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NRDMS: The Programme

Natural Resources Data Management System (NRDMS) programme was initiated in 1982 by the Department of Science and Technology as a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional R&D programme. The evolution of the programme has been discussed below in details by dividing it into three decades viz. 1st decade from 1982-92, 2nd decade from 1992-2002 and 3rd decade 2002 onwards.

  • First decade (1982-92)
During this period , national planning exercise was in transition from national to local, while the planning philosophy was sectoral . The Planning commission introduced concept of spatial planning to smaller area levels. Pertinently, vision of the NRDMS programme during its inception was to provide S&T inputs for operationalsing the concept of Decentralized Planning of the country. Goal of the programme was to develop computer compatible methodology for developing spatial databases on natural resources, socio and agro-economic parameters to further the concept of area specific decentralized planning. In order to achieve this goal, the objectives of the programme were:

  • To promote R&D in spatial data management.
  • To develop pilot scale integrated databases on natural resources and socio-economic parameters to cater to micro level planning.
  • To demonstrate the efficacy of database approach for management and conservation of natural resources with emphasis on location specific problems.
  • To build spatial resource profiles at different hierarchical units of planning i.e. district, block and panchayat .
  • To provide software support for data management, modeling and operations research.
    Training of potential users.
  • Documentation and dissemination of NRDMS methodology.

Data collated and collected from different sources like topo-sheets, aerial survey, satellite imageries, census reports, data from district line departments and from limited surveys were used to convert into computer compatible formats in a common database which was not developed as per database design. Those data were processed to generate outputs like statistical table, thematic maps, charts, diagrams etc. and were considered to be inputs or support to decision-making (Fig.1). The system was not focus to the information requirement of users.

At the end of the first decade, standardized formats and computer-based methodologies for collection, storage and retrieval of data on natural resources and socio-economic parameters were developed. An indigenous DOS based GIS package, Geo Reference Area Management (GRAM) was developed in modular form. On the recommendations of the working group on district planning set up by the Planning Commission and the multi-level planning unit of the Planning Commission, the developed packages were operationalised by establishing ten pilot district database centers at Vishakapatnam (Andhra Pradesh), Koraput (Orissa), Sultanpur (Uttar Pradesh), Gurgaon (Haryana), Kheda (Gujarat), Alwar (Rajasthan), Munger (Bihar), Pauri (Uttar Pradesh), Chandel (Manipur), Goa/Daman. The average cost for operationalising the centers was $12,000 per annum. Few Decision support modules for location of amenities, land and water management and investment planning were developed in research mode. The application of NRDMS technology was demonstrated in drought management in the Gurgaon district of Haryana state.

On evaluation of the first decade of NRDMS programme the following shortcomings were observed:


The developed databases were mostly non-spatial and not much spatial data were there. Due to inefficient inter-sectoral data flow, developed databases were not integrated in nature and didnít serve the information need of local level planners. In spite of huge amount of data collected, little of it was available in computer readable form.


Exorbitant cost of imported equipment and software packages on Relational Data Base Management (RDBMS) and Geographical Information System (GIS) and higher cost of conversion of spatial data to digital form were the main hindrances to the diffusion of spatial data technologies at the local level. Need for development of technologies for spatial information generation was felt to fulfill the need of local level planning. The developed databases needed constant updating and developed software and GRAM needed updating and maintenance.

Technology Transfer

Lack of trained manpower in the R&D sector as well as handling of spatial databases at the local level was hindering the spatial data technologies potential application to local level planning. Need for demonstration of the technologies to users was felt during the end of this decade.
  • Second decade (1992-2002)

At the local level, necessary institutional changes were brought about during this period to ensure peopleís participation in the planning process. As per the provisions of the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments, different State Governments constituted a three tier system of local bodies at district ( Zilla Panchayat) , block (Panchayat Samiti) and village ( Gram Sabha) levels at rural areas and Municipalities (Nagarpalikas) at urban areas. Mandates of such local level bodies are to collect revenues, draw up and implement integrated development schemes.

The VIII 5 Year- Plan (1990-95) of Planning Commission suggested that the developmental plans should be drawn up at the local level (district and below) taking into account the physical and human endowments of the area, felt needs of the people and funds available.

Entry of GIS in India during late 80ís and launching of Indian Remote Sensing Satellite during 1987 guided the evolution of the NRDMS programme during its second decade. The programme was looked upon as a major initiative for introduction of Geo spatial technologies and tools in the local level planning of the country.

In this context, vision of the programme remained the same as first decade, while the goals were focused towards 1. Development of spatial data management technologies for integrated rural development planning and 2. Demonstration of utility of spatial data tools in local level decision making.

Objectives remained almost the same, adoption of Geographical Information System (GIS) as the core of NRDMS methodology for locale specific problem solving was made explicit. Forging linkages with users at different levels was introduced as one of the objectives for dissemination of NRDMS methodology.

At the end of the second decade, about $2.1 million had been spent on the NRDMS programme. This included a support of $1.26 million from the UNDP. The major outputs at the end of second decade have been enumerated in the Table 2.:

Table 2. Major Outputs of the NRDMS programme (1992-2002)

  1. Improved procedures for data collection, collation and processing at local level developed.

  2. Indigenous GIS package GRAM upgraded to Windows based GRAM++ and allied tools like GRAM controls, VECVIEWER, GRAM-DRISHTI developed for customization and applications development.

  3. Tutors (GIS Tutor, GRAM++ Tutor) developed for the training of officials and Line Department staff, NGOs and Communities in principles of GIS.

  4. Spatial Decision Support Systems for Water management, Energy management and infrastructure development developed.

  5. Software to aid watershed management developed e.g. GRAM SWAT, WMDSS, ECOLAND.

  6. User- friendly interfaces developed for language conversion, visualization and web-based applications.

  7. Spatial resource profiles and user specified applications developed and demonstrated at district level in selected sectors of land and water management, road construction, infrastructure location, health planning, natural disaster management, election management etc.

  8. Pilot scale district level GIS databases developed and demonstrated in 40 districts. Stage has reached for proliferation of the Geo-information technologies at other districts.

  9. Availability of the Core Expertise in Spatial Data Management in R&D institutions and concept champions at districts / states