Electronic governance includes all aspects of physical planning, management of social
and physical infrastructure, and enhancement/restructuring of existing facilities,
facility management and land use planning. In all these areas, there is a special
emphasis on spatial dimensions. In the present age of emerging technologies, Geomatics
which is the synergy of multiple disciplines has evolved as a separate discipline
dealing with spatial and non-spatial information, its method of acquisition, organization,
classification, analysis, management, display and dissemination. It provides not
only the answers for macro-level planning but also state-of-the-art models to the
government in the context of decentralized planning for sustainable development
in rural areas.
Rural roads are the life line of rural development. Rural road connectivity is not
only a key component of rural development by promoting access to economic and social
services and thereby generating increased agricultural incomes and productive employment
opportunities in India, it is also a key ingredient in ensuring poverty reduction.
India has essentially a rural-oriented economy with 74 % of its population living
in its village. In the year 2000, it was estimated that about 330,000 out of 825,000
villages and habitations ( ~ 40 %) in the country are still not connected by All-weather
roads. Even the already constructed roads are of poor quality. A majority of the
poorly connected rural communities lie in ten states and Madhya Pradesh is one of
It was against this background of poor connectivity, GoI launched a massive rural
roads programme –Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY) in the year 2000 to provide
all-weather access to unconnected habitations. Under Bharat Nirman, the Ministry
of Rural Development, GoI has the responsibility of ensuring that every habitation
over 1000 population is connected with an all-weather road by 2009. To achieve the
targets of Bharat Nirman, the work which is being undertaken under PMGSY since 2000,
has been modified to address the above goals within the stipulated time-frame. In
this connection, application of modern ICT tools is being increasingly recognized
to provide efficient and effective means towards the planning, preparation & implementation
of appropriate development plans.
This paper describes the development of GeoApproach - Geomatics-based Application
for Planning Rural Road Connectivity to Habitations under PMGSY based on pilot requirement
studies undertaken for M.P. Rural Road Development Authority (MPRRDA) in the State
of Madhya Pradesh, India. Development of GeoApproach involved digitization of various
Block road base maps for creation of spatial data of core network, generation of
thematic maps, determination of optimal road link for connecting habitations as
per PMGSY norms.
Several special features characterizing GeoApproach include built-in traverse-aid,
distance computation, details & display of the nearest road from a selected habitation
and computation of Utility Value for each habitation & Road Index for each unconnected
habitation. It also determines optimal road link for connecting habitations as per
PMGSY norms GeoApproach could help achieve not only the desired transparency and
easeness in planning process but also facilitates efficient & effective tool for
planning rural road connectivity to habitations. It enables a faster response to
the changing ground realities in the development planning, owing to its in-built
scientific approach and open-ended design. GeoApproach demonstrates that Geomatics
approach provides efficient & effective solutions for rural road connectivity under
PMGSY & Bharat Nirman.
* Technical Director, NIC, M.P.
** Senior Technical Director & SIO, NIC, M.P.
According to Gandhiji , the Father of the Indian nation, India lives in her villages
and would continue to do so. But rapid urbanization and consequent haphazard growth
of cities, a global phenomenon for which India is no exception, has resulted in
neglect of villages and is leading to deterioration of infrastructure facilities,
health hazards, loss of agricultural land and water bodies, besides many micro-climatic
changes disturbing the ecological balance. Further, there is exodus of population,
driven by lack of adequate facilities/opportunities in villages, from rural to urban
areas. Though the urban regions have developed faster as compared to rural, the
basic objective of a balanced development of different regions has still remained
a distant dream. Instead, this has widened the gulf between developed (urban) and
less developed regions (rural), thereby creating islands of prosperity. Hence there
is an urgent need to reduce the cleavage between rural and urban areas through appropriate
development planning for the villages.
Rural connectivity is a key component of sustainable rural development in India.
Rural roads contribute significantly to generating increased agricultural incomes
and productive employment opportunities, alongside promoting access to economic
and social services. With this background, GoI have launched the PMGSY  in year
2000 with the objective of providing connectivity, by way of all-weather road to
the eligible unconnected habitations. In the year 2005, GoI announced ambitious
Bharat Nirman , a time-bound plan (2005 – 2009) for rural-infrastructure. Under
Bharat Nirman, action is proposed in road sector also with target of connecting
remaining 66,802 habitations by all-weather road. To achieve the target, 1,46,185
Kms road length is proposed to be constructed by 2009. To ensure full farm-to-market
connectivity, it is also proposed to upgrade 1,94,132 kms of existing associated
Planning requires association and integration of various activities with spatial
(geo-referenced) and non-spatial characteristics. Planning road connectivity is
one such an important area. Geomatics-based approaches to planning and management
have, of late, gained prominence as they offer rational, efficient and effective
solutions. Further, the rapid advances in the ICT coupled with a growing competition
among the related vendors have brought down the cost of Geomatics/GIS technology
by manifold, making it affordable for deployment. It is in this context that National
Informatics Centre (NIC), Ministry of Communications & Information Technology, Government
of India, has undertaken development of GeoApproach, a low cost Geomatics-based
application for planning rural road connectivity to habitation under PMGSY for MPRRDA.
Further details about the development methodology, features and applications of
GeoApproach are described in the following sections.
The methodology used for development of GeoApproach essentially consists of design
and creation of appropriate spatial database as well as attribute databases and
integration of the same to facilitate the decision support for planning and management
of rural roads under PMGSY guidelines/ norms. Flowchart 1 gives a schematic representation
about the Geomatics approach/methodology used in the development of GeoApproach.
The various aspects of spatial database design, attribute databases and their organization/
integration are described below.
The study area consists of Blocks of entire state of Madhya Pradesh. District-wise
Block Road maps (1:50,000 scale) prepared by the user are the input for digitization
& creation spatial rural road inventory. Block road map is a compendium of Core
Network & habitation locations. It is created using the geographical extents of
the district and true origin (74o N 21o E) of the state of Madhya Pradesh, India.
Table 1 lists the various elements of spatial database design together with their
corresponding guidelines/ standards.
As per the requirements, eight base features viz., Block boundary, Habitation locations,
roads (National Highways (NH), State Highways (SH) and Major District Roads (MDR),
Other District Roads (ODR), Village / Other Roads (VR/OR), railways, Block HQ, Mandis
(Market Centres) were identified as main entities in the spatial data dictionary
(Table 2). These features represent the essential components of spatial database
over which all secondary spatial as well as non-spatial information are superimposed
for query/ analysis and generation of thematic maps.
As per the methodology and guidelines described above, state-of-the-art SPANS (SPatial
ANalysis GIS Software) has been used for creation of the required spatial database
in digital form. The Block road maps prepared by Programme Implementation Unit (PIU)
are verified and digitized. The digitization of these maps are undertaken as per
the design document. The digitized map information is stored in the GIS database
appropriately in the form of layers, each layer representing a unique entity in
the spatial data dictionary.
Data sets related to the following were used to illustrate the nature of attribute
data for consideration in the exercise for road planning at habitation level.
Habitation data prepared by have specific habitation code (5-digit alpha-numeric),
demographic & status on certain existing basic amenities (communication/transport,
education, electrification, health, road network, veterinary and market/commercial
centers). Data flow amongst NIC and MPRRDA for the project can be seen in Flowchart
A comprehensive details of all rural roads including Other Districts Roads (ODR)
and Village Roads (VR) having a land width of 5 meter in the database form is created
by PIU. Each road is given a 4-digit alphanumeric code depending upon the identification
(Through & Link routes) of road. Link routes (L) are the roads connecting a single
habitation or a group of habitations to Through Routes (T) or District Roads leading
to Market Centres. Through routes are the roads which collect traffic from several
Link routes or a long chain of habitations and lead it to Marketing Centres either
directly or through the higher category roads. Link routes generally have dead ends
terminating on a habitation while Through routes arise from the confluence of two
or more Link routes and emerge on to a major road or to Market Centre.
Other road details are name of road, category of road (NH, SH, MDR, ODR, VR/OR),
total length, soil type , surface type (Black Top(BT), WBM, Gravel, earthen) , whether
all-weather (AW) /fair-weather (FW), Present Condition Index (in the scale of 1-5),
habitation served directly/ indirectly and total population served.
For the purpose of integration of spatial and non-spatial databases, the attribute
databases pertaining to habitation & road details were conveniently organized. These
data sets are linked and integrated with the spatial databases to facilitate the
rural road inventory for planning and management of rural road connectivity system.
GeoApproach has been developed using SPANS AUTHOR and VISUAL BASIC 6.0 working under
WINDOWS. A standard Pentium high–end server system would suffice the hardware requirement
for its implementation. The following are some of the salient features of GeoApproach.
Presently, it covers 16 facilities conveniently distributed in 7 application areas
for illustrative purpose. However, GeoApproach offers a seamless integration of
any additional facility owing to its open-ended design.
Thematic maps are often required to provide decision support information for spatial
planning in several key areas. GeoApproach facilitates efficient generation and
display of sector-wise thematic maps (20) 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. It also provides map composition
features. Fig. 2 and Fig. 3 contain thematic maps for villages with post office
and telephone facility respectively.
Habitation profile is a template containing a set of predefined attributes of the
habitation (habitation/ village name, population details, availability of facilities,
parliamentary & assembly constituency etc). User can view the profile of any specific
habitation by clicking on the habitation in the map or by choosing the name of the
desired habitation from the habitation menu list displayed on the screen. Fig. 4
contains thematic map showing habitation profile of a selected village on map.
As GeoApproach encompasses rural road inventory, key information corresponding to
any selected road segment on the map can be easily obtained. The road information
may consist of category ( NH,SH, MDR, ODR, OR/VR ), road code (through / link) and
type of road (BT, WBM, Earthen, Gravel), status (poor/good/average), length of road,
total population and habitations benefited. See Fig. 5.
GeoApproach has a built-in traverse-aid which can be used for traversing between
any two or more locations and for computing the traversed distance on the map. Fig.
6 depicts distance computation
User can find the nearest all weather/ metal road from a selected habitation. It
provides the road details, distance from the habitation in a attribute profile in
addition to display of map. Fig.7 shows the output of nearest all-weather road from
a selected habitation.
An in-built query shell is also provided in GeoApproach to enable the end users
build both simple and complex queries using any of the parameters (alone or in combination)
contained in the attribute databases. Distance from road category (AW/ BT etc) in
conjunction with attribute (population / facility) can also be queried and the corresponding
output can be obtained in the form of a map. Fig. 8 shows the query output of unconnected
habitations as per PMGSY norms (habitations of population greater than 500 and all-weather
road passing more than 500 meters away) . The query shell thus aids in meaningful
presentation of the data to arrive at appropriate planning decisions.
GeoApproach facilitates preparation of the list of unconnected habitations in descending
order of their population :
Once the lists have been generated, the next task is to find out most efficient
and economic route, in terms of cost and utility, for providing access from an eligible
unconnected habitation to an existing all-weather road or to an already connected
habitation. Studies revealed that up to 95 % of the trips made by villagers are
to market, health, education & administrative centers. Consequently, utility value
(UV) of a habitation is calculated. Utility value of habitation is calculated by
giving appropriate weightage, inter alia, to a set of socio-economic/ infrastructure
The choice of road to a connect habitation is determined by the Road Index (RI)
of the respective road links. The road which has highest RI would be preferred.
The RI can be calculated by dividing UV of the habitation and by the length of the
proposed road link. Fig. 9 shows the optimized link for connecting the unconnected
habitation in accordance with PMGSY norms.
GeoApproach 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 where the operating personnel are usually
GeoApproach has been developed to facilitate preparation of district rural road
plan at Block level in accordance with PMGSY guidelines / norms. GeoApproach can
support a wide range of applications due to its rich functionality & open-ended
GeoApproach is a Geomatics-based decision support system for planning rural road
connectivity developed by National Informatics Centre, M.P. State Centre, India
for MPRRDA. Design and development methodology, salient features and illustrative
areas of applications for GeoApproach have been described.
GeoApproach may be considered to bring in the desired transparency and easeness
in the rural road 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 Geomatics approach can provide efficient & cost effective solutions for rural
road connectivity, and help bring the benefits of Information Technology to the
The authors are thankful to Dr. N. Vijayaditya, Director General, National Informatics
Centre, Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communications & Information
Technology, Government of India for his constant support and encouragement.
Table 2 Spatial Data Dictionary
National Institute of Rural Development,