Use of Geoinformatics in the implementation of Forest Rights Act in Maharashtra

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Registration Name : eINDIA2011/AN/187
Project Category : eGov::Best Government to Citizens Initiative of the Year
Project Name : Use of Geoinformatics in the implementation of Forest Rights Act in Maharashtra

Details of Applicant :
Name : Arvind Kumar Jha
Address : Office of PCCF, Van Bhavan Ramgiri Road Civil Lines
City : Nagpur
State : Maharashtra
Country : INDIA
Zip Code : 440 001

Details of Project/Implementing Agency
Name of Organisation : Tribal Research and Training Institute
Address : 28, Queens Garden, Pune Camp,,
City : Pune
State : Maharashtra
Country : INDIA
Zip Code : 411001
Name of the head of Organisation : Mr Rajesh Kumar
Website :

Brief description of the programme/project/Initiative :
The Government of India enacted The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (Forest Rights Act, in short) to formalize the relationship between genuine forest right holders and forest land/ resources as on 13-12-2005. The number of claimants of Forest Rights in Maharashtra State is approximately 0.33 million. The process of finalization of forest rights required that each plot of forest land under forest rights’ claim be measured as per claimant’s application. Every claimant was assigned a 13 digit alphanumeric unique ID. To accelerate the measurement output, GPS machines have been used. After the area is measured, the GPS data is downloaded and processed in the computer at the SDO office. The XML file (gpx File) created is uploaded on to the TRTI website alongwith claimant’s details. Website generates a measurement report which contains area polygon with lat/long, area in various units, and claimant’s basic data. Simultaneously, reports get generated and automatically updated (Village/ Taluka/District/ State level) showing total number of claimants, area under claim for various categories of claimants etc. The claimant details & measurement data can be viewed and downloaded by the concerned offices for case processing. The .gpx files are downloaded by Measurement Verification Units at District and State level where each GPS output is analyzed and observations uploaded. A measurement verification slip gets generated for each claim case for use by the decision making Authority under the Act. For temporal trend analysis, Cartosat-I Satellite imageries of two time series (2005-06 and 2007-08) are used. Web based SMS services on TRTI server are used to contact GPS handlers, SDOs, Collectors etc. The use of ICT has saved substantial amount of time & money apart from empowering decision makers and reducing conflicts in the field. A total of about 1.7 lakh cases have been processed using the above system till now. The project has been selected as best practices and placed at the Good Governance website supported by DOPT. It also has been studied by WB sponsored team. The study is now part of OneWorlds ICT Facilitated Access to Information Innovations report published with support from the World Bank Institute and the Canadian International Development Agency.

Why was the project started :
The project was started to tackle the following field level challenges in the implementation of the Forest Rights Act: It was difficult to measure the forest land parcels located in rural and far flung Tribal areas in the shortest time possible. In many cases the accurate evidence of cultivation on or before 13-12-2005 in the portion of forest land claimed was not readily available. Further, it would have taken lot of time and energy to identify cases where claimants had encroached forest land after 13-12-2005. Also, deciding claims on interior forest areas for each case to identify forest lands occupied by claimants prior to 13-12-2005 but not recorded as such by the Forest Department necessarily was a time consuming affair. All these problems were solved by the use of ICT and the online system that made the real time data quickly available to all the concerned authorities. The project speeded up the process of providing service to the target group apart from improving the transparency and objectivity.

Objective :
• To adopt an objective and transparent process of verifying & settling the forest rights claims speedily in favour of genuine claimants.
Target group : The target group is about 0.33 million Tribals and other traditional forest dwellers living in the state of Maharashtra
Geographical reach : About 14,000 tribal and interior villages in and near forests spread over Maharashtra State.
Date from which the project became operational : 1 May 2009
Is the Project still operational : YES

10 points that make the programme/project innovative?

  1. It uses the latest technology based on GIS and takes its benefits to the level of remote tribal villages.
  2. It provides objectivity and transparency in recognition of forest rights and enables various Committees under the Act to take fair decisions
  3. The use of geoinformatics has facilitated and speeded up online implementation and monitoring.
  4. It involves personnel of various departments/NGOs/public at the same time. (Ensuring participation of all stakeholders)
  5. Inter departmental coordination on Acts implementation is extremely smooth (Revenue, Forest and Tribal Development).
  6. It reduces conflicts by providing an objective as well as area and time- specific evidence.
  7. It significantly reduces the scope of corruption that could take place by creating false evidences, processing of false cases and inability of Sub-Divisional and District level Committees to cross-verify claims due to cases being in very large numbers
  8. It opens new frontiers for linking forest right holders with the protection and management of forestry resources on sustainable basis using a GIS platform.

List the 5 achievements of the programme/project?

  1. A transparent and evidence-based objective scrutiny as well as monitoring system in place.
  2. The decision making Authorities (Committees) are fast and confident of their decisions.
  3. Ineligible claims are easy to reject. Forest land saved from encroachers.
  4. Knowing the fact of use of this technology, new encroachers of forest land are discouraged.
  5. The data base being generated has the potential of becoming a platform for integrating developmental options for the beneficiaries of this Act with a long term perspective.

List the 5 key challenges faced while implementing the programme/project/initiative :

  1. Lack of awareness about the process of implementation at various levels- Publicity by using various modes- By demonstrating the utility of the system in real life situation in most of the Districts. Ensured regular updating of Website.
  2. Empowering various level institutions- By regular capacity building.
  3. Transfer of ‘trained’ Government servants- By repeated Capacity building inputs.
  4. Inhibition and Limited capacity towards internalization of new technology – By repeated awareness creation, capacity building, demonstration of success stories
  5. Coordination amongst the staff of various Departments By taking regular meetings and workshops, problem solving.

List the 5 points how can the programme serve as a model that can be replicated or adapted by others?

  1. The system is robust, user friendly and very simple to operate.
  2. The software developed in the TRTI uses cartosat data as well as Google maps and can be used anywhere.
  3. Once the personnel at the field level are trained, the requirements of trouble shooting are taken care of by the dedicated team at TRTI, Pune and NIC.
  4. The hardwares and softwares used are simple and based on open source systems as under:

List 5 points to elaborate on the scalability of the programme/project/initiative :

  1. The scalability is easily possible as the whole application is web-based and has the support of the dedicated server of TRTI.
  2. The unique thirteen digit ID can be used for not only linking the developmental inputs from various departments but will also bring in the desired level of transparency and openness in the implementation of programmes meant for the target group.
  3. There is a scope for working with people for utilizing the domain knowledge and geoinformatics applications further to empower and sustainably benefit the rural tribal populations.
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3 Responses to Use of Geoinformatics in the implementation of Forest Rights Act in Maharashtra

  1. ankita says:

    Its a project that has made common people see objectivity in governance and has also saved forests.

  2. arvind says:

    The project is a good example of use of ict for tribal welfare