To help formulate better agricultural and infrastructure development programmes, work has begun to update  Geo-Spatial Data in the country.

Senior Survey Engineer with National Land Commission Secretariat (NLCS), Tenzin Norbu said that Map is one of the geo-spatial data. “Geo means earth and spatial means location.”

At the closing seminar of the project yesterday in Thimphu, he said that geo-spatial data will enable agencies to plan without having to go to the field. They can also plan on building roads, planning agricultural activities and in determining arable land with updated geo-spatial data.

The project developed 1:25,000 digital topographical maps and Geographic Information System (GIS) data of about 11,000 km sq using satellite image in the southern belt.  The project, besides developing the capacity of the Secretariat with help from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) specialists, it is also formulating a National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) framework using this project as a model case.

Land Commission Secretary, Pema Chewang, said, that government agencies are asked for quick responses to natural disasters like fire, earthquake, windstorm and floods. “Much of the information needed to make sound decisions in such cases is based on geography. Accurate and current geospatial data are critical.”

He added that the most recent available base maps were 1:50,000 topographic maps produced around 1960s are still used as NSDI foundation. “The land use maps of 1992, the population and housing census of 2005 and the delimitation of electoral constituencies for the first parliamentary election in 2008 were carried out using these base maps.”

JICA’s Chief Representative, Koji Yamada said the project would now increase the value of other cross-sectoral data resources in Bhutan. It would help policy makers bring a wide variety of geo-spatial information together to better understand problems and develop informed solutions.

“The geo-spatial data has huge potential, but it also requires full understanding and support of the potential users,” he said.

Director of NLCS, Geley Norbu said that the new series of maps in southern Bhutan will help in learning about Bhutan’s beautiful landscape, its available infrastructure and facilities. “It will extensively be used for spatially enabled decision planning,” he said. “We expect the programme to be an indispensable teaching and learning resource for education sector and a valuable source of information for all Bhutanese, guests and tourists.”

The National Geospatial Data Policy is being drafted. The project was initiated jointly by JICA and NLCS in February 2015 and will be completed in October this year. The second phase of the project called, “Project on Development of Spatial Data Infrastructure for Sustainable Land Management” will be an extension of the current project. JICA funded USD 5 million for the first phase of project.

Rinchen Zangmo