A university centre plots resource details on maps for a panchayat.
What should a grama panchayat ward member in Mannar — the bell metal town of Kerala — do to know how many persons living below the poverty line have received financial assistance from the local body?
Usually, such an exercise involves wading through piles of files and an enormous amount of patience. Now, thanks to an outreach initiative of the Centre for Geo-Information Science and Technology of the University of Kerala, all that the ward member has to do is grab a mouse. Under a project designed to prepare a geospatial resource and asset map of the 16-ward grama panchayat, a centre team, led by its Director, V. Prasannakumar, have so far plotted resource details of two wards on survey maps.
“It is not as though no one has these details. Only, they are with different officials of a range of government agencies. What Dr. Prasannakumar’s centre has done is to blend all these data on to one Web-based entity,” says Sujith Kumar, a ward member at Mannar.
“We are 100 per cent happy with this initiative. However, we plan to ask the centre to include more data, even those relating to taxation. We are preparing a more detailed questionnaire to collect more data from the people.”
Dr. Prasannakumar says the centre is offering this package to the panchayat free of cost. “Though we are now using proprietary software to prepare the geospatial maps, when the final version is handed over to the panchayat, it will be on a free software platform. Moreover, it will be completely scalable. Once we show the panchayat how to go about it, they can scale our maps up to all 16 wards in Mannar,” he says.
For instance, if an authorised user clicks on a particular building in a ward in the panchayat, he or she will be able to know its plinth area, its category, the owners, natural resources including ponds in the compound, the type of fuel used by the household and so on.
Mr. Sujith points out that once all maps are in place, the panchayat’s planners will be able to know how much land is under cultivation, how many wells are there, whether there are any water-related problems… “One particular area where we want the centre to do more work is our road network. If we have Net-based maps of our roads, it will take our planning to another level,” he says. “Mannar is a special grade grama panchayat with a considerable area under paddy cultivation. Hence it is proposed to have a micro-level analysis of the land use and land cover changes and also to continue the water quality/availability studies. Now that the centre is an inter-university centre, faculty members as well as researchers from a couple of colleges nearby have requested collaborative programmes to study the socio-economic as well as land use changes in the panchayat,” Dr. Prasannakumar says. The geospatial maps prepared so far have been posted on the website http://cgist.ac.in. For the moment, though, they are password-protected.