Does the district have the infrastructure to support all its villages, to
sustain a hydro power plant, to run the local gum and resin factories, and even
support mobile circles? Up further, at the state level, how many mandis are
there in a state, and how can they be connected to the other markets in
The answer lies in planning, analyzing and making decisions based on
geographical information systems (GIS), which act as a reliable data gallery. At
the micro level, GIS applications act as an aid to native decision-making. At
the macro level, it can also be used effectively by national bodies.
National Informatics Center’s GIS National Mapping is the Indian answer to
international GIS projects. “All administrative borders of the country,
coastal boundaries, soil types, ground water, forest covers, health
infrastructure, information of the 6 lakh Indian villages, national and state
highways, in 72 layers are all available on the Indian Map on a scale of
250,000:1 to 25,000:1, moving from the national level to the district
level,” says Vishnu Chandra, technical director of the Remote Sensing and
GIS division at NIC. “All 72 layers are depicted in point (village, mandi),
line (river, road, railway line) and polygon (ice beds, district)
Obviously, huge efforts have been made on capturing this data, which
according to H Madhava Reddy, senior technical director at NIC “accounted
for an 80% of the total investment.” The main sources of information that
has been, collated over three to four years, are the Survey of India, the
ministries, census and land surveys.
Interestingly, the various ministries and departments are also the consumers
of the data. In fact, the Planning Commission has been the foremost agency using
these spatial databases, facilitating planning at the macro and the micro level.
“We are encouraging the use of a common base map by different government
agencies-in good times and in crisis,” adds Chandra of NIC.
What’s more, various successful applications have emanated from the base
map database, including Agmarknet, coastal zone management, IFFCO information
server, total sanitation campaign all of which have been developed for different
For example, Agma-rknet, an application for the Directorate of Marketing of
Ministry of Agriculture maps 1,500 of the 7,000 mandis: their locations, market
arrivals, daily average prices, storage facilities, grading of crops and quality
checks of the various agricultural commodities. The information of the mandis
that are not mapped is stored in a sequential database.
It depicts an area’s natural and human-made resources, including soil
types, population densities, land uses, transportation corridors, waterways,
street patterns, mass-transit patterns, sewer lines, water sources, and utility
lines. This helps in ensuring better management of the utilities in the urban
areas, which make up a major portion of the municipal budget. The utility
mapping of Delhi is now ready.
Dr N Vijayaditya, director general of NIC, who is spearheading NIC’s
initiatives on this front said, “The Delhi utility map covers 900 points
earmarked by the National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA), with aerial surveys and
then verified by a physical ground reality check.” The points include Delhi
Vidyut Board power lines, Delhi Jal Board, sewage, landmarks etc.
This project is based on the latest technology such as global positioning
system (GPS), photogrammetry, and GIS-being implemented in India for the first
time. Using photogrammetric technique, aerial photographs in pairs (consecutive)
were used to form a 3D model. The whole area of Delhi (1,485 sq km) was covered
on the scale of 1000:1. The competence of NIC here can be established by the
fact that NIC also provides consultancy support to big companies for setting up
their own CAD centers. It also helps them in the area of analysis and design.
According to Dr Vijayaditya, “The time taken for the projects
implementation on our end depends heavily on the cooperation extended by all
agencies in sharing information. While Delhi’s utility map took three years,
the other major cities of Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore and
Ahmedabad should all be ready in the next 18 months-ultimately, helping to
solve last mile connectivity issues, electricity and power commissioning.”
To increase the expanse of mobile connectivity in the country, MTNL and BSNL
have been using NIC’s GIS capabilities to determine the locations for future
mobile towers. It being a G2G facility, private parties interested in sourcing
similar information have to wait for some more time.
The National Spatial Database is under continuous evaluation and upgradation
as data comes in from various sources time and again. Ministerial and
departmental co-operation is the only way by which the ambitious GIS project can
gather further speed.
NIC’s Spatial Data Content
- Administrative boundaries: state, district, taluka, block and village
locations for the entire country
- Village boundary database of six states; to be extended to four more
- Major town locations
- Communication layers like roads (National Highways and others) and rail
- Natural resource layers like major rivers, green areas and sanctuaries
- Supplemented by satellite imagery, toposheets and other faster datasets
GIS: A Closer Look
Geographic Information Systems are special-purpose digital databases where a
common spatial coordinate system is the primary means of reference, displaying
all forms of geographically referenced information. A GIS contains subsystems
for 1) data input; 2) data storage, retrieval, and representation; 3) data
management, transformation, and analysis; and 4) data reporting and product
It is useful to view it a process rather than a thing, supporting data
collection, analysis, and decision-making. It’s far more than a software or
hardware product. Special-purpose GIS includes land-base information system,
land record system, web-based coastal database, emergency planning and response
Geographic information such as roads, streams, habitat types, sensitive
areas, soil types, or any other features are the different layers that can be
mapped on the ground. GIS are especially useful in management planning and
land-use decisions on a landscape scale.