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Workshop highlights role of GIS in district level planning in India

National Workshop on Intergrated District Planning held in GandhinagarIndia, 30 September, 2014: A two-day workshop on Integrated District Planning was organised by Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India; Bhaskaracharya Institute for Space Applications and Geoinformatics (BISAG); and Gujarat State Panchayat, Rural Housing and Rural Development Department on 25 and 26 September in Gandhinagar, Gujarat to assess role of GIS in district planning.

S.M. Vijayanand, Additional Secretary (Ministry of Rural Development), Government of India, while speaking at the workshop said that ‘there are no perfect plans, but GIS can enable the most rational choices.’ The workshop was aimed at bringing forth various critical components of integrated district level planning in India, and the role of GIS and space technology.

Advocating the need for district level planning, Vijayanand said a district is an organic link of all plans as it is the strongest administrative unit. Highlighting the relevance of technology, he said that participation in technology should be the new mantra, because it allows for adopting an integrated approach. Such an approach can lead to effective decision making by administrators; and spatial planning can result in an improved model. According to him, the two critical elements in planning include natural resource management and integrating the many anti-poverty plans by analysing poverty data. Both these objectives can be achieved with the use of GIS. He underlined that while a data provider like BISAG will give data, it is for the people involved to design plans.

The Workshop also included deliberation by Sushil Kumar, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj; Sarada Muraleedharan, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj; P.K. Parmar, Principal Secretary, Panchayati Raj, Govt. of Gujarat; BD Virdi, Advisor, Planning Commission; Pankaj Joshi, Development Commissioner, Panchayati Raj, Govt. of Gujarat; Dr. M.N.Roy, (Retd.), ex-Additional Chief Secretary, Government of West Bengal; Vandana Sharma, DDG, NIC; Dr JR Sharma, ISRO; as well as state representatives.

Sushil Kumar expressed hope that the detailed discussions on various ICT and GIS enablers for District Planning would provide an insight of the possibilities of using technology as a facilitator in the planning process. He informed of the initiative taken by MoPR for e-enablement of the planning process at Panchayat level through adoption of PlanPlus Application (https://planningonline.gov.in) that enables convergence of resources at local level. He also introduced the idea of developing a
National Panchayat Atlas and informed that developing this Atlas would be a priority for the Ministry.

Dr. M.N. Roy, former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal demonstrated how ICT and GIS based local planning was being done in many GPs of West Bengal under the Institutional Strengthening of Gram Panchayat (ISGP) project. More than 30 key indicators like schools, aanganwadis, PHCs, banks, post offices, etc. were identified on a map through community participation at GP level. Geo-referenced base maps of GPs, geo-tagging of assets, spatial dashboard for
monitoring progress against indicators, generating alarms, capturing location and uploading pictures through mobile phones, ownership of data by GPs, feedback mechanism, etc. were some of the key features under this initiative.

The seminar also witnessed a panel Discussion on Potential of GIS in Spatial District Planning. The panel suggested that when developing a national Panchayat GIS, initially a ‘notional’ GIS may be used instead of insisting on accuracy.There is also a need for ‘demystification’ of technology, i.e. giving the appropriate tools related to GIS to the people at Gram Panchayat level who can use it with ease. For GIS to be used in Spatial District Planning, there is a need for having a basic map of all the Gram Panchayats with the associated revenue villages.

The participants of the workshop observed that GIS can enhance planning, identify missing links and help provide a scientific character to district planning so that loopholes can be plugged. There are various schemes for district level planning in the country, and judicious use of technology can help monitor the flow of funds, provide transparency, enable optimum utilisation of resources through proper planning, and avoid imbalance. The workshop also stressed on the importance of demystifying technology and translating it into a language that people understand. The Workshop also stressed on the need to build capacity of officers at all levels and elected representatives to understand the use and benefits of technology. Need was also expressed to fix ownership of the plans, irrespective of where the information comes from.

The workshop also witnessed demonstration on how several states in India, including Gujarat, West Bengal and Kerala are successfully implementing spatial information and geospatial platforms like GIS in district planning. New technologies like UAVs are also being envisaged by Gujarat at district level to collect data.

Source: Our correspondent