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  • - V Madhava Rao, P Kesava Rao and R R Hermon

    Spatial technologies play a key role in generating timely and reliable information for planning and decision-making at all levels. The use of GIS for a micro administrative unit for planning and implementation was tested in an Action Research Project in one of the panchayats in India, where the knowledge base is developed up to cadastral level (land parcel level) and the house hold socio economic data is embedded on this layer on a GIS platform, with all graphic features of house type and house hold linked, to enable stakeholders take decisions in a dynamic mode.

    Even though it is widely recognized that the Geographic Information System (GIS) has the capacity to analyze both spatial and temporal data on a cost effective manner for effective planning and management, its application at the micro level for participatory planning and management is limited. In this context an Action Research Project was taken up at the Panchayat level by the National Institute of Rural Development where efforts were made to develop an interactive package for participatory management at the panchayat level.

    An attempt has been made to actually apply the GIS Package, simple, user friendly, customized, local need based, interactive and can be handled by the local youth and Gram Panchayat functionaries. It could be called Panchayat GIS, which has all inbuilt features of various decisions at he Gram Panchayat level integrating various layers of information both spatial and attribute pertaining to the Villivalam Gram Panchayat.

    Identification of Problems and Objectives
    1. To devise a GIS Based Action Plan for the Gram Panchayat Level Planning on an Interactive Mode.
    2. To test the Interactive GIS Based Gram Panchayat Plan on Pilot Basis with the help of Local Self Government, Government Functionaries, NGO, and the Local People.
    Study Area

    The study area consists of entire Villivalam Gram Panchayat. It is created using the geographical extents of the Gram Panchayat and true origin (74o N 21o E) of the Walijabad Block of Kanchipuram District of the State of Tamilnadu.

    The Gram Panchayat as three (3) villages namely Villivalam, Koyambakam and Pandyan. The study area chosen was the Villivalam Gram Panchayat of Wallijabad Block of Kanchipuram District, Tamil Nadu State, a Southern State in India.

    The purpose was to give appropriate development initiatives in planning, monitoring and projectisation by the local people of Villivalam Gram Panchayat and the local bodies, for developing a reliable database and take decisions based on the same.

    Development of an Interactive GIS Package for these people is a modest attempt to take Spatial Technologies and ICT to the door steps of the local people to reap benefits of advanced technologies at the lowest level, making GIS application as a mass movement.

    Study Methodology and Analytical Framework

    The base data forms the attribute database and the maps, satellite imagery, Ariel photographs etc spatial database. These databases are integrated in a GIS platform and an information system is developed.

    The developed information system is embedded with query facilities so as to make it interactive. The presentation is developed in GIS Map Objects 2.30 Version Software and customisation is being made through capabilities of Map Object GIS Software and Visual Basic 6.0.

    Flexibility is built in the Interactive GIS Village Plan to adapt to new situations and environments. The pilot software is being provided to the Villivalam Gram Panchayat and the GP functionary and the village youth are trained to use the same.

    A group of youth is specially trained at SIRD, Tamil Nadu in computer skills and they are very enthusiastic in operating and maintaining the same.

    Four Computers are being donated by NIRD to this erstwhile Action Research Village of NIRD, where lot of development activities has been brought by participatory mode by SIRD, Tamilnadu and the NIRD.

    Tamil Language interface is being attempted and the Gram Panchayat GIS Package is expected to showcase the Government, NGO and Local Bodies for their daily activities, reporting, decision making, data needs and other allied activities.

    Method and Type of Data Collected
    1. Integrated resource surveys (Natural resources and Human resources) and mapping at the panchayat level involving local volunteers, panchayat officials etc.
    2. Surveys relating to basic infrastructure of the Panchayat roads, drinking water resources, schools etc.
    3. Household information, housing structure, type of material used in house construction, basic amenities like electricity, water, telephone etc.
    4. Photograph of the house and its members.
    5. Household wise collection of data relating to house tax, water tax etc.
    6. The resource surveys using cadastral map in the scale of 1: 5000. Plot wise information was collected.
    7. Develop a Cadastral based Information System (CIS) at panchayat level with Geo-reference to higher level administrative system.
    Process Methodology

    A Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) exercise was carried on to understand the priorities and needs of the people of Villivalam Gram Panchayat. The PRA Resource Map showed good understanding of people about their Gram Panchayat spatial spread, resources, infrastructure, Governmental programmes and projects and their neighbourhood.

    The entry level activity taken up was information on education, tutorials, admission, coaching, Question Banks, Career prospects, skill development and related aspects.

    The database on the same was built up from existing database of the Gram Panchayat, Walijabad Block and Kanchipuram District information base. This was further consolidated with Tamilnadu Sate and other web based materials making it accessible for youth, students, Panchayat Factionaries and others.

    Topo Sheet of the district and cadastre map of Villivalam including that of Koyanbakam and Pandyan was geo-coded. Satellite imagery of Resource Sat P6 both LISS III and PAN were obtained and merged and overlaid on the base vector layer with draping.

    Various relational database of the Gram Panchayat were integrated with the base vector layer and analysis based on the Gram Panchayat day to day decision requirements were attempted for use by the Panchayat for local level application.

    The GIS, Image Processing and other allied Software used are Arc Info 9.0, Arc View 3.2, Map Object 2.0 and Visual Basic 6.0, for developing the Interactive GIS for Gram Panchayat Planning.

    The output on the Window Screen is placed for visualizing the Software capabilities and outcomes. The required data format for inputting and building up of database are placed in the window format by Visual Basic and Map Object capabiities. The Software has the capabilities to update database and the files are saved in new databases, which facilitates comparison of data over time period, for studying the impact of schemes or programmes or development initiatives and in detection of changes.

    The land holding and survey numbers are integrated with the house door numbers for exact identification of each person and household for detail database pertaining to all aspect of demography viz. age, sex, education, occupation etc, asset structure, income particulars, land use and land cover particulars from satellite imageries and cadastre, and other useful information like social status, ration card, marital status and related data.

    The photographs of each household family member are embedded with the house at the back drop. The profile of each household is available. The Villivalam Gram Panchayat profile with graphics is also available at Gram Panchayat layer.

    All formats are placed in window format for ease in use and understanding at the local level with Visual Basic 6.0 Software.

    With a Training of one day, a person with high school qualification can operate the software and maintain the same. Any new parameters can be added and the software can be upgraded from time to time based on the need of the time, without losing any data.

    Salient features

    The Village GIS has been developed using ArcGIS 9.0, Map Objects 3.0 and VISUAL BASIC 6.0 working under WINDOWS. A standard Pentium IV system would suffice the hardware requirement for its implementation. The following are some of the salient features of Village GIS:

    Thematic maps

    Thematic maps are often required to provide decision support information for spatial planning in several key areas. Village GIS facilitates efficient generation and display of thematic maps directly by the end user to enable him perform situation analysis and gain an insight for proper decision-making. It also supports map tool bar (zoom, pan) on any thematic map.

    Display of village profile

    The Gam Panchayat profile is a template containing a set of predefined attributes of the village (village name, Panchayat name, population details, availability of facilities etc.) User can view the profile of any specific sector by clicking on the sector in the map or by choosing the desired item from the Gram Panchayat menu list displayed on the screen.

    User-friendly interface

    Village GIS provides an interactive and user-friendly interface and it does not require any GIS expertise for its operation. It requires about 4~5 hours of learning time and could be thus easily deployed in the rural areas where the operating personnel are usually novices.

    Applications of Village GIS

    Village GIS has been customized for facility planning and management for the Villivalam Gram Panchayat in Walijabad Block of Kancipuram District of Tamilnadu State. Although Village GIS can support a wide range of applications due to its open-ended design, it is presently being contemplated for use for the following applications.

    1. Facility planning (Identification of suitable locations for creation of new facilities such as primary schools, middle schools etc.)
    2. Monitoring the functional status of various village amenities such as transformers, hand pumps, schools, hospitals etc.
    3. Monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of various rural development and poverty alleviation programmes/schemes (Mid-day meals scheme for school children, housing and employment guarantee schemes etc.)
    4. Management of road network.
    5. Village connectivity to Panchayat Hqrs.
    6. Land Holding Analysis
    7. House Type Analysis
    8. Income Analysis
    9. Occupation Analysis
    10. Social Strata and eligibility analysis
    11. Age Group Analysis for education infrastructure
    Observations & Findings

    The striking revelations in this study is the fact that local people are greatly enthusiastic in adapting to new technology and new way of working together and takes lot of interest in knowing new ways of doing things.

    Secondly the people at the local level rise above political, economic and social affiliations, and express their solidarity in effecting the new tools and technology in their day-to-day work.

    The women participation was quite encouraging and they come forward for propagating the use and adoptability to new way of doing things.

    The younger mass feels social upheaval and increase in their social status in exposure and use of new IT Tools at the local level.

    The people’s representatives give all encouragement and support and stand by the people in introduction of new technology and in new ways of doing things, irrespective of their political affiliations.

    The district and local administration takes great interest in introducing new IT Tools and request development of these tools with inbuilt functionality of day to day administrative use at all level, in improving their performance and effectiveness and express their support and cooperation in any attempt in this regards.


    The Interactive GIS developed at the Gram Panchayat can be replicated. There are also possibilities and potential available for adding additional features and in making it wide spectrum software.

    The database required may vary depending on the type of problem faced in a particular area. The level of social mobilization needed to ensure participation in data collection and analysis can also vary from place to place, which can be handled by the software with necessary modifications.

    Lessons Learned

    Geographic information systems are being integrated in communities to serve many purposes, and with various degrees of effectiveness. The contribution in this pilot project was to provide a broad view of the current state of Village GIS practice in the country. The critical lessons learnt from this pilot project can be summarized as under:

    1. Any change process is dynamic and people at local level have resilience to cope with new technological changes and assimilate the new process and system and new way of doing things into their societal and institutional framework;
    2. GIS as a fusion and sandwich approach have brought in integration among the fragmentation and dispersal data/ information and frame the same as an integrated package conveniently visualized by the community at their level;
    3. The Graphic and map presentation along with relational data clicked the conscience of the local people to identify themselves with a system which spells out their unique recognition and give a psychological satisfaction of projecting who they are, their affiliations, neighborhood and societal binding;
    4. Given a platform and facilitation, the local people, who are totally ignorant about the new technologies like GIS, came forward to use the same with ease and conviction;
    5. The younger generation exert influence on their parents, neighbours and elders to ride on new technology and bring in collective optimism and desire for a hope for better future;
    6. Data gaps and errors in the Village GIS were voluntarily identified by people and the same is corrected, which brought in greater conviction that the new technological change can prove beneficial;
    7. When shown Gram Panchayat, Block and District scenarios by various GIS analysis, their participation and acceptance seems to be greatly strengthened;
    8. A view of satellite imagery integrating their cadastre appalled their sense of understanding and knowledge base, giving relentless support for Village GIS;
    9. Synoptic view, spatial spread, locational features and understanding terrain and topography of their area vis-à-vis conventional resource maps exhibiting congruence made them enthusiastic and satisfied;
    10. Integrating all aspects of village in an GIS information system is more powerful and vibrant as it exhibits graphic display, locational features, entity and gross information, it’s true value, display and nature, what it was and present status (temporal analysis), a system which can act an any level with time and space dimension identifying man, neighborhood, household, assets, occupation, economy and the like in particular and society and life in general.
    Where do we go from here!

    Time has changed. When we remember of the initial days when the country had gone for the bank, railway, airlines and a host of other computerization, there was stiff resistance and experts apprehended that such a measure would jeopardize the employment situation in the country and displace large number of people from securing employment.

    Today, all know, how embedded the system of computerization everywhere in Government, Banking, Airlines, Railways and in all walks of life, economy and society.

    Similarly GIS would bring a sea change in the outlook and thinking of the people, policy makers, experts and elected representatives, when stabilized with the system. The transition would result beneficial outcome sooner or later.

    Many countries namely Qatar, Singapore, Australia, USA, UK, Germany, Canada and a host of other countries have faced enormous amount of teething problems at the beginning but now, everything is so simple, reliable, robust and happening everywhere.

    Pilots like the Village GIS have inherent significance from the point of decentralized governance and Constitutional Mandate of empowering people at local level. There can’t be a better tool than GIS for providing a powerful decision support system to the people to take their own decisions, analyze situations, assess potentials, plan for future, model and simulate and generate scenarios.

    Technology is enshaping mankind and with rapid strides of development in GIS Software and in the Information and Communication Technologies, and with price slashing in cascades, not only GIS will be an affordable tool in the hands of local people but would usher an integrated end to end solution based system for local bodies, NGOs, Government Departments, and people at large.

    GIS with GPS, Internet connectivity, high resolution satellite imageries and attribute data can revolutionize the entire thinking process of mankind in coming years.

    Rather than e-governance, it would be possible to implement G-Governance (GIS Governance) at all levels, anytime, any place, making information flow and decision making a real time dynamic process ensuring total participation and involvement of local people.


    The user friendly interactive GIS for a micro administrative unit have helped in ensuring better participation of the stakeholders in decision making. The variation in the level of education of the community was bridged by pictorial representation of data. The project helped in empowerment of the community and generated land literacy.

    User friendly interactive GIS data base generated at a micro administrative unit (panchayat) can improve the efficiency of administration, improve resource mobilization and help in informed decision making.

    The software being simple and customized and open for modifications holds lot of promise for local level applications. The strong aspect of this software is the capabilities of liking wide graphic aspects, like photographs, audios, videos, imageries and analyzed maps etc , which project field realities and help taking appropriate decision making, by people themselves.

    Village GIS is a GIS based Gram Panchayat Planning system, which has all the data formats to build up data inventory, link graphics, identify locational features, generate various graphic analysis for decision making and shows information both horizontal and vertical.

    Village GIS is expected to usher in the desired transparency and easiness in the Gram Panchayat planning and enable a faster response to the changing ground realities in the development planning, owing to its in-built scientific approach. It demonstrates that the GIS approach can provide cost effective solutions for local level planning in rural areas, and help bring the benefits of Spatial Technologies to the rural masses.

    GIS technology is more useful to developing countries since many issues of development relate to large scale problems requiring integration of large spatial dataset. The availability of remotely sensed data and other national and international databases can facilitate action and GIS have the potential to contribute positively.

    With local knowledge and local control, accountability set in where a GIS system could direct at real needs, and the design relevant to local conditions. Sensitising, Training and education village Youth, elders, Gram Panchayat functionaries and involvement of women, particularly from SHGs work towards sustainable GIS systems at local levels.

    GIS is a tool of power. Like all geographical information, GIS has the potential to reduce social inequities or to exacerbate them, within regions. GIS can be subversive or it can empower techno-elite (Clark and Worobec 1996). But Yapa (1991, 52) argues that GIS may also be an instrument for ‘discovering’ local resources contextually and that the full implementation of appropriate technology is not possible without access to a GIS because it is the knowledge of the region (and the ability of the GIS to enhance this knowledge) that makes appropriate technology a viable alternative to the current modes of development.

    GIS could become a tool for empowerment, decision alternatives, scenarios, modeling, what if analysis, locational and spatial spread analysis and an integrating tool for interfacing all information for synthesis, which can be a very potential tool for Gram Panchayat Planning and with the changing Map Policy of Government, GIS has come a long way and be an integral part of our life, administration, policies and programmes.

    In a global thinking and technology subservient to mankind in a global thinking and technology subservient to mankind, GIS could become a tool in the service of the poor rather than a technological instrument for their control. To that end, GIS and ICT and other spatial technology tools need to converge and emerge as powerful application tools for wider use at all levels, particularly at local or cadastral level, to take the benefit of technology to the door step of the poorest of the poor, to empower the people for making their lives better, livable and for leading a life with quality inputs for sustenance.


    Survey numbers of land parcel integrated with household and house numbers for a integrated information system at local level.


    Satellite imagery of the study area showing land use and land cover and river basin.

    land-records-map gis-software-screenshot

    A Screen Shot in the Village GIS Software with detail Window Display format.


    Villivalam Gram Panchayat Layout and Village GIS interface for interactivity.