Home Articles The National (Natural) Resources Information System

The National (Natural) Resources Information System

A. R. DASGUPTA*, Mukund RAO**, A. K. S. GOPALAN***
Space Applications Centre, Indian Space Research Organisation
Ahmedabad 380 053, India.
**Earth Observations Systems Office, Indian Space Research Organisation
Bangalore 560016, India
Email:* [email protected] , *** [email protected] , ** [email protected]

In 1983, the Department of Space, DOS, realised that to promote the wide use of the technology of Remote Sensing it would be necessary to integrate the applications of the technology into the existing information systems which were in day to day use by resource managers and planners. With this in view a major programme called the National Natural Resources Management System; NNRMS was launched under the aegis of the Planning Commission. One of the important elements of the NNRMS was the NRIS or the National (Natural) Resources Management System. The parenthetical adding of the word ‘Natural’, in a way, explains the raison d’être of the NRIS. Resources management is a very involved task and requires the combined efforts of different experts, ranging from natural resource scientists to economists and bureaucrats. The technology of Remote Sensing, however, primarily addresses the information needs of the natural resource scientists and any associated information system would therefore be oriented towards natural resources. The NRIS would thus be a feeder information system to the larger information system of the Government, which would include socio-economic information and models.

Scope of NRIS
The NRIS, as illustrated in Figure 1, consists of a set of databases on natural resources distributed according to the Indian administrative structure of Centre, States and the Districts. In the case of Central Government sectoral departments, the hierarchy followed will be Centre-Region-Project. The databases will be linked to each other by way of telecommunication links such that information should be only a mouse click away. The crux of the NRIS is customised application shells that allows the administrator to interact with the system and get information as and when needed. This called for the development of generalised query shells as well as specific decision support shells running user defined models. These databases and shells can handle spatial data in the form of satellite imagery and maps derived from them and other sources. The spatial data is linked to socio-economic information available from the Census, DISNIC, BES and other databases. To this extent, the boundary between the natural resources and other resources becomes diffuse.

Table 1 A Chronology of Events

1983 National Natural Resources Management System to promote use of Remote Sensing and GIS established.

  • Preparatory Committee for NNRMS set up by Planning Commission.
  • NNRMS Seminar: Concept of NRIS presented for the first time.
  • PC-NNRMS becomes Planning Committee.
  • Several Task Groups set up including NRIS and Cartography set up by the Planning Commission.
  • Several Pilot Projects initiated in areas such as Regional Planning, Urban Planning, etc.

1990 Inter-departmental Expert Committee to finalise NRIS Action Plan.
1992 Integrated Mission for Sustainable Development launched.
1996 NRIS Programme launched with sanction of Interim Plan.

Evolution of NRIS
This concept was debated and discussed at several forums. An inter-departmental Expert Committee laid down the dimensions of the proposed system in 1990[1]. However, many felt that this was an idea ahead of its time. Consequently, a series of pilot projects were planned and executed to understand the technological, scientific and operational intricacies of the system [2,3]. Finally, in 1996 the Department of Space, as the nodal agency for NNRMS, decided to launch the NRIS programme in a modest way. An Interim Plan was drawn up to implement the concept in a selected set of States and Districts. The Plan also envisages some experimentation on the inter-linking and remote access of the databases using modern computer communications systems.

Figure 1 The NRIS Concept

The NRIS Interim Plan
The NRIS Interim Plan spatial databases are being set up in four States and 30 Districts. The States are Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa and Gujarat. The districts are seven from these states and another 13 from the states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, Mizoram, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Karnataka. The State databases contain information on natural resources at a scale of 1:250,000 while the District databases have information at the detail of 1:50,000. The districts have been selected based on data availability. All these districts have been covered under the Integrated Mission for Sustainable Development, IMSD. Each database has up to 20 map layers and 8 socio-economic tables [Tables 2 and 3]. As stated earlier, the databases are operated through application shells that have been designed to provide a simple front end to the database. In addition, based on discussions with the state and district administrators, customised decision support shells have been provided for specific planning scenarios like soil conservation, water harvesting, watershed management, etc.