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ICT in City Sanitation Planning

Dr Megha Phansalkar
Director, Micro Cloud Computing, Mumbai, India
Email: [email protected]

The City Sanitation Planning is a complex process and requires a huge amount of data to support the decision. GIS based planning tools play a vital role in the course of planning and management of huge data and maps. It also facilitates and eases assess to spatial as well as non-spatial data.

The article talks about usage of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools during the development of City Sanitation Plan in four cities of Madhya Pradesh – Gwalior, Ashta, Raisen and Khajuraho.

The sanitation facility is a major concern for good quality of life in cities, especially in low-income settlements, where sanitation service is not adequate. Access to toilet and facilities for safe disposal of solid and liquid waste are not adequate. Inadequate sanitation facilities pollute the environment and have a detrimental effect on health and economy.

As per the Government of India’s National Urban Sanitation Policy (NUSP) 2008, – ‘All Indian cities and towns become totally sanitised, healthy and liveable and ensure and sustain good public health and environmental outcomes for all their citizens with a special focus on hygienic and affordable sanitation facilities for the urban poor and women’.

The NUSP statement mentioned above aims at providing household level sanitation facilities as well as carrying safe disposal and treatment of solid and liquid waste generated throughout the city. It not only talks about the provision of technical solutions for waste disposal but also emphasises on the active participation of communities and citizens in sanitation management.

A sanitation survey commissioned by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) found that no city in India is ‘healthy and clean’ and 40 per cent among them need immediate remedial action. The survey revealed that much more needs to be done to improve access to community and public toilets for the urban poor and also stop open-defecation. Thus, each city of the country has to develop a city sanitation plan which would encompass and integrate all the aspects related to city level sanitation management.

In the present context, when the population growth of towns/ cities is increasing and the settlements are growing haphazardly without any basic infrastructure planning, the process of city sanitation planning becomes very critical. The local authority requires updated information on available sanitation systems in order to assess the demand – supply gap which will become the base for future planning and rejuvenation of sanitation facilities.

In most of the smaller towns, the availability of data (both spatial and non-spatial) on sanitation was a great challenge. Hence, initially a base map of the towns was prepared with the help of consultative process of local people/ agency; and based on the data regarding various components of sanitation collected through handheld GPS, various thematic digital maps were developed which acted as a base for planning process.

Figure 1: Thematic flow diagram
Major problem of small Indian cities is that there is no map data of the city. Hence, with the help of local people, baseline survey of different locations like major road, minor road, school building, temple, dustbin, hand pump, open pump and other areas of each city was conducted in order to fix the ward boundaries and city limits and identified major landmarks to prepare base-map of a city.

While performing baseline study, all further actual points of interests like water sources (river, wells, hand pumps etc.), dumping grounds, various treatment plants and waste bins were also located across city limits. After survey, the non-spatial data was collected.

For spatial data, there was a team which worked on maps of different cities. Map conversion and the non-spatial data were attached to this spatial data. Based on the data collected onsite with handheld GPS, all digital maps were developed as a standard document utilised for further process.

The study focused on water supply, drainage and sewage network, sanitation facilities and solid waste management. The data collection methodology is described in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Data collection for three ICT Tools
For data collection, the feature types were decided initially, for example, schools appeared as point feature, entire road network appeared as linear feature and green areas appeared as polygon in map.

The participatory planning involved the community to generate a local map of the ward. All details of ward were digitised precisely. Simultaneously with this process, all textual data, that is, non-spatial data collected from various departments was managed with relevant layers in excel. After ensuring quality of map generated, both the map and its relevant excel database were integrated.

The purpose of developing innovative integrated ICT tools was following:

  • SAMS (Sanitation Amenities and Management Systems) – To provide spatial representation of the existing situation of sanitation facilities to develop a comprehensive GIS based applications for sanitation.
  • Mapper for participatory planning within a ward.
  • Mobile application for capturing field based sanitation data with location and pictures.

1.1. SAMS (Sanitation Amenities Management System)
SAMS is a powerful user friendly web application designed to assist activities related to CSP where user can visualise all relevant information spatially and assess the present status.

Major advantage of this application is that administrative officers can find out the service level, efficiency and comparative analysis through generating various maps (thematic and gradation), bar and pie charts. Since the application is web based, users can access information irrespective of his location across globe. Through SAMS, users can view and analyse data and can take decisions and plan accurately. This application can help in query generation analysis and getting different reports and existing status of sanitation and water supply in the city which can give a clear idea to the concerned authorities about the current status of the city/ ward and take corrective decisions.

Figure 3: Showing Sanitation facility

Figure 4: Showing bins and dumps
In order to understand present situation of sanitation, ward wise, thematic map can be generated as required on various parameters. Figure 3 shows present scenario of sanitation facility ward wise and below is the description of the criticalness of the issue.

1.1.1. Key features:

  • User friendly. Users don’t need training to operate. Common people can also use it to get information.
  • Users can get clear idea of socio-economic and housing characteristic conditions of the city.
  • Focused areas of CSP are kept in different layers like water supply, drainage and sewage, sanitation and solid waste management.
  • The data collected through survey is stored and displayed in various layers.
  • In each layer, users can view baseline study, technical study and GIS map analysis and through photo gallery, get clear idea of present condition of sanitation, water supply in the city or ward.
  • Spatial data is managed in such a manner that users can easily navigate necessary information and get the results, interactively.
  • Users can choose the specific layer to view details, ongoing schemes, existing status and key issues.
  • Support of spatial data for analysing existing situation within the city limits and its utility in crucial decision making process.
  • Using SAMS, city level and ward level activities of CSP can be viewed at one click.
  • This integrated data can then be viewed; and analysis is possible in SAMS easily.
  • Authorities can get visual details, compare different data and take corrective actions accordingly.

1.1.2. Technology
Main technology used for SAMS is Java. Backend/Database is MySQL with spatial extension. For GIS shape files are used. JVM – Java Virtual Machine is required for SAMS but even if it is not available on user’s computer, it has been provided on SAMS website.

1.2. Mobile application
While preparing CSP, the necessity of information flow at various levels has to be addressed so that the suggested plan would be implemented effectively and its benefits would pass to common man. In order to monitor and evaluate CSP, mobile application is used which is easy to use and helpful for decision making. This application is used to update identified indicators, and accordingly spatial records will get revised. User would need to enter master and detail entry from mobile application. This data is further uploaded to web based database and this updated information is further utilised for various report generation through SAMS.

1.2.1. The role of mobile application in CSP:

  • Real-time data transfer to and from the field with mobile connectivity.
  • Includes location information through GPS.
  • Visualises data on map.
  • SMS alert from server to predefined locations.
  • Provides both GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) facility for transferring data.
  • Report generation based on requirement.
  • Cost effective service.
  • Secure and reliable data transfer.
  • Both GPRS and GSM technologies are enabled.

The entered data is sent as an SMS to SAMS and is integrated in the main system.

1.2.2. Suggested indicators of mobile application

  • Whether the solid waste is cleared from bins? (Y/N) (Daily update)
  • Major drains (Flowing / not flowing)
  • Any water logging in each ward? (As required)
  • Is there any waste lying on the streets? (Daily update)
  • Any hand pump / public stand post need cleaning or repair work?

Figure 5: Mobile based application to upgrade the real-time data
1.3. Mapper
GIS Mapper is a simple user friendly desktop application for ward level information collection, storing, data updating, planning and decision making process. Mapper is a tool, which allows users to create, edit and analyse spatial information in combination with connected non-spatial information; make maps and analyse spatial information in combination with connected socio-economic information, and is therefore ideal for planning and decision making.

The application is in local regional language and can be easily used for participatory mapping by local stakeholder and local authorities in partnership with NGOs and community-based organisations. In short, it is easy to handle, useful for quick planning and decision making, and also helps in generating information required for analysis purpose.

Figure 6 shows a digitised map. The left side of the window depicts features like ward boundary, road network, population, green area, wells, hand pumps, school etc. with respective symbology and colour scheme. Figure 7 represents the resource mapping of a ward showing locations of waste bins and open dumps.

Figure 6: Ward map with sanitation

Figure 7: Locations of waste bins and open dumps
Features and utilities:

  • Data management: Mapper provides facility for managing data layer wise for various features. It also provides facility for managing non-spatial data, attribute attachment and viewing attributes of selected features.
  • Quick search and Simple Query makes it faster to retrieve information as and when needed.
  • Bar and pie charts, thematic maps can be generated. Output in the form of bitmap (.bmp) format can be obtained.
  • Available in local regional language.
  • Displays a geographic area in planar form or as a map.
  • Accesses information in a database by simply clicking on the map.
  • Execute queries to search the base for objects fulfilling one or several criteria.
  • Process data thematically to present information graphically.
  • Adds objects to display on maps at specific locations as symbols for community users.
  • Objects are displayed in the form of specific symbols.
  • Creates, modifies and enriches the database by adding objects and designing with colour.
  • Prints documents and maps.

Using the advanced technology like GIS, the existing information is easily recorded, documented and represented in both forms – spatially as well as non-spatially. This helps in enhancing decision making process. GIS, mobile and web based tools for ICT are now available for decision makers. The ICT tools provide services in order to ‘leapfrog’ several stages of CSP development and implementation through a participatory approach. The tools have been applied in various stages of the planning process and it is envisaged to provide real-time assistance in the implementation of a plan and prove to be a valuable tool in the management of sanitation of the city.

The ICT tools mainly focuses on handling the multi-sectoral and multi-spatial data, helps in continual updation of data, data mining and use of relevant data, increasing data readability and understanding, easy accessibility to all stakeholders, use of data in ensuring awareness and public participation, and monitoring and evaluation of performance in sanitation.


  1. I am impressed with the paper you have published here. It will surely be a great input for many things as I go further. I also appreciate the simple language in which you could write such a technical subject.