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OFSDS Forest Geomatics Centre
Geomatics is the science of gathering, storing, processing and delivering geographic information or spatially referenced forest information. It includes the tools and techniques used in land surveying, remote sensing, cartography, geographic information systems, global positioning systems, photogrammetry, geography and related forms of earth mapping. The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India in their order I.A 1868 in WP (C) 202 of 1995 has directed for creation and updating of a GIS based decision support database of all forest lands.
Scientific management of the state’s forest resources can be more effectively addressed through an advanced decision support system through forest geomatics so as to enable foresters, managers, policy makers and researchers make transparent, reliable and speedy decisions.
Geomatics in OFSDP
OFSDP is being implemented in the state to rehabilitate degraded forests and improve livelihoods in 14 forest divisions comprising 2426 VSS. Major activities taken up under the project include plantation and silvicultural operations in JFM and Non JFM mode, soil moisture conservation interventions, entry point activities, bio diversity, habitat improvement activities, etc. Planning and Monitoring of these activities is more effective through use of GIS tools as they are more related spatially.
A key innovation in OFSDP has been the use of GIS, remote sensing and DGPS/GPS as tools for mapping forest areas allocated to Joint Forest Management Committees and preparation of different thematic plans. This provision has enabled crucial technical inputs for participatory planning and mapping process at VSS level and avoiding conflicts among villages.
Integration of these GIS datasets with other spatial information of the division such as management areas, administrative jurisdictions, forest cover maps of FSI, location of forest infrastructure, watersheds, forest fringe settlements, diverted areas and general topographic references has remarkable impact on monitoring of project interventions, better decision making and post-project capacity of the project staff.
The Forest Geomatics Center
Under the Odisha Forestry Sector Development Project (OFSDP) a Geomatics Centre was established within the Project Management Unit at Bhubaneswar during 2013-14 with following objectives:
- Establishment of an in-house GIS based decision support database system.
- Integrate Geomatics into decision making process at all levels.
- Improve efficiency in planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
- Develop an archive of consistent and accurate geographic data and integrate up-to-date MIS for all forest activities within the project divisions.
- Build capacity of forest managers at all levels in using Geomatics.
The GIS/RS activities are started from the initial stages of project planning itself with use of satellite imagery and combining it with demographic data to prioritize VSS site selection. Satellite imagery along with DGPS survey data was used to prepare treatment plan maps and basemaps for filed use. GPS devices were used for capturing spatial data about all the physical interventions in the field for monitoring and evaluation purposes.
The field data thus collected was voluminous and needed better facilities to interpret, visualize and manage. Hence a web based online application(WebGIS) was deployed for collection, dissemination and management of GIS & RS data.
With advancement of technology, simpler methods and tools for data collection and dissemination to field staff were explored. This lead to the development of a MobileGIS application framework deployed on mobile hand-held devices.
GIS and Remote sensing are currently being used at various levels for planning, monitoring and evaluation.
Satellite imagery is analysed to identify forest degradation and other parameters, which are further combined with administrative boundary data, demographic information, natural resource data etc., to assist in planning various forest management and livelihood improvement activities.
Every field activity is geographically recorded and published along with related attribute information for use by various stakeholders, leading to proper monitoring of field interventions. The process of collecting field activity data being cumbersome and error prone, sophisticated and intuitive applications and tools like WebGIS, MobileGIS, hand-held devices etc. are being used to add simplicity, efficiency and accuracy to the process.
Physical monitoring and evaluation by managers is also assisted by the use of MobileGIS application, which provides all the information to the user in the field for ready reckoning.
Periodic scientific assessment of indicators like satellite imagery based canopy cover change etc. combined with field intervention data is greatly helping in evaluating the effectiveness/impact of field activities in a timely manner. This further helps in making course corrections if required at early stages.
Facilities and capabilities of Geomatics Center
The geomatics centre is manned by a team of specialists having expertise in GIS, Image Analysis, Software Development and Management Information System with state-of-the-art infrastructure facilities. This modern geomatics centre has integrated all the existing spatial information into a Web enabled GIS system with facilities for adding data proposed to be acquired in the future. The WebGIS system along with a MobileGIS application framework extends GIS based mapping & analysis facility to the field units (DMUs and FMUs).
Servers and Data Center
The Geomatics center is equipped with five modern server systems from IBM serving as Master Database Server, GIS Server, Image Server, Application Server, Backup Server and MIS server.
The servers have redundant storage and power architecture and automated backup mechanisms to protect critical data.
The servers are powered by uninterrupted power supply and are connected to the internet backbone via 1:1 dedicated leased line to the national internet backbone provided by BSNL.
The servers are interconnected between themselves and with other systems and equipment in the geomatics center over gigabit Ethernet network.
The geomatics center is equipped with 10 high-end workstations along with required software applications to carry out complicated GIS and remote sensing tasks.
The geomatics center is also equipped with a 165cm Video wall capable of displaying at resolution of 5760 x 3240 pixels.
The geomatics center is equipped with a large format plotter and a scanner along with an A3 scanner and a color laser printer for scanning and printing.
Spatial Database and Image Repository
The spatial database consists of all the available vector data in standard OGC compliant form and is accessible to the application servers and to the geomatics center users. The data is backed up at multiple levels and proper redundancies are maintained to prevent loss of data due to generic failures.
The image repository consists of all the satellite images and scanned maps available with OFSDP. It is linked to the Master Database for use by various users and systems centrally.
WebGIS Application and Other Software
The WebGIS application is a custom developed online GIS system. It has been developed over time to extend the benefits of GIS/RS technologies to the non-technical field users in an easy to use and simple interface.
The application serves the purpose of data and map visualization in a web browser. It provides interface for easy GPS data collection from the field. The application also integrates various sources of data at the back-end viz. MIS data, GIS data, Satellite imagery, Third party images, etc. and serves them to the user in consistent and consolidated form.
The application is also capable of integrating with mobile applications for map serving and data collection.
The Geomatics center primarily uses Open Source software for most of the server and desktop applications due to the flexibility of use and customizing along with standards compliance and open architecture. However, proprietary GIS applications like ArcGIS, Erdas Imagine, etc. are also available in the Geomatics center to maintain compatibility with various formats of available data and some processing.
Due to the nature of job responsibilities associated with field staff, accessibility to computers is a major hurdle in sending and receiving information efficiently and in a timely manner.
Handheld / mobile devices have evolved very well in the recent past and are now capable of replacing many computer based applications. These devices also come fitted with advanced peripherals like GPS, Wi-Fi, Camera etc in addition to the regular voice and data connectivity.
Mobile devices having required hardware components and loaded with appropriate customised applications, can be used for efficient, accurate and timely data collection. They can also be used for timely data dissemination directly to the field staff on the move.
Considering the above, a mobile GIS application was designed to meet the requirements of OFSDP for field data collection and monitoring with the following features
- Field data collection based on in-built GPS for spatial information (points, lines, polygons etc.), from predefined customisable forms for attribute/no-spatial data and from in-built cameras and microphones for multimedia data (photographs, audio, video etc.). Data collected would be stored on the device and submitted to the server based on internet availability. The geographic information thus captured would also be rendered on the map screen.
- Live display/visualisation of local vector spatial data as styled maps on the device along with calculation of various parameters like length, area, slope etc. Attribute information for the map data would be displayed on selection of map features.
- All the map information would be stored as coherent records, one each for each map feature. The records would be able to store chronological updates in the form of attribute changes and new multimedia content. The application would be able to properly display the chronological information and also provide functionality for adding updated information to each record/feature over long time periods.
- Real-time submission of field data to the central servers based on predefined data flow procedures using mobile data networks and Wi-Fi.
- Retrieval, storage and updating of spatial and non-spatial information from central server using mobile data networks and Wi-Fi. The retrieval mechanism would be able to distinguish between new data and data already available on the device, in order to fetch only the new data.
- Application level two-way real-time communication facility for sending alerts and receiving field inputs.
The geomatics center has a team of well experienced experts, technicians and operators. Currently the center has a GIS Technician, Remote Sensing Technician, MIS technician cum .Net programmer, Program Developer and a GIS operator who are capable of handling almost any kind of GIS and Remote Sensing activity required for regular operation of the GIS center.
At present, the Geomatics center is involved in carrying out following standard GIS/RS activities:
- Forest Cover Classification performed using Satellite Imagery. Forest canopy cover percentage is being used to classify the forest area into degraded forests/scrubs (0 -10%), open forest (10-40 %), moderately dense forest (40-70 %) and dense forest (above 70 %). Based on this classification, change in forest cover is computed between various time periods.
- Forest information and data in vector/raster formats is processed to standardize data acquired from various sources and in various formats & projections. The data is integrated into large spatial databases and image repositories.
- Forest maps are generated from the available vector and raster data as per requirements using multiple forest and non-forest map layers. Existing maps are scanned and digitized to preserve and utilize the wealth of map information available in traditional forms like paper maps.
- Multi-criteria GIS and RS analysis is done using various map layers to support planning, monitoring and evaluation.
- Web based GIS applications are developed and customized to suit specific forest management needs and cope with the changing field realities and staff capabilities.
- Mobile applications for forest management are being integrated into the existing framework for easy accessibility to the staff at field level and the use of GIS technology and its benefits by forest department on the move.
- DGPS devices and total stations are being acquired for accurate surveys.
- Forest cover maps are prepared for Ama Janagala Yojana to assist in site selection and cluster planning.