Forests are predominantly publicly owned, with land records based on government notifications, often lacking precise mapping. The traditional methods used to describe forest boundaries have significant limitations, such as inconsistency due to shifting landmarks and changes in natural features over time. The need for precise forestland has become imperative with increasing pressures on forest lands from agriculture, fuel wood demand, non-forest land use, and revenue-driven exploitation.

Current Status of Forests in India

India's forests are under constant threat from deforestation, encroachment, and land-use changes. According to the Forest Survey of India, forest cover has shown some increase, but the quality and density of these forests often vary. Accurate demarcation and georeferencing are crucial for the sustainable management and protection of these vital natural resources.

Necessity of Forestland Georeferencing

Precise georeferencing of forestlands ensures proper jurisdiction and aids in the protection and conservation of forest resources. It allows for the integration of boundary information with various maps such as Survey of India maps, satellite imagery, and forest cover maps. This integration supports effective forest management and decision-making processes. Furthermore, accurate georeferencing helps in monitoring forest boundaries to prevent illegal encroachments and ensures compliance with environmental regulations.

Supreme Court Order and Government of Odisha's Role

The Supreme Court of India, in a landmark order dated July 6, 2011, mandated the creation and regular updating of a GIS-based decision support database. This database should contain detailed information on the location and boundaries of forests, protected areas, wildlife corridors, and land diverted for non-forest purposes. The order emphasized the need for high-quality spatial data for forest conservation.

The Government of Odisha has taken proactive steps in implementing DGPS (Differential GPS) technology for forestland surveys. Odisha has utilized DGPS for precise boundary demarcation, addressing issues related to traditional methods. By adopting DGPS technology, Odisha aims to improve the accuracy and reliability of forestland records, thereby enhancing forest management and conservation efforts.

Advantages of DGPS Technology

DGPS technology offers several advantages over traditional surveying methods:

  • High precision in boundary demarcation with centimeter-level accuracy.

  • Elimination of human errors in recording coordinates through digital storage and retrieval.

  • Effective in challenging terrains where traditional methods fail due to line-of-sight issues.

  • Compatibility with various geospatial data sources for integrated forest management.

By leveraging DGPS technology, forest departments can ensure the integrity of forest boundaries, facilitate sustainable forest management, and comply with legal and environmental requirements. This approach not only supports conservation efforts but also enhances the overall efficiency of forestland administration.

SPARC's Services and Achievements in Geo-referencing Forestlands in Odisha

As the Technical Partner to the Odisha Forest Department, our role in enhancing the accuracy and reliability of forestland records through the use of DGPS technology was crucial. Below are the key services and achievements in this regard:

Establishment of Survey Controls
  • Developed and implemented survey control points across Odisha to facilitate accurate DGPS measurements.

  • Ensured precision and consistency in the geo-referencing process.

Conducting DGPS Surveys
  • Successfully conducted DGPS surveys for approximately 4,000 notified forest blocks across 44 forest divisions.

  • Facilitated the reconciliation of forest boundaries with revenue land records.

Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) Development
  • Assisted in the development and notification of a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for geo-referencing forestlands in 2017.

  • Ensured compliance with the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India's directive in the Lafarge case (2011).

Digitization of Forest Land Records
  • Enabled the creation of accurate and digitized forest land records, reducing conflicts and encroachments.

  • Supported effective governance and enhanced environmental conservation efforts in Odisha.

These efforts have significantly contributed to the modernization and accuracy of forestland records in Odisha, promoting sustainable forest management and conservation.