Adoption of necessary geospatial technologies translate into better services to the people
What are the main functions of National Land Commission and how is Survey of Bhutan associated with it?
The National Land Commission (NLC) of Bhutan is an autonomous body mandated to render land governance and NSDI services. The nomenclature Survey of Bhutan is not in use any more. There are two departments under the NLC. These are Department of Land Administration and Management and Department of Survey and Mapping. The later is responsible for NSDI and other technical aspects.
Your vision is to evolve as “A dynamic and professional organization that delivers excellent land governance services and provides reliable land information for the nation’s well being”. What are your plans to achieve this?
We have embarked on a very ambitious plan. In fact we have already achieved some. Having completed a historic nationwide cadastral resurvey exercise using state of the art technology we have the opportunity to render best land governance services. We have adopted three pronged strategy of (1) Institutional and human resource developments (2) harmonization and streamlining of policy, legal and procedural frameworks and (3) embracing state-of-theart technology to enhance service delivery.
Share with us some of the key initiatives of your organisation especially GeoPortal, Rural e-Sakor and Urban e-Sakor?
Like I mentioned, enhancing service delivery is our main thrust area. We are also trying to adopt an open geospatial data policy with the objective of promoting a spatially enabled society. Towards this end we have initiated few flagship programs. These are development of national geospatial portal and online land transaction systems, the rural and urban e-Sakor.
We are aware that the geoportal is not complete in its true sense, but it is a good start for a small GIS society like ours. It is planned to be a geospatial information onestop- shop. Although we have published metadata of more than 90 different layers there are very few users. Many still prefer traditional way of “copy-paste” method of data sharing. I am confident that this practice will change in few years. We have also realized some gray areas in geoinformation management due to the lack of an appropriate policy. Therefore, we are in the process of drafting a national geo-information policy. The Center for GIS Coordination with 32 member agencies is spearheading this initiative.
The completion of comprehensive cadastral resurvey has significantly enhanced land governance services in Bhutan. In order to take a step further we have started an online land transaction system. Due to difference in the management systems we have two different systems; the rural and urban e-Sakor. Eventually, we plan to integrate them. Currently, we are in the process of enhancing the urban e-Sakor by incorporating mortgaging, taxation and real time data access and transaction status modules under the World Bank financing. The online land transaction system has significantly reduced turnaround time and transparency.
How do you see the technology like UAV/UAS contributing to the success of surveying and mapping?
We have experimented this technology and the result looks promising. In fact I am told that few agencies already possess UAVs. I think such technology will be useful during disasters and for land management in urban areas. I am not so sure about the use of UAV/UAS for base mapping. Therefore, we haven’t thought of owning one. Bhutan has a mountainous terrain with most of the area covered with thick forest. Therefore, I see the topography and vegetation as limiting factors.
What are the effort in the direction of training and capacity building?
We are initiating capacity development in a big way. Geospatial information technology is changing rapidly. In order to reap maximum benefits it is important to keep abreast with the changing technology. NLC is the parent agency of all surveying and mapping personnel in the country. It is also the Secretariat of the Centre for GIS Coordination. Therefore, we are responsible for the professional development of everyone involved in the geospatial field.
We are taking this at three levels: (i) Partner with schools, colleges and institutes in promoting GIS education, (ii) Educate policy makers on the benefits of geospatial information and (iii) Build a core team of highly trained and motivated GIS professionals. Towards this end we are mobilizing resources through annual national budgets and external technical supports.
How does your department extend support to other governmental and non-governmental organizations?
NLC is a national mapping agency, primarily mandated to produce fundamental geospatial data (FGD). We are not only producing FGD, but also helping users to make use of the technology and data. From our traditional role of the producer of base maps we have now embarked on data services. We are helping other agencies by sharing data, software and expertise free of cost. Besides, we are also spearheading the formulation of necessary legal framework. Developing surveyor’s licensing system is in the pipeline.
What are the main challenges before your organisation?
NSDI development is still thought as optional. Therefore, it is very difficult to attract funding either through national budget or donor assistance. NSDI development is a very costly affair. I would say this is our biggest challenge.
How has geospatial technologies been able to contribute to the ‘Gross National Happiness’ of Bhutan?
Geospatial technologies help to plan accurately and take appropriate actions in a timely manner. The adoption of necessary geospatial technologies has translated into better services to the people. These directly contribute to the GNH.