Rajasthan – Towards geospatial awareness

Rajasthan – Towards geospatial awareness


Vaibhav Arora
Asst Editor
[email protected]

Located in the north-western part of India, Rajasthan is the largest state in the country with an area of 342,239 km². The state shares its border with Pakistan to the west, Madhya Pradesh to the south-east, Gujarat to the south-west, Punjab to the north and Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to the north-east. Rajasthan encompasses most of the area of the Thar Desert, which also lends it a distinctive charm that draws millions of tourists every year. ‘Pink City’ Jaipur is the capital of the state and also one of the most visited tourist destinations in the subcontinent.

Fig: Rajasthan Map
Better known for its majestic palaces, sprawling lakes and imposing desert forts, Rajasthan is also one of the leading investment destinations in the country. The government’s commitment to offer improved facilities have worked wonders for the state. It is now one of the most preferred destinations for IT companies. One of India’s largest IT parks, the Mahindra World City, is located in the state capital.

Rajasthan has to deal frequently with problems like famine and drought with the rural population, which makes about 80 percent of the total population of the state, being the worst affected. Geospatial technology is being used by the state to improve governance, speed up the development process and better manage relief efforts during a crisis.

Geospatial footprint
Although geospatial technology is not being used at a large scale in the state, the government has begun to realise the tremendous benefits of using this technology in carrying out the development work. Some of the major organisations using geospatial technology are the State Water Resources Planning Department (SWRPD), RajCOMP, Ground Water Department and Jaipur Development Authority. Besides, the ambitious Jaipur Metro Rail project is also making extensive use of this technology.

Rapid industrialisation and population growth during the past few decades have put a lot of pressure on the existing transport system, especially in crowded cities like Jaipur. With commercial development expected to continue at a brisk pace in future, the need to strengthen the transport infrastructure is more than ever before.

In order to reinforce the flagging public transportation system and decrease congestion on roads, the government has initiated the metro rail project. The project, which seeks to connect different areas of the capital with a high-speed rail network, is expected to be operational by mid-2013.

Geospatial technology is an integral component of the metro rail project. It is being used in the initial phases to identify the routes of metro. The information will subsequently be used to create a database that will be used throughout the lifecycle of the project.

The technology has helped technicians at the Jaipur Metro Rail Corporation (JMRC) to save time and effort while giving access to accurate information without the need to go out into the field and collect data. Describing the tremendous utility of the technology, Rajendra Kumar Sharma, Executive Engineer (IT), JMRC says, “GIS is a very powerful tool and has helped us to save a lot of time. Instead of going repeatedly out into the field, we can access highly accurate information from the office.”

Fig: Proposed map of Jaipur Metro
One of the most ambitious projects currently underway in the state is the e-Gram project that aims to update information related to more than 44,000 villages in the state on a monthly basis. The information relates to 11 different sectors such as water, electricity, food, medical facilities, etc. The project is a reality check on the services provided in the rural areas, and helps the state in improving the service delivery lapses, if any.

The next step in the project is to bring the vast amount of information on to the map in the form of GIS. The basic aim is to develop web GIS applications for various type of information available in the e-Gram database. For example, by putting the location of schools or dispensary on a map, it is possible for the authorities to find out areas that require a particular kind of school or medical facilities.

National Informatics Centre (NIC), the organisation which is involved in executing the project under the technical guidance of Indu Gupta, Sr. Technical Director and State Informatics Officer, Rajasthan, is currently in the process of developing a web-based GIS application to carry out the job. The work involves building GIS layers of various sectors.

Urban planning
Jaipur Development Authority is the nodal government agency responsible for the planned and sustainable development of the city. The chief responsibilities of the agency include preparation of master plan, infrastructure development and town planning. JDA is currently carrying out a GIS based project under which it intends to prepare a master plan of the city and develop a web-based map that can be easily accessed by people. While the urban areas will be covered at a scale of 1:25,000, other parts of the district will be covered at 1:1,00,000.

The basemap is prepared taking into consideration all existing natural and manmade features with the help of GIS. The process begins with identifying areas suitable for various uses such as agriculture, industrial, etc. Next, the disaster prone areas are marked out for regulated development. Subsequently, environment sensitive zones as well as historical sites are identified for conservation and protection. A large number of thematic maps related to drainage, geomorphology, land use, environmental geo-hazard, geology, hydrogeology, soil etc. have been prepared with the help of existing data as well as selected field checks. Various scientific methods were applied to assess the landscape and growth pattern in the region.

GIS-based maps are extremely effective in graphically displaying complex information. Besides, GIS makes it easy to link all the physical data for a location such as geology, soil type, ground water quality and geo-hydrology.

Fig: Draft final land use map of Jaipur Region (Courtesy: Jaipur Development Authority)
Water is a scare resource in the desert state of Rajasthan and frequent droughts are a prime reason that pulls back the state economy. The State Water Resources Planning Department (SWRPD) is amongst the most prolific users of GIS in Rajasthan and is currently working on a project named ‘GIS-based Water Resources Development Plan’ which is aimed at development of 14 major river basins in the state. The project is being executed with the help of State Remote Sensing Application Centre (SRSAC) Jodhpur. The project is based on Cartosat satellite imagery of 2.5 m resolution procured from National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) Hyderabad and includes 18 different layers such as basin, sub-basin, water bodies, drainage line, contours, settlement, rail, road etc. At present, draft final project has been submitted by SRSAC to SWRPD.

Way ahead
The biggest challenge facing the growth and development of geospatial technology in Rajasthan is perhaps the lack of trained professionals. With the use of technology increasing at a rapid pace, the need of the hour is to train people by sending them to attend workshops or recruiting trained professionals from outside who, in turn, can impart training to the local people. “The biggest challenge is of technical knowhow. GIS in Rajasthan is a new field, hence we have not done a lot of work in this technology. Thus, the people here are still in the process of learning about it,” said an industry source.

Apart from that, the agencies will have to match pace with the rapid advancements in technology so that latest technology can be employed to carry out developmental projects. The government has to do a lot more to encourage the use of geospatial technology. While there have been quite a few initiatives taken in this regard during the recent past, most projects are shelved because of policy issues or lack of funds.

Geospatial technology in Rajasthan is still in its nascent stage and a lot of work needs to be done before its full potential can be realised. While the government has taken certain initiatives in implementing the technology for several developmental projects, the most important aspect is building technical knowhow and changing the mindset of people to create awareness about the benefits of geospatial technology.