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Village Level Information System  - A Tool for Decentralized Planning at District Level in India

 

A study was undertaken in the tribal-oriented and rural-based district in India to demonstrate the integration of village-level spatial and non-spatial data in GIS environment into a useful inofrmatics tool for decentralized planning. A simple and robust tool, called VLIS (Village-Level Information Systems) will assist the decision-makers to generate various eco-socio-economic views/scenarios for identifying candidate villages for rural watershed management schemes. The paper also envisages future development and usefulness of this community GIS tool for grass-root level planning.

 

 

1.0  Processing

 

Major steps involved in developing the VLIS tool are elucidated below:

 

 

1.1 Generation of Spatial Village Maps

 

District and taluka boundaries were drawn from the SOI topographical maps. These were brought in as ArcInfo coverages after following the standard procedure : digitization, geo-referencing, etc. Taluka maps, collected from the local government offices in the district, contain village boundaries with contour lines and other topographical information. These taluka maps, which do not show geographical co-ordinates, were traced, marking GCPs with respect to the SOI base map, digitized and brought to the real world coordinate system after projecting the maps (polyconic system) and carrying out the editing functions such as appending, edge-matching, etc. in Arc/Info. Each village in this map was assigned unique ids (user-defined) in a regular sequence. Thus, taluka map with village boundaries with in-built table having aerial extent, village-ids, etc., was generated for Thane district. The village map was opened in Arc/View for further processing.

 

1.2 Transformation of Non-spatial Census Database into GIS

 

1991 Census data collected from the NIC-Thane Office was a dbf file. Census information can be displayed using the customized NIC software, called DISPLAN. This file contains vast information on eco-socio-economic characteristics of each village, including census-codes on region, district, taluka and village. The dbf file was later displayed in MS Excel sheets. Village-ids, same as given in the spatial village map, were fed in the Excel sheets for all the villages in the district. Thus, spatial and non-spatial data contain similar column in their respective Tables with uniform village ids (user-defined). These ids will help in joining the spatial and non-spatial data in the system.

 

1.3 Integration of Spatial and Non-spatial Database

 

The MS Excel file was converted into text format to enable to open in Arc/View. The Tables of both spatial village map and non-spatial census information were opened in Arc/View and joined together, with the help of user-defined ids, using table-join function.

Thus, an information system has been generated for the district showing the village map with its boundaries and the relevant census information containing eco-socio-economic dimensions. Generalized processing flow for developing VLIS model is depicted in Figure 1

 

1.4 Generation of Views/Scenarios for Decentralized Planning

 

In general, the rural development schemes are on watershed basis. Each scheme is bounded by certain government policies, which have social, economic and biophysical dimensions. Policy is enshrined in their directives that establish the scheme and these commonly lay down the criteria for site selection.

 

            A few eco-socio-economic views/scenarios for identifying candidate villages for different rural watershed management schemes were generated for Dahanu sub-division of the district (containing Palghar, Dahanu and Talasari talukas):  

 

 

1.      Total population (Figure-2a)

2.      SC/ST population (Figure-2b)

3.      Total geographical area (Figure-3a)

4.      Bank facilities (Figure-3b)

5.      Land utilization Irrigated areas (Figure-4a)

6.      Land utilization Net area sown (Figure-4b)

7.      Land utilization forests (Figure-5a)

8.      Land utilization fallow lands (Figure-5b)

 

 

Likewise, the users can generate various views by themselves depending upon their needs, using the VLIS module, to make plans and take appropriate rural development decisions. VLIS could be customized to make it friendlier interface using the scripts available in Arc/View.

 

2.0 Conclusions

 

A study has been undertaken in the tribal-oriented and rural-based Thane district in Maharashtra State, Inida to generate resource informatics to assist the decision-makers for decentralized planning with main emphasis on rural development.  Major and significant conclusion emerging out of this study followed by recommendations and future developments are elucidated below:

            VLIS tool, with a moto turning data into information, generated in the present study integrating the spatial village maps with non-spatial or tabular information from the NIC system, has demonstrated its potential for grass-root level development planning taking into consideration the local needs and constraints. It has also established its usefulness to the decision-makers in the district to generate views/scenarios for decision-making at local-level. This prototype Community GIS tool will serve as a first step towards the development of Decision Support System for decentralized planning at district/sub-district level.

 

3.0  Future Developments

 

With a better database, we can provide a better service to the user organizations to assist in their own decision-making process for developmental planning. A few possible future development programmes for better service to the users for decentralized planning are :

(1) Customization:  A better Graphical User Interface (GUI) could be built using GIS, as it provides very comprehensive and fast access to information, both graphically and non-graphically. This makes the system more robust in terms of its communication with a variety of users. (2) Strategic Unit for Decentralized planning: Given that all village informatics are now spatially part of a common coordinated system, a number of useful combinations can be performed. The first step in this process is to create Integrated Resource Unit (IRU). Each IRU comprises the spatial and non-spatial resource data, and can be taken as a strategic unit for assessing various decisions. Since they exhibit strong uniformity, they can all be expected to respond similarly to given intensities of human use and management strategies. Use of strategic units for treatment-oriented land use planning scheme for hilly watershed/terrain using GIS has been demonstrated in the studies carried out by Adinarayana and Rama Krishna (1995). (3) Decision Support Systems (DSS): As far as rural development planning is concerned, VLIS generated in the present study is unsophisticated but it is robust and functions with the data that are actually available in every NIC District Centre in India. The prototype VLIS could be customized to develop DSS for decentralized planning, proposed to be called DecentPlan/DSS, to assist the decision-makers at district/sub-district level.

 

Some of the recommendations/future scenarios will be considered for execution in the second phase of the project proposed for the hilly terrain district of Sindhudurg in the Konkan region of Maharashtra State, India.


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(Updated on February 1st, 2007)