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GeoApproach : A Geomatics Approach for Planning Rural Road Connectivity to Habitations under PMGSY

  • Vivek Chitale* and M. Vinayak Rao**
    National Informatics Centre, Ministry of Communications & Information Technology, Government of India
    E-mail : vc@nic.in


    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 them.

    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 [1], 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 [2] 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 [3], 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 through routes.

    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.

    2.1 SPATIAL DATABASE DESIGN 2.1.1 Study Area

    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.

    2.1.2 Spatial Data Dictionary

    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.

    2.1.3 Spatial Database Creation

    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.

    2.2 Non-Spatial Databases

    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 Level Data (Format – I)

    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 2.

    Road Details (CN – I)

    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.

    2.3 Integration of Spatial and Non-Spatial Databases.

    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.

    1. Open-ended Design

      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.

    2. Thematic Maps

      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.

    3. Display of Habitation Profile

      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.

    4. Rural Road Information

      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.

    5. Built-in Traverse-aid

      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

    6. Nearest Road

      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.

    7. Query Shell

      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.

    8. Optimal link ( efficient & economic ) to connect unconnected habitations.

      GeoApproach facilitates preparation of the list of unconnected habitations in descending order of their population :

      1. those which have no connection at all, not even by fair-weather roads
      2. those which are connected only by fair weather road and which needs upgradation.

      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 facilities.

      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.

    9. User-friendly Interface

      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 novices.

    4. APPLICATIONS OF GeoApproach

    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 design.

    1. Preparation of the list of unconnected habitations as per PMGSY norms.
    2. Preparation & scrutiny of Block Rural Road Plans
    3. Preparation & scrutiny of District Rural Road Plan ( DRRP ).
    4. Facility concentration of habitation.
    5. Block/ District planning
    6. Connectivity to Panchayat Hqrs.
    7. Monitoring the functional status of road.
    8. NREGS (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme)
    9. AGMARKNET (Agriculture Marketing Network)
    10. Facility planning (Identification of suitable locations for creation of new facilities such as Mandis/ Market centres, Agriculture, Health & Education centers etc.)
    11. Monitoring & evaluation of the implementation of various rural development and poverty alleviation programmes/schemes
    12. Management of road network.

    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 rural masses.


    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.

    1. Yashwant A.Panditrao, Gandhian Approach to Economic Development, Himalaya Publishing House, 1992.
    2. Operational Manual on PMGSY by NRRDA, Ministry of Rural development, Feb’2005.
    3. Document on Bharat Nirman A time-bound plan for rural infrastructure by GoI in partnership with State Governments and Panchayat Raj Institutions 2005-2009.
    Geomatic-approach flochart-dataflow planning-rurla-road Habitations-with-post-office-facilities Habitations-with-telephone-facilities habitation-profile road-profile distance-computation Nearest-road-from-habitation Query-output Optimal-road-connectivity spatial-database

    Table 2 Spatial Data Dictionary

    S.No. Entity Type
    1 Block boundary Line
    2 Village boundary Line
    3 Village location Point
    4 Road Line
    5 Railway Line
    6 Mandis(Market place) Point
    7 Block HQ. Point