Survey and Mapping section of the Institute has been carrying out different types of survey and mapping work since its inception. Initially, a number of earth scientists, especially geologists were associated with this section. Later on, a number of workers from other disciplines like Botany, Environmental Science, Atmospheric Science, Remote Sensing and GIS were inducted into this section. Thus, this section works as a comprehensive multi-disciplinary team using state of art technology like Remote Sensing, Geographical Information System (GIS), Global Positioning System (GPS) etc.
Although in the initial phase conventional methods of surveys were followed for carrying out different works, but later on, majority of the works concentrate on utilising remote sensing technique. Both visual and digital image processing techniques are employed for mapping and inventorying purposes supplemented by detailed ground truth verification. For visual purpose, the Procom-II instrument and normal light tracing tables are used. For digital image processing, software like Erdas Imagine (version 8.7) and Geomatica (version 9.1) are the key support systems. For GIS works, ARC GIS (Version 9), PC ARC Info, ARC View etc software are used. Differential Global Positioning System instruments of Leica make are utilised for survey purposes.
Work regarding different areas of environment are being implemented to guarantee the ecological as well as social security of the State and the Nation, as a whole. Brief outlines of the major projects which have already been implemented or being implemented are given below:
Projects Already Completed :
Panchayat Level Resource Mapping with Peoples' Participation at Kashipur Block, Purulia District, West Bengal :
This project was implemented in Kahipur block (area about 450 sq. km.), about 300 km from Kolkata (the state capital), in Purulia District of West Bengal, India. It is a lateritic zone with sloping terrain. Annual rainfall is about 1200-1400 mm, but it occurs mainly during three months (July-September). But due to terrain condition, drainage outlet is so high, water is always scare during rest of the year. There are altogether 128 mouzas (revenue villages) which constitute 13 Gram Panchayats (G.P. - the lowest administrative units in West Bengal). Each G.P. consists of about 8 to 15 such contiguous villages. The objective was to prepare action plans for the holistic development of individual G.P.s involving local people, with special emphasis on water resources. The project was implemented in collaboration with Paschim Banga Vigyan Mancha (PBVM - the largest Peoples' Science NGO in India) and was funded by UNICEF through Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission. Majority of the people are either schedule caste or schedule tribes. Literacy rate is also very low. Almost 50% of the population were illiterate during the implementation of this project. In spite of this, the villagers participated in preparation of local level maps and also for preparation of plan documents.
The first task was mapping on cadastral scale on 1:3960, the largest scale maps available where individual plots of lands were shown. Each revenue village is covered in at least one cadastral sheet, but in case of de-populated mouzas (covered by agricultural fields), number of sheets are sometimes even six or more. Even a conservative estimate puts the number of land plots to be about 2.5 lakhs. It was decided that plot to plot survey would be carried out to record geomorphology/landforms, landuse/land cover, slope, public amenities available, water resources. Altogether four maps would be developed and slope of individual plots would be marked on landform maps with arrow symbol. We developed a legend with different colours for landforms and landuse and different symbols for amenities so that the local villagers can carry out the entire task. Only local terminology were used to represent various units. A printed manual of about 75 pages in Bengali (local language) was also developed for this work. Also, printed formats on each item were developed so that any data regarding any plot can be recorded there. The target was to finish the work within two years.
Initially, one orientation camp for the Scientific Assistants (SA) for about 5 days was organised where those who had the experience of rural development shared their opinion with newly appointed Scientific Assistants. The basic objective was to train how to talk with the local villagers at "their own language?? and at per "their own perception??. Repeated cautions were made not to be overbearing nature during this work. After this, for about three months, enough awareness generation in the locality regarding this work was carried out through out the entire blocks by lectures, posters, slogan writing, slide shows etc. This phase of work was termed as "Environment Generation??. The Scientific Assistants directly participated in as many programmes possible, so that they can be acquainted with local people as well as terrain. This gave an opportunity to make a reconnaissance survey of the entire region.
After that, 5 master trainers from each G.P. were selected and a two-day Master Training workshop was organised. Local administrators and elected peoples' representatives were all there. The spirit was - "This is your Village. You have to participate for its future planning and subsequent development??. It was also made explicitly clear that entire work by the villagers would be carried out on voluntary basis and only by the motivated people. The food or any support required during the work needs to be supplied by the villagers themselves. Only the scientific equipments like tapes, maps, caps etc were supplied from the project. The end products i.e. plan document would be their document and they should own the entire programme. The Scientific Assistants carried out the master training.
In the next phase, at least 6 volunteers for each mouza sheet were selected and G.P. wise one-day training camps were organised. It was decided that one G.P. would be taken up at a time so that all the Scientific Assistants can be deployed there. The idea was to finish the mapping work of any G.P. within seven days from the training day so that the spirit can be well kept. Scientific Assistants were supposed to intervene only when they would be called by the villagers to do so, but they would accompany different groups on different time and day in field. After the day's fieldwork, the volunteers used to assemble and prepare fresh copies of the maps, which were not carried in the field and was kept in their rooms for future use. Once the mapping for any revenue village (not any individual sheet) is complete, a general meeting of the villagers was called where these volunteers presented their work and suggested action plans on different aspects based on the objective situation. Once the presentation was over, then the forum was made open for discussion. The villagers first got thrilled after looking at the maps prepared by "their own men/women" and then started giving their opinion either contradicting or supporting any specific item of the plan.
All along the exercise, the Scientific Assistants used to be present but without any comment. Sometimes the discussion became very explosive and then only Scientific Assistants intervene to turn the discussion on logical footing by putting some scientific input. Once, the items became finalised, then started the discussion on prioritisation of plans. The Scientific Personnel in each meeting conveyed that the plan should not be a "charter of demands", but it should be prioritised and based on scientific support. For a single village, sometimes this kind of discussion went on even for 3-4 consecutive evenings. But the villagers never lost their interest since the location of hand pumps, wells, roads etc were the part of it. During the implementation of the project, the scientific personnel learnt a lot about the traditional knowledge. Just for an example, we noted that senior and experienced villagers could suggest the correct locations of wells even in that rocky terrain, although they could not explain well why water would be available at those locations. Through such exercise, panchayat level planning for 11 Gram Panchayats (out of 13) were carried out.
Panchayat Level Resource Survey and Mapping with Peoples' Participation: a pilot project in Ausgram G.P. under Ausgram Block-I, District Burdwan, West Bengal :
The objective of this work is to evolve a prioritised plan for the Ausgram Gram Panchayat with peoples' participation in Burdwan District.
Wasteland Mapping of Koch Behar District :
This project was sponsored by National Remote Sensing Agency, Department of Space, Government of India through West Bengal State Remote Sensing Centre and was executed during 1997-98 and 1998-99 period. Final report was submitted in March'99. The objective of the project was the production of a reliable database as a part of a nation-wide program to bring all the wastelands of the country under a massive program of afforestation, tree planting and other economic uses. In the present study, Wasteland was defined as degraded land which can be brought under vegetative cover with reasonable effort, and which is currently under-utilised and land which is deteriorating for lack of appropriate water and soil management or on account of natural causes. Wastelands can result from inherent/imposed disabilities such as location, environment, chemical and physical properties of the soil or financial or management constraints.
India is the seventh largest and the second most populous country in the world. The present population of India has already exceeded 1,200 million. Increasing demand for food, fodder, fuel and fibre has necessitated adoption of scientific measures for increasing land productivity and bringing more areas under cultivation/forests. On the other hand, our country can boast of having unique physical and cultural diversity. The diversity in the physical landscape has resulted in different types of land, which are subjected to different types of land utilisation to the maximum extent possible. At the same time, land degradation due to desertification, soil salinity, water-logging, floods/droughts, excessive soil erosion due to deforestation, unscientific agricultural practices etc. has resulted in the creation of vast stretches of wastelands and a decrease in per capita cultivable land besides ecological imbalance.
Several agencies have estimated the total extent of wastelands in India. However, their figures vary considerably, ranging between 30 to 175 million ha. This may be due to lack of a mutually agreed definition of wastelands. In 1985, when National Wastelands Development Board was under preparation, National Remote Sensing Agency of Department of Space, Government of India prepared an eight-fold classification system based on Landsat MSS images. The classification system developed by National Remote Sensing Agency has provided a good conceptual framework upon which the Technical Task Group constituted by the Planning Commission developed the definition and classification system applicable for this vast country. However, later on a simplified 13-fold classification system has been adopted for the preparation of inventory of wastelands throughout the country.
As per the wasteland statistics generated by the maps prepared by NRSA initially, it was found that altogether 180 districts in the country are critically affected by the problem of wastelands. It was found that generally about 15% of geographical areas of these districts have been affected by wastelands. Such a vast quantum of land area needs further attention and planning to be brought under cultivation/forest. However, the scale of the maps was also too small for the purpose of planning which need specific remedial/reclamation activities. Therefore, the National Wastelands Development Board felt the necessity of mapping wastelands on a larger scale (1:50,000), which would enable the identification of the wastelands with respect to all categories as developed by the Technical Task Group. Initially, 146 districts having more than 15% of the area under wastelands were selected and mapping work for these districts were carried out on priority basis during 1986-89. Three districts of West Bengal, namely Midnaopre, Purulia and Bankura were included within this list.
Subsequently during 1990-93, 84 districts having 5 to 15% coverage of wastelands, estimated based on 1:1 million scale maps were selected and mapped. In the last phase, Department of Wastelands Development felt the necessity of mapping wastelands on 1:50,000 scale for the remaining 192 districts of India which have wastelands less than 5%. Koch Behar and Jalpaiguri districts of West Bengal were mapped under this phase. This project is part of the Nation-wide work carried out in this phase of work.
Koch Behar district has an area of 3385.4 square kilometre area, which is 3.81% of the total area of West Bengal (88,752 square kilometre). The district has a total population of 21,71,145 as per 1991 census. IRS 1C LISS III geo-coded FCC hard copy data on 1:50,000 scale of the year 1997 were used for identification of different types of wastelands. IRS 1B LISS II FCC data of 1992 on transparent sheets were also consulted. Visual analysis of these remote sensing data was adopted as the mapping technique. Other secondary data like Survey of India topographic sheets, wetland maps of the district, District Gazetteer, Watershed map of the eastern region as published by All India Soil Survey Organisation, census report etc were also used as secondary data. Detail ground truth survey was carried out before the finalisation of these maps on 1:50,000 scale.
Results shows that out of 13 (thirteen) different types of wastelands, only 5 (five) types of wastelands are present in Koch Behar district covering an area of about 32.516 square kilometre which accounts to less than 1% (exactly 0.96%) of the total area covered by this district. These lands could fall under state occupation, private occupation or notified forest areas. The identification of ownership of wastelands would then be carried out. Detail Project Report may be available from here.