Land Conflict Watch

Land Conflict Watch

Organisation: Land Conflict Watch (India)

Publication Date: 04/10/2017

Size of team/newsroom:small



India’s ambitious agenda for industrial and infrastructure growth requires large swathes of land. At the same time, a huge part of its population uses land to earn livelihood. The competing demands cause conflicts. The battles over land, often violent, are increasing across India irrespective of political cultures, be it left, right or centre. However, there has been no nationwide estimate of spread and impact of these conflicts. While national media captures only big conflicts, most conflicts are reported in the local vernacular media as isolated incidents. As a result, the aggregate picture of the scale and the intensity of the conflicts, and the emerging trends, at the national level remain unclear. Land Conflict Watch intends to bridge this gap. It is an ongoing research-based data journalism project that maps, documents, and analyses ongoing land conflicts in the country. The formulae coded in the website automatically give an aggregate picture of the number of people, the area and the investment affected by land conflicts at the national level. Users can filter data for different states, districts, industrial sectors, land types, reasons of conflicts or for combinations of these factors. The website also gives details of each conflict at the micro level. We are a team of independent researchers and journalists, spread across India, who combine academic rigour with journalistic approach to collect data that answers questions about land conflicts and their impact on the environment, industrial investments and human rights. While we want to be relevant to public in general, groups like students, researchers, policy makers and journalists are presently our main audience. The project has been initiated with a grant from Rights and Resources Initiative, a non-profit based out of Washington DC. We are working on developing a financial model in which we could collaborate with the national media houses to provide them original stories on important land conflict incidents, whenever they happen. We are also discussing collaborations with universities in India and abroad to support the data collection and analysis.

What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?

It is a first-of-its-kind data-journalism project in India that uses social-science research methods to collect and verify primary data about land conflicts and interactively maps them. Primary data on land conflicts has never been aggregated in India at this scale. To do this, we have enrolled 25 journalists and researchers from across all Indian provinces who collect data on ongoing conflicts in their regions. The researchers file data using an online form linked to a Content Management System (CMS) software, which is also used by a team of editors/reviewers to factcheck, edit and map the data. The methodology and the form for documenting conflicts have been developed in consultation with experts. The field researchers track vernacular press, alternate and the social media and legal proceedings to find conflicts. They also reach out to community networks on the ground, look online and set up google alerts. All the data is verified from at least one non-media source and is attributed to documents. A summary is written to describe each conflict. The documents are openly accessible for users to verify data for themselves. While only a fraction of the ongoing conflicts in India have been documented so far, the scale of their impact has forced the government to take note of this data. NITI Aayog, the Indian government's think tank co-organised a discussion on Land Conflicts and Investments in India in November 2016 where Land Conflict Watch data was discussed. The project is a live source of primary data for journalists writing on land governance, property rights or industrial investments. The data has been quoted by The Mint newspaper and IndiaSpend in their stories. Social science researchers from across the world are beginning to see value in our data, and have reached out to us for collaborations. Some research scholars in Indian and foreign universities are already using our data to support their research.

Technologies used for this project:

The Land Conflict Watch project is developed using the open-source Content Management System (CMS) Drupal. It runs on LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) technology. The back-end of the website allows journalists and researchers to register, login and file conflict data using a form that is based on Drupal's Content Construction Kit. The form is customised using Drupal's PHP Application Programming Interface to auto calculate data. A crucial part of the back-end is the data workflow between a researcher and the reviewer. It is built on Drupal's Workflow module that captures the interaction between the researcher and the coordinator for audit purposes. The website's front-end uses Twitter's Bootstrap theme. On the homepage, each land conflict is shown as a dot, geo-located on a Google map. Drupal's module Gmap is used to integrate data with Google maps. Dots can be clicked for details of a conflict. The site also displays Facebook and Twitter feeds, and aggregates news related to land conflicts using Google Alerts RSS feed. This is developed using the built-in feed aggregator module of Drupal. JQuery (a JavaScript framework) and AJAX is used to build the search system in which data can be filtered by by states, districts, reasons, type of industrial sector and type of land. The search results are displayed using Drupal's module called Views.

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