been volunteering their mapping efforts for quite some time.

Apart from India, I have also enjoyed mapping in Africa, particularly in countries like Congo and Sudan, where UN Mappers are actively engaged.

Some projects I lead with GREd Foundation include mapping to detect heat islands in Naryn, Kyrgyzstan, and heat island mapping in Mira Bhayander, Mumbai for client organization Aga Khan Habitat India, under the supervision of Rajlakshmi Mam and Rahim Sir.

Finally, I devote time to promoting our most important project, scheduled for completion by 2025-26. We are creating building and road footprint data from scratch in flood-prone districts of Assam state in India. This project is crucial, as it addresses the challenges faced by state governments in effectively mitigating the impact of floods, thereby safeguarding numerous lives and properties from harm.

For more information on this project, please visit:


Pawan Muddu