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Spatial Decision Support System for rural Land Use Planning (SDSS/LUP) 

Centre of Studies in Resources Engineering 

Indian Institute of Technology – Bombay 

Powai, Mumbai – 400 076


A DSS is a computer-based information system that assists a decision-maker at the moment of taking a decision. An SDSS is a DSS applied to spatial problems, i.e. where decisions must be made on the use or allocation of resources in space. Because of the spatial nature of the decisions, a Geographical Information System (GIS) must be the centerpiece of any SDSS. 

Planning in general is the process of allocating resources, including time, capital, and labor, in the face of limited resources, in the short, medium or long term, in order to produce maximum benefits to a defined group. Land use planning (LUP) is the activity of designating uses for different land areas (zoning), as well as specific interventions (e.g., infrastructure or local works, subsidies, material) that are necessary for carrying out those uses. In the context of rural India, planning mainly consists of the distribution of resources (infrastructure, subsidies, assistance) according to various ‘schemes’ that are mandated by Central or State governments, i.e. prescriptive planning. 

Thus, a SDSS for rural LUP is an automated system, applied to problems at the District or Taluka level, that would assist a decision maker at these levels to make zoning and intervention decisions. These planners are both the co-ordinating planners and those in relevant line agencies, among others Agriculture, Forestry, Rural Development, Revenue, Irrigation, and Sericulture. 


A holistic and structured way is proposed for taking decisions on spatial patterns at district and taluka level on the following practical questions (applications) that a rural land use planner may ask : 

Decision type 1 - area (catchment/sub-catchment) selection for schemes for conservation planning by various line departments 

Decision type 2 - site selection for conservation and water-resources infrastructures 

Decision type 3 – land evaluation for changes (minor to major) in land use 

The decisions listed above can be categorized into three DSS: 

Catchment and sub-catchment selection & prioritization 

…using NWDPRA selection criteria
…by surface erosion intensity
Identification of critical areas within selected sub-catchment
…by sediment yield intensity
…by present land degradation status
Multicriteria evaluation using DSS.1.1 – DSS.1.4 

Site selection for interventions 

Site selection for conservation infrastructure
Site selection for water resource infrastructure 

Land evaluation for conservation & management options 

Land evaluation for conservation options of existing LUTs
Land evaluation for management options of existing LUTs
Land evaluation for new LUTs 

The framework (conceptual design) also includes (a) how the decisions are actually made; and (b) decision procedures for each application. In addition, database design and a vector-based prototype model for a few applications, with ArcView as the user-interface, were also carried out in the project. 

Test Area 

Two talukas (Chikballapur and Gudibande) and a rural watershed (Ramapatna watershed of 1700 ha) in Kolar District, Karnataka were selected to test the concepts of SDSS/LUP. 

This area was chosen for several reasons:

(1) there are problems with land degradation, particularly gully erosion;

(2) it has not been extensively treated by GOI programs;

(3) new meteorological and stream gauging stations have been installed in Ramapatna within the past year, because the area is being modelled for water conservation by CWRDMS/Calicut;

(4) the project team can communicate with local population in their own language;

(5) data with typical scales and depth of information are available on various factors;

(6) Bairasagra already falls under NWDPRA. 

The methodology is designed to be applied to any area of India, although the prototype SDSS is specific to the test area. In the document we show which parts of the SDSS must be locally calibrated. 

User Interface 

An ideal interface is provided by ArcView: series of maps, complete with symbols and attributes, called themes, may be collected in views, each having a table of contents showing the themes. The user chooses which themes to view by marking a check box. Simple tools to zoom in and out, and to obtain information on map areas, are provided. 

The DSS is presented as a series of views:

(1) input maps and tables;

(2) derived maps;

(3) ratings.

These are collected in a single ArcView project, which in addition should have many tools disabled, e.g. the ability to add or delete themes or change the legend. These menus and buttons can be replaced with a customized interface that allows the end user to choose views. ArcView allows such customization, either directly in the project properties or with a simple use of the Avenue scripting language. 

Preliminary Results (Prototype)

Initially, The SDSS/LUP concepts were tested on conservation planning aspects for taking decisions on selecting the priority catchments/sub-catchments for interventions. A prototype modeling on various scenarios for taking decisions was examined and presented below briefly : 

DSS 1.0 Catchment prioritization, on the basis of NWDPRA criteria. Out of the ten catchments delineated in and around Gudibanda and Chikballapur talukas, four fall within the talukas, and the priority ratings were : Bairasagara, Peresandra, Chonduru and Chalamenahalli (Figure 1).

DSS 1.1 Sub-catchment prioritization on the basis of relative soil erosion intensity by following the Morgan’s model (Morgan et al. 1982, 1984) using Bio-physical land units (BPLUs) as the strategic natural unit (Figure 2). 

Priority ratings of sub-catchments for taking decision on the basis of above scenarios are depicted below: 


Priority Rating

Soil erosion intensity


Per cent degraded land

RP_E 3 1 2
RP_N 1 2 3
RP_W 2 3 1

The district/taluka officials involved in the watershed management programmes can choose the above catchments/sub-catchments depending on the scheme based on the above physical/socio-economic problems.