A. K. Verma, IFS
Chief Conservator of Forests, Working Plan, Karnataka Forest Department, Bangalore
Email: [email protected]
Associate Programme Officer, DFID, New Delhi
Email: [email protected]
To test the application forWorking Plan preparation within the Karnataka Forest Department, pilot projects were commissioned.
A recent Supreme Court ruling which requires that Working Plans be in place for all forest areas within 2 years, has given a sense of urgency to bring all areas under approved management, covered by a Working Plan. This has provided the focus to review the existing methods of preparing Working Plans, to incorporate the latest developments in remote sensing and GIS, and to assess the experiences gained through developments in planning systems at the field level.
To test the application for Working Plan preparation within the Karnataka Forest Department (KFD), pilot projects were commissioned with different agencies, to acquire, process and interpret satellite imagery, and in conjunction with the Department’s territorial staff, derive information on forest type and construct a database of Range level information to allow informed analysis for planning purposes.
The Western Ghats Forestry Project (WGFP) supported by the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and implemented by the Karnataka Forest Department, has been working in Kanara and Shimoga Circles, to develop new client focused approaches and integrated planning systems for sustainable forest management.
A recent focus in the project has been to support the Working Plans Wing and develop a more effective planning and monitoring capability and service provision. This involves developing a new approach to Working Plan preparation, to produce a strategic level planning document which incorporates participatory planning, provides direction to the implementation of policy, recognises the multiple stakeholders involved, and sets out geographic priorities and standards to guide field level management and planning.
In view of the limited time available and the resources required for an extensive forest inventory exercise, the decision was taken to use remotely sensed data to gather information on the forest resources. An earlier forest survey and vegetation mapping exercise had been undertaken with the National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA), Hyderabad, in Uttara Kanara District of Karnataka, using both satellite imagery and aerial photography. Although the outputs from this exercise were in hard copy format which limited the ability for analysis and combining with secondary data, valuable lessons were learnt for an applied approach for GIS and the role it could play in preparing Working Plans.
Specialist knowledge is required for the acquisition, processing and interpretation of satellite imagery, and as this capability was not initially available within KFD, external agencies were approached to provide specialist technical support. A number of approaches were tested through pilot projects, and a total of 7 divisions in Western Ghats area and one division in Eastern Plains area, were selected for data collection and GIS preparation.
Survey of India 1:50,000 scale toposheets along with various forest maps were digitised to prepare base maps, with different layers of information being generated. These included: drainage, contours, transportation routes and settlement locations. Forest administrative details such as forest block, compartment Division, Range and beat boundaries were also included.
Digital data from the IRS-1C LISS III as well as PAN sensors for the period March 1998 and 1999 were procured from NRSA. A number of approaches are being tested with the collaboration of different agencies, from visual interpretation of the false colour composites (FCC), and by digital interpretation through supervised classification. In all cases the key component has been in the emphasis placed on ground truthing. This was undertaken in conjunction with the Territorial Staff, particularly Beat Guards, who have an intimate knowledge of their particular area. The forest type/land cover is identified at each point and checked against the interpreted image and the position recorded using hand-held global positioning system (GPS). Other parameters such as canopy cover and regeneration status were also recorded.
Demographic data by village for each area was compiled from the 1991 census, in particular, population density and occupational structure to build up a socio-economic profile of the range. Forest Range level databases are also being developed and tested under the WGFP with a view to being incorporated in the Divisional level GIS.
Basic GIS facilities have been established at the 6 Working Plans Wing offices throughout the State. All offices have been supplied with ArcView GIS software, desktop PC, colour printers and ancillaries, handheld GPS and basic inventory equipment, along with a notebook PC to allow data collection and analysis in the field. A structured training programme of both ‘in-house’ and externally conducted sessions for primarily Working Plan Wing officers and certain territorial staff has been conducted, covering topics such as: remote sensing using satellite imagery; introductory training in ArcView GIS software; forest resource assessment methodology; data analysis and database design.
A major element of the support process has been the development of customised training courses with ESRI India, based on Working Plan applications, using local forest data.
The Department is currently at the point of analysing the large volumes of data being collected for the preparation of the various Working Plans, which it is expected, will highlight the benefits of the new technology. New participatory planning approaches are being tested in particular Divisions through the preparation of Range profiles which bring together the statistical information on the social and natural resources of the Range with the experience and knowledge of the Territorial frontline staff. This is a useful method of providing an overview of the resources and problems at the Range level, highlighting the issues which should be addressed by the Divisional Working Plan and, therefore, acts as a guide to setting priorities and developing strategies for management. It is beyond the scope of the present paper to go into details of each project – but we are now confident of the efficacy of the approaches in preparation of Working Plans.
The development of GIS within the Working Plans Wing has been a learning process for all concerned. India has many agencies and vendors with specialist GIS/RS technical knowledge, some who profess to offer the ‘total solution’. It has been the challenge of the Department’s staff to gain an understanding of the new technology and importantly, be able to articulate their needs to develop an applied approach to GIS development. Therefore, a conscious decision has been taken to involve the field-level staff from the outset and develop local capacity at the various Working Plans offices.
Once the preliminary analysis is completed, it is planned to undertake a full evaluation of different approaches and develop a long term strategy and role for Working Plans in terms of on-going planning and monitoring. Key areas identified include: strategic planning for the sustainable management of all forest areas; conservation management; production planning and forecasting; consolidation of lands and records; monitoring of Working Plan implementation and forest condition.
To ensure long term application of GIS within the Department, it is important to integrate GIS into the normal management processes and procedures to ensure that any database is up to date and the full benefits of GIS are achieved. This would allow the aggregation of Divisional data to State level, to inform the policy level decision making at both the Headquarters and State Government level.