Hyderabad: We are at a time when conservation of nature and natural resources are becoming crucial for the survival of life forms, including human beings. At this juncture, the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), a not-for-profit involved in conserving forest, land and water resources at local levels has launches India Observatory (IO). The latter is a beta website that could offer immediate knowledge for the conservation of nature and natural resources.
The India Observatory is a collaborative technology initiative that aims to present comprehensive information on India’s social, economic and ecological parameters on a single platform. Expectedly, it will assist village communities, panchayats, NGOs and government officials in local-level decision making.
Jagadeesh Rao, Executive Director of FES, said, “What we realised while working with communities across the country is that data is difficult to obtain. We did systematic housekeeping of all secondary data available in the public domain that we obtained over the years including health indicators, infant mortality, and education combined them and presented in the form of easy to understand maps, graphs, tables and infographics.”
He added that this would give rise to interdisciplinary discussions. “If you want to compare infant mortality rate of Nalgonda from 2008 and 2018, the website can instantly give the data in a comprehensible form,” he noted.
The open-source website brings together data on over 1,600+ parameters, ranging from village to national level. It is freely available for citizens, civil society organisations, government departments and students.
Usha Thorat, Chairperson of FES, said that there are vast data sets, algorithms and tools being made available every day by a range of organisations. “However, they are not necessarily accessible on the ground, or are too technical for ordinary citizens to interpret and use in making informed decisions.”
Harnessing advancements in the field of Information Technology, GIS, Remote Sensing and telecommunication, IO has developed 11 platforms and tools that can work offline on smartphones. They are available in local languages with easy to interpret data which can even be used by semi-literate people.
For instance, CLART or Composite Landscape Assessment and Restoration, a tool available on IO will help citizens identify best areas for groundwater recharge. Similarly, GEET, or GIS-Enabled Entitlement Tracking system, another tool helps build awareness on entitlements for farmers by tracking eligibility at the household level.
The Integrated Forest Management Toolbox, or IFMT, is another feature that contains tools to assist in both data collection and analysis.
Jagdeesh Rao Puppala, CEO of FES, said, “Working on issues of forests, land and water needs a bird’s eye view. Such resources are spread across human boundaries, and a spatial view helps strategise preservation of threatened species, conservation of resources like water and biomass and extraction of resources for human needs.”
He added that satellite imageries offer a view better than the bird’s eye. “Through this initiative, FES is not only helping policymakers and administrators in sound decision-making but is also empowering people in villages and remote areas to build a bright future for themselves,” Jagdeesh noted.