India, 28 December 2006 – District planners in the state of Uttar Pradesh in North India can now get crucial information about their blocks at the click of the mouse. The Remote Sensing Applications Centre (RSAC) is in the last lap of preparing the Natural Resources Information System (NRIS) of 60 districts in the state. The computerised information will be handed over to the district authorities by March 2007.
After mapping through satellites and extensive field surveys, a computerised database of the areas has been made. This would help the local administrations to chalk out comprehensive development plans for various villages and blocks.
NRIS Project Manager, P N Shah said, “In 45 districts, computers have already been installed and database for seven districts has been transferred to the district-level planning officers.” Shah said land resource map would show if the soil was deficient in potash or nitrogen and what type of fertilizer should be used to remove such deficiency.
The NRIS has taken four years and Rs.10 crore to develop. RSAC followed more than 25 natural resource themes to build up the system. The soil, its quality and profile, water and its availability, cropping pattern, forest cover, barren lands, the state of groundwater and mineral resources were the key features that were mapped and scanned.
Director RSAC, A N Singh believes that the information will go a long way in developing rural lands for sustainable use. He said, “The farmers can also identify soils where double cropping, horticulture or agro-forestry can be undertaken and where canal irrigation can be done.”
“Based on evaluation, villagers can dig tube wells at appropriate places and identify the sites where check dams or water harvesting structures can be made,” Singh added.
For the information to trickle down to the farmers, it is necessary that the concerned district authorities are made aware of it. RSAC, recently, imparted training to 100 DESTOs (District Economics and Statistics Officers) for the purpose.
The NRIS will also give information through maps on road and railway networks, health and education facilities available in different districts. For authorities, this will add more precision to their plans.
Earlier, district planning was based on random checking, which was often faulty. In fact, there was hardly any concrete information on natural resources. “When they have computerised maps, they will be able to plan effectively. A map will tell them that a certain tract is wasteland and it could be afforested,” pointed out Singh. With NRIS, policies for water and land resources development can witness a paradigm shift.