(The Gist of Kurukshetra) Space Technology for Rural Development [MAY-2018]

(The Gist of Kurukshetra) Space Technology for Rural Development


Space Technology for Rural Development

The Indian Space programme has the primary objective of developing space technology and application programmes to meet the developmental needs of the country. Space technology, as the powerful enabler, provides a variety of vital inputs for holistic and rapid development of rural areas, and villages in specific. India has been among the world leaders in developing end-to-end capability in both satellite remote sensing and communication.

Recognize the key needs for rural employment sector; space technology application in the form of WEB GIS was initiated addressing decentralized planning through BhuvanPanchayat. This has been followed by successful initiatives of watershed monitoring, geo-tagging of completed assets created under MGNREGA as well as geo-tagging the agricultural infrastructure created under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY, a national level agriculture extension project) (Fig 1). Three major departments at national level concerning agriculture, land resources and rural employment have adopted the collation of flagship initiatives under PMKSY so as to achieve a linked execution, to benefit the farmer through the cascade of developmental programmes. In view of such an ambitious flagship initiative, application of space technology is being developed at much higher capacity. Villages spread across wide variety of terrain and access are being monitored, assessed and assisted using geospatial technology for achieving best possible development rooted in conservation of soil and water. NRSC / ISRO developed Geo-Spatial solutions for monitoring and evaluation of IWMP, MGNREGA, PMGSY, Assets mapping under RK , Waste and development, Space based information Support for Decentralised Planning (SlS-DP).

Monitoring Impact of Watershed Management Programmes:

Watershed Development Programme is one of the major initiatives in the country towards conservation of soil and water resources in the rain fed area for enhancing agricultural production, ensuring livelihood security to rural people besides halting the depletion of natural resources. Over the years, space applications have been adapted to respond to integrated development of land and water resources, and assess the improvements of the treated watershed. The developmental plans drawn at micro-watershed level, using thematic maps on resource status viz. land use, cropping area, water bodies and drainage, soils, terrain characteristics, have resulted in various visible impacts on ground viz., improvement in cropping intensity & crop yield, decrease in fallow lands, increase in irrigated crop.
IWMP aims to bring in ecological stability through conservative utilization of soil and water resources for all IWMP identified watershed projects. Implementation of IWMP ensures that more micro level water sources are created as well as ground water is replenished by controlling run off.

lWMP projects across the country were monitored initially in 10 states and 50 distrICTs br special projects under PMO focus. Buoyed by the reliability and success, after about 15 months of the initiation of the project, Department of Land Resource allotted all IWMP projects to NRSC for monitoring. Monitoring involves observing 8200 projects (covering about 81000 micro~ watershed) every year for five years beginning from 2013-14 period which is about 3.5 4 years after the first allocation of IWMP. By virtue of its innovative convergence of high resolution satellite data, vector database from states as well as precise geotags of activities completed on the ground, this project was recognised at highest level of Government as a flagship remote sensing application project addressing operational requirement. The challenge of using satellite data of high resolution to detect changes brought in due to watershed interventions as well as non treatment reasons across varied agro-climatic contexts makes it unique. Especially the scope of integrating land cover alterations effected due to other projects as inducing changes in 5 face and subsurface hydrology is far reaching.

Impact of IWMP

The impact of water conservation efforts has been clearly evident in bi-temporal Satellite images during the implementation period. Observations and interactions during field visits, confirm the irrigation potential of structures created under IWMP. Since the entire process is available as geospatial database comprehending the results of the watershed management, indicators of sustainability can be derived from the time series satellite imaging even in periods beyond project schedules. Illustration of changes brought about in watersheds due to construction of check dams, farm ponds as well as vegetation establishment (Fig 2) provided herewith demonstrates the potential of web enabled GIS portal for rendering the most transparent monitoring of development activity including access to citizens.

GeoMgnrega : Geospatial Applications for cataloguing, monitoring and planning Rural Employment Generation Activities

GeoMGNREGA which is a space technology based component of MGNREGA of Ministry of Rural Development aims to implement geographic information system for entire range of activities implemented under the scheme. National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), ISRO developed and implemented Web portal on Bhuvan integrating smart phone app and GIS. Further to its initial geotagging exercise, MoRD is implementing activities realigned to water conservation based on ridge to valley principles and has made role of remote sensing, GIS and GPS technologies central to their planning, implementing and monitoring.

Geo-MGNREGA, developed by NRSC, is a geo-information enabled web service / portal that assists the planning and management of activities of MGNREGA ranging from support functions to the delivery of work to the end-users. It has been developed through integrating NREGASOFT with the ISRO’s BHUVAN portal. Database of completed assets residing on ”NREGASoft” is also pushed to Bhuvan, which in turn is served to each data collector under Gram Panchayats through GeoMGNREGA. Collected data is moderated for quality by approved authorities at block level. Thus, Bhuvan facilitates an inclusive geographic information storage, retrieval, analysis and reporting for completed assets, with a high resolution Indian Remote Sensing Satellite in the backdrop for rural development planning. The major application of GeoMGNREGA is primarily in operational monitoring of the assets (Fig. 3).

Geospatial Technology for Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKYY):

Department of Agriculture and Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, Ministry of Agriculture, has implemented Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana. (RKVY), as a special Additional Central Assitance (ACA) Scheme by DACFW, MAFW. Project started from 2007-2008 covering 5768 projects (Fig. 5) in broad categories of agriculture and allied Sectors, viz., horticulture, natural resources management, agricultural mechanization, marketing and post. Harvest management, animal husbandry, dry development, fisheries, extension etc.

Prime Minister Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY):

The conventional data source for rural roads such as cadastral maps, SOI topomaps provide useful information. But this information needs to be updated periodically for effective monitoring and evaluation. In this context, high resolution satellite data will provide reliable information on the status of rural roads as on the date of satellite imagery. For the first time, an attempt was made to create spatial database on rural roads in the year 1999 on a pilot basis for IchodaMandal in Adilabad district, Telangana State wherein it demonstrated the use of IRS 1C PAN data. Subsequently, the study was extended to the distrICTs of lhalawar, Baran and Dhaulpur in Rajasthan on operational basis at the behest of Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India in the year 2001.

Development of Waste Lands:

Department of Land Resources under the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD), requested NRSC/|5ROI to generate spatial information on wastelands, using remote sensing techniques, with respect to their distribution, extent, nature degree of degradation and temporal behavior to facilitate the planning and implementation 2005-06 onwards.
Waste Land mapping was carried out during the period 1986-2000 adopting 13fold classification system. A final consolidated atlas on wastelands was published in May, 2000. Subsequently, at the request of Department of Land Resources (DoLR), NRSC mapped the waste lands adopting 28 fold classification and updated the earlier Atlas. The extent of wastelands in the country was estimated as 55.27 m. h (17.45 % of Total Geographical Area).

To understand the spatial and temporal changes in wastelands, a project on National Wastelands Monitoring was initiated in 2006 with the objective of assessing the status of wastelands and to monitor its changes. The satellite data of three seasons viz kharif, rabi and zaid of 2005-06 has been used to derive information on wastelands. This exercise enabled to improve the delineation of wasteland categories due to use of three season satellite data. An area of 47.22 m. ha (14.91% of TGA) was recorded as wastelands. In the year 2010, DoLR has again requested to undertake wasteland mapping using satellite data of 2008-09 and to bring out changes in wastelands with reference to 2005-06. The wasteland classes of 2005-06 were updated using satellite data of 2008-09 and the change areas were identified. These changes were late confirmed using limited ground checks.

Space based Information Support for Decentralized Planning (SIS-DP):

Reliable information on land & water ‘resources and their optimal management is vital for developmental planning at grass root level. Space based Information is being utilized for support decentralized planning by empowering the local bodies (Panchayats) to prepare developmental plans. It encompasses geo-referenced images, state level data repository on natural resources at 1:10000 scale coupled with stakeholder data sets. A gee-portal ’BhuvanPanchayat’ has also been deployed for visualization, asset mapping, activity planning and monitoring of the schemes at Panchayat level. Under this initiative, it is planned to carryout mapping of assets in about 2 5 lakh panchayats in the country. BhuvanPanchayat Geoportal will be further augmented to enable preparation of locale specific action plans for development planning.

Space Applications in Agriculture and Water Resources Sectors:

NRSC developed following Geo-Spatial solutions in Agriculture and Water Resources sectors, which contribute to the development of Rural areas in terms of food production, farmer’s income, water availability for localized irrigation and aqua culture. These Geo-Spatial solutions have immense value for the sustainable development of Rural India.

  • Crop Insurance Decision Support System (CIDSS) A Web-enabled Integrated package for implementing Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY);
  • Crop Intensification-Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India Satellite-based mapping of post kharif rice fallows (National Food Security Mission);
  • Mapping & Evaluation of High Value Crops;
  • Agricultural Drought Vulnerability; ' Mapping Horticulture Crops;
  • Fiber Crop Information System;
  • Water Body Information System.

Benefits of Geo-Spatial Solutions:

  • Enhanced ease of governance with improved monitoring and evaluation for integrated development activity.
  • This Geo-Spatial solution is transparent and efficient compared to traditional approach with manual surveys in the field.
  • Linking management information system to geo-spatial visualization.
  • Comprehensive planning and development at local level as it provides an opportunity to spatially analyze the impact of having assets by combining the data from multiple projects.
  • It also aids in qualifying the need for having an asset at a particular location and knowing if there is any damage caused to the assets due to human or natural causes.


Governance of rural areas especially for improving employment potential has received a welcome boost through initiatives which have enabled geo-tagging of all created assets, bringing in unprecedented level of transparency and verification by functionaries and citizens alike. Improving capability of remote sensing and positioning in terms of spatial and temporal resolutions can bring in huge advantage of addressing micro-level concerns fully and satisfactorily. Web enabled GIS applications can serve information to every corner of the country, hence throwing open the technology for use by common man. Affordable mobile telephones embedded with operationally compliant positioning device as well as photography coupled with internet connectivity have added another dimension of digital access to every rural dweller. In such context, it is timely that ISRO has initiated web based geospatial information systems at the behest of Departments dealings with Rural Development in a comprehensive manner. The Geo-spatial solutions contribute to development of rural areas to realize the objective of creating Digital India by minimizing the space between Technology and common man.

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Courtesy: Kurukshetra