Geo-Information Policy should be adhered to

Geo-Information Policy should be adhered to

NLCS implores government agencies to comply with the policy to avoid public confusion and speculation

The National Land Commission Secretariat (NLCS) has lately been facing some issues with other government agencies about certain infringements and non-adherence to the Geo-Information (GI) Policy. The issues concern lack of transparency and communication, duplication of resources, and compromised data quality while surveying and mapping, which was conducted by government agencies.

The NLCS, as the apex agency for surveying and mapping in the country, is committed to promoting transparency, efficiency, and responsible use of geospatial resources. However, it has been found that there was a lack of transparency and communication. “In that, some incidents have involved landowners questioning NLCS about surveys they were unaware of, indicating a lack of prior notification and communication between agencies and NLC. Some agencies have even classified activities as ‘confidential’, leading to public confusion and speculation,” the Department of Surveying and Mapping under the NLCS stated in a notification to the government agencies.

The Department also shed light upon some cases of duplication of resources. “NLC has observed instances where agencies conduct surveys for data that already exists within other agencies, resulting in unnecessary duplication of efforts and wastage of resources.” According to the Secretariat, sharing existing data readily would significantly improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

There have also been concerns about compromised data quality where unqualified personnel collected data without adherence to proper technical procedures and quality checks, leading to compromised accuracy and reliability of geospatial information.

“The GI Policy, approved by the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB) in July 2018, emphasizes the crucial role of geo-information as a tool for proper planning and decision-making. It is founded on the principles of availability, reliability, accessibility and affordability. The GI Policy seeks to achieve these goals through reducing duplication of efforts and costs, enhancing capacity to keep pace with rapidly changing technology, ensuring the availability of reliable geo-information through a robust data repository, promoting data discovery, accessibility, and sharing mechanisms without duplication or operation in silos,” the notification mentions.

Likewise, the Center for Geo-Information (CGI) established under GI Policy 2018 mandates achieving this by developing, promulgating, and enforcing by-laws, regulations, and standards for all aspects of geo-information.

So that these problems are sorted and aligned with the GI Policy, the NLCS in the notification solicited all government agencies to provide prior notification of all surveying and mapping activities. This included submitting details, purpose, location, expertise, methodology and cost of the project to CGI.

The NLCS also implored government agencies to collaborate with CGI or the Secretariat to identify and leverage existing geospatial data. “Before conducting new field surveys for any kind of development activities, agencies should consult with CGI or the NLCS and other relevant agencies to determine if existing data meets their needs,” the notification adjured.

It also reminded government agencies to ensure adherence to established technical standards and quality control procedures. “This will guarantee the accuracy, reliability, and consistency of the geospatial data collected.”

All the stakeholders will benefit from transparency and informed decision-making if all comply with the GI. “Prior notification and data sharing will promote transparency and enable NLCS to better understand and support agency needs, in line with the GI Policy,” it has stated.

The compliance is also expected to avoid duplication of surveys, saving time, money, and resources for all agencies involved, while adherence to technical standards and quality control will ensure the accuracy and usefulness of geospatial data for all stakeholders, supporting the GI Policy’s commitment to reliable information.

“We encourage open communication and cooperation with CGI to ensure efficient and responsible management of geospatial resources for the benefit of the entire nation, as envisioned by the GI Policy,” the Secretary of NLCS, Tshering Gyaltshen Penjor has stated.

NLCS is a national mapping organization, mandated to produce topographic base maps, thematic maps, cadastral maps, and large-scale maps for projects. The Land Act 2007 was enacted during the 87th Session of the National Assembly by revising the Land Act 1979. According to the Land Act, the National Land Commission was established as an autonomous agency with 11 Commission members. The erstwhile Department of Survey and Land Records became, by default, the National Land Commission Secretariat with all its functional divisions.

Tashi Namgyal from Thimphu