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Application of remote sensing and GIS for sustainable development

Y.V.N. Krishna Murthy, A.K. Sinha, A. Jeyaram, S. Srinivasa Rao, S.N. Das,
D.S. Pandit, D.S. Srinivasan, C.K. Rajender
Regional Remote Sensing Service Centre, Nagpur
Integrated development is a comprehensive action
programme aimed at optimal realization of resource
potential in the light of physical, economical, social and
other developmental goals. Such an endeavor entails
harmonious development of land, water, vegetation and
other resources of an area in a sustainable manner, so
that the changes proposed to meet the needs of the
development are brought about without diminishing the.
potential for their future use. In order to derive
maximum benefit out of these resources, in a sustainable
way, it is preferable to treat the watershed as a single
Watershed is a natural geographical unit with a
certain extent of homogeneity and uniformity. Even
though the parameters vary, the variation shows a
common trend. A watershed is an open physical system
in terms of inputs of precipitation arid solar radiation and
outputs of discharge, evaporation, transpiration and
reradiation. It can be taken as a basic erosion landscape
element where land and water resources interact in a
perceptible manner. For all practical purposes it can be
considered as a balanced system, whether it is water
balance or energy balance. Thus, the watershed approach
is holistic, linking upstream and downstream areas and
the chain of cause and effect relationships is related by
hydrologic processes.
The utilitarian aspects of natural resources
development within a watershed involving complex
decisions are best handled by the state-of-the-art modern
tools remote sensing and geographic information
systems (GIS). Earth observing sensors on board aircraft
and spacecraft and advanced image processing
technology provide researchers, resource managers and
policy makers with powerful tools for producing and
analysing spatial, spectral and temporal information.
Geographic information systems provide a tool for the
effective and efficient storage and manipulation of
remotely sensed data and other spatial and non-spatial
data types for scientific, commercial, management and
policy-oriented purposes.
As such, remotely sensed data effectively
employed within a GIS can be used to facilitate
measurement, mapping, monitoring, modelling and
management of natural resources.
GIS not only facilitate the storage of and access to
many types of data, but they also allow them to be
updated readily. Indeed, the synergism between
remotely sensed data for updating GIS information and
the use of GIS for improving information extraction
potential from remotely sensed data is a major advantage
of integrating these powerful tools.
1.1 Approach
A practical approach in planning, directed at
preservation, conservation, development, management
and exploitation of the natural resources of the
watershed for the benefit of the people has to operate
within the framework of :
(i) Physical and biological attributes
(ii) Socio-economic conditions and
(iii) Institutional constraints
Physical and biological attributes comprise
baseline data on geomorphology, geology, soils, hydro
geology, hydrology, climate, demography, plant, animal
and other biological resources. Socio-economic
conditions relate to information on basic needs of the
people, input-output relationships, marketing and
transportation arrangements, developmental incentives
and facilities, such as technologies, equipments, labour,
material, energy/power, etc. Institutional constraints
relate to laws, regulations and ordinances; Governmental
policies and priorities; political acceptability; accepted
customs, beliefs and attitudes of the people, and
administrative support.
The separate inventories of the physical and
biological attributes, socio-economic conditions and
institutional constraints are integrated using GIS. This
would provide the physico-socio-economic profile of the
watershed and permit suitable development models in
the different sectors of economy and production. The
system as a whole, would thus be operated upon to
develop appropriate alternatives of conservation-
production programmes commensurate with the
production potential. For example, a particular land unit-,