Prague: monitoring urban sprawl using satellite information

The city

Over the period 2005-2010, a strong demand for new housing lead to the construction of nearly 62 000 homes in the Prague metropolitan region, particularly concentrated in the close surroundings of the capital. In order to ensure the coherence and sustainability of urban development, the Institute of Planning and Development of Prague produces and maintains information on the urban and spatial development of the city. This informs the execution of the city’s Strategic Plan, a long term strategic document which determines goals and priorities of urban development for a period of 15–20 years.

The challenge

Prague’s land use plan divides the city’s territory according to its functions – such as residential, industrial etc. In order to reconcile potentially conflicting uses of the land and resources, for instance the extent of green areas with respect to residential and industrial uses, the City’s Development Authority needs reliable and precise geographic information about land use and territorial changes. While such information was widely available and relatively detailed for the city, it was missing for the more recent urban sprawl beyond the intra-muros boundaries – notably for the suburbs and city outskirts.

The satellite solution

The Institute of Planning and Development worked with the Czech company GISAT in acquiring historical aerial and satellite images of the city, suburbs and outskirts. The advantage of this additional layer of information is that it provides a homogenous overview and classification of current land use and long-term developments in and around Prague. City planners use this to study changes in built-up areas, farm land and green spaces and to take decisions on prioritising smaller intervention areas, such as transport ‘hot spots’.

The result

The Institute now disposes of an effective tool for the annual monitoring of the Master Plan. The tool is also used by the city planners as a means of communication with decision-makers. Site inspections are reduced to the essential, thus saving time and money. As of 2014, the satellite data are now used for regional and cross-border analysis of land use changes. 

Land-use data based on satellite observation are unique in showing changes in the whole metropolitan area, irrespective of administrative boundaries.” Mgr. Jiri Ctyroky, City Development Authority Prague.