Tamil Nadu – going digital!

Tamil Nadu – going digital!


Aditi Bhan
Asst Editor
[email protected]

Located in the southern part of the country, Tamil Nadu is one of the 28 states of India and is bordered by Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and the union territory of Pondicherry. It is believed to be the eleventh largest state in the country in terms of area, and the seventh most populous state. Chennai is the capital and largest city of the state.

Historically an agricultural state, Tamil Nadu is home to many natural resources. It is the fourth largest contributor (as of 2010) to the country’s GDP. In 2010-11, it registered a per capita GDP of USD 1,622, the sixth highest in India. The state is also said to have the highest number (10.56 per cent) of business enterprises. In fact, it is the second most industrialised state next to Maharashtra. Many heavy engineering and manufacturing-based companies are located in and around Chennai. Tamil Nadu has a network of 110 industrial parks and estates with supporting infrastructure, and has the largest number of Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the country.

Tamil Nadu is considered to be a pioneering state of e-governance initiatives in the country. Being one of the most urbanised and literate states in the country (its literacy rate is reported to have increased from 73.47 per cent in 2001 to 80.3 per cent in 2011), it comes as a little surprise that e-governance is being integrated in a big way in the state. “Providing government services, both informational and transactional, to citizens at their door steps through the internet is one of the major objectives of the policy note of 2011-2012 of the Information Technology department of Government of Tamil Nadu. We want to bridge the digital rural-urban divide and make Tamil Nadu the best in IT enabled governance,” said Dr Santhosh Babu, Secretary to the government, IT, Tamil Nadu.

At present, all major government offices like urban local bodies (all corporations and municipal office activities —land registration offices, revenue collection and transport offices) have been computerised. Similarly, a large part of the government records like land ownership records is digitised. In fact, a comprehensive database of all agricultural land records throughout the state has already been created. Citizens can avail online a number of services of the revenue department like verify land ownership, view the patta copy (chitta extract), etc.

Tamil Nadu Forest Department:
The department started using geospatial technology nearly 25 years ago. Today, Tamil Nadu Forest Department has successfully incorporated this technology in almost all its activities – be it database creation, studying the extent of forest cover, deforestation and degradation in an area, risk zone areas and the type of risk or monitoring afforestation programmes or wildlife habitat. GIS is emerging as an effective tool in efficient management of forests. In fact, the department has also established a state-of-the-art Geomatics Centre which is actively engaged in creating and analysing both spatial and non-spatial digital database pertaining to forestry. “Satellite pictures assist us in providing management prescriptions, benchmarking and also for online monitoring,” said Ashutosh Samant Singhar, Chief Conservator of Forests (IT).

Some of the major works done by the department so far are:

    1) Preliminary digital image processing using satellite imagery has been completed for the entire state. The department has also classified forest cover areas and trees outside these areas in different density classes such as dense forest, dense tree cover, open forest, sparse tree cover, etc. 2) A pilot project to analyse forest cover change for Dharmapuri and Coimbatore districts. 3) District forest atlases for districts like Thiruvallur, Salem, Dharmapuri, Kanchipuram, Namakkal Tirunelvelli and Erode have been prepared so far. 4) Updation of records to identify reserve forests. “We are updating the documents to properly locate and identify the reserve forests. Many times what happens is that information available for a district does not include information about these areas. So we carry our own survey/ data for these areas,” said Singhar. 5) Tamil Nadu Afforestation Project (TAP) – The aim of this GIS based project is to regenerate forests in the state through afforestation. TAP is being implemented in 22 districts at a cost of Rs 115.22 crores.

As geospatial technology involves specialised knowledge, Forest department has collaborated with a number of organisations to train its staff like ITC Netherlands, FSI Dehradun, NRSA (National Remote Sensing Agency), Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS). “We regularly arrange in-house training programmes for our staff. We will soon be starting a college for this purpose but that will be for our personnel only,” said Singhar.

Water management
A leading producer of agricultural products in India, Tamil Nadu is the country’s second biggest producer of rice. Its agriculture is heavily dependent on river water and monsoon rains. Hence, water plays an important role in sustainment of its economy. Several agencies/ programmes meant for effective management of water in the state are given below.

1. Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage (TWAD) Board
A statutory body formed by the state government, TWAD is responsible for providing water supply and sewerage facilities to the entire state of Tamil Nadu except Chennai Metropolitan area. The board has an active GIS cell and remote sensing unit which is responsible for preparation of database and thematic maps of the state. These maps are then sent to the field officials for the following purpose:

    1) For identifying sources for IPP/ Quality affected habitations, etc. 2) For selection of sources for major Combined Water Supply Scheme (CWSS) in the river systems. 3) Integrated maps for major CWSS. 4) Selection of sites for artificial recharge structures.

Some of the projects implemented by TWAD with the assistance of central or state or UNICEF are Water resource management study in Karaipottanar water shed, School sanitation and hygience education, updating the groundwater potential zonation map using remote sensing and GIS for all the 385 blocks of the state, impact of recharge structure on groundwater and land use in parts of Vallam, Melmalaiyanur, Gingee blocks of Villupuram district etc.

The department is currently working on Preparation of groundwater prospects map (HGM maps) and water quality mapping (Government of India’s project). Under the aegis of Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission (RGNDWM), Department of Drinking Water Sanitation, New Delhi, the Groundwater Prospect Mapping (HGM maps) along with Water Quality are to be prepared based on remote sensing and GIS techniques on toposheet wise (1:50,000 scales) for the entire state covering 220 toposheets. The HGM maps will incorporate various thematic layers such as geology, geomorphology, ground water resources and administrative boundaries with details of towns and habitations. Also, these maps have to be prepared incorporating the bore well details like depth, yield and water quality parameters.

2. State Water Resources Management Agency (SWaRMA)
With an objective to improve the institutional arrangements and capacity for sustainable water resources management in the state, government has created a State Water Resources Management Authority (SWaRMA), amalgamating the existing Institute for Water Studies and the State Ground and Surface Water Resources Data Centre.

The following activities are to be implemented by the SWaRMA, the WRO, and Basin Boards:

    a) Effective use of information for water resources planning and management b) Strengthening the framework for sustainable water resources management c) Study of cooum sub-basin rural-urban interface d) Promotion of research using water resources research fund (WRRF)

Under the Resource Planning & Management wing, there exists a section which deals with the information center. This information center is responsible for all the activities related to knowledge base/GIS; analysis/modeling/decision support systems; reporting/dissemination.

Transport management
The state transport department has successfully implemented Road Accident Data Management System (RADMS). It has been developed for collection and analysis of accident data. Three government agencies – the state police and the departments of transport and highways – use RADMS to collect data and take suitable action to reduce accidents.

Accident-prone areas are mapped using this road management software. Based on the number of accidents that have occurred at a particular spot, the agencies devise road safety measures. While the police department is responsible for entering details like location, number of vehicles involved, etc, the transport department fills details like licence type, driver education, defects of the vehicle, etc. The highways department takes care of details like infrastructure which may have been the cause of the accident. Using this system, the department has concluded that most accidents occur on Sundays between 4 and 9 pm.

Encouraged by the success of this system, the transport department intends to use GPS for effective management of buses. K.Mohanram, Deputy Transport Commissioner-I Cum-Nodal Officer for Computerisation, Transport Department, Government of Tamil Nadu, said, “We plan to use GPS in buses so that we can monitor their routes and take action in case they change routes without any prior notice. Many times, buses avoid remote areas and take the shortest route to reach their destination, thus causing inconvenience to the general public. We want to put an end to this.”

For the government to realise its dream of maximising citizen-government interaction by bringing in transparency in the system, it is important to incorporate technology in a big way in everyday interactions between the government and public. Although much remains to be done, but given the way the state is progressing, it may not be too long before the government realises its vision.

With inputs from Wikipedia