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Integrating KSA with latest tech

Engr. Muhamad N. Alrajhi
Assistant Deputy Minister MOMRA, Riyadh

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is spread across 2 million square km and comprises of 220 municipalities with about 6 million land parcels. The Ministry of Petroleum initiated topographic mapping of the entire kingdom at 1: 50,000 scale in 1950. At that time, geodetic reference was established by traverses using electronic distance measurement unlike classical triangulation. This network of 700 monumented geodetic points was barely sufficient to meet the required accuracy for mapping at a scale 1: 50,000.

In 1960, the responsibility of preparing 1:50,000 scale map sheets was transferred to the Military Surveying Department of the Ministry of Defence and Aviation. This department is also responsible for 1:25,000 and smaller scale mapping, while Saudi Geological Survey is mandated with the production of geological maps. The mandate for mapping the urbanised areas and rural settlements at larger scales (varying from 1:20,000 to 1:1,000 scales) was assigned to the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs (MOMRA) for which, it had to develop a new geodetic network that could satisfy large scale mapping requirement. To accomplish this task, the new geodetic reference frame based on ITRF-2000 was established.

MOMRA generates and administers spatial information for about 220 Saudi Arabian cities. At present, the Deputy Ministry of Land and Surveying and its General Directorate for Surveying and Mapping (GDSM) is undertaking a significant large scale nation-wide mapping programmes complying with international standards.


The current day mapping applications require highly accurate data with subcm accuracy to satisfy the needs of the planner as well as the client. For example, the average price of 1 sq m piece of land in Makkah al Mukarramah is more then hundred thousand Saudi Riyal, so the need of accurate geospatial data is high. With the advent of satellite based positioning systems, there has been a tremendous increase in accuracy and precision of quantifying any location.
MOMRA has established a 13 point geodetic control network for mapping and subsequent application. These 13 fiducial stations are tied to the seven existing IGS network stations. The relative accuracy of these fiducial stations is of the order of ±2 mm in horizontal and ±3 mm vertical. This has significantly enhanced the accuracy of mapping and populating the geodatabase.


Saudi Arabia is among the fastest growing countries with a GDP growth of 8%. Large cities like Riyadh, Jiddah, Makkah and Dammam are witnessing rapid development in terms of infrastructure. Such continuous physical changes pose enormous challenges to maintain a huge amount of up-to-date geospatial information to effectively serve its role in decision making, planning and development.

MOMRA has always used latest and state-of-the-art technologies to meet current mapping requirements and accelerate map production. MOMRA has adopted digital aerial photography. Orthorectified aerial photographs are

qualitatively equivalent to maps. Hence their generation a priorifulfils the instant mapping requirements till the derived vector data is made available. Aerial survey, line mapping and geodatabase projects take 2 to 3 years to complete. But there are significant changes in the city landscape in the mean time. Keeping this in mind, MOMRA has introduced Automatic Object Based Image Change Detection Technology to detect and update features to reflect new changes. The change map will be kept as separate layer in existing geodatabase with proper attribution. Final evaluation and updation will be done with the data of next aerial photography series. MOMRA is establishing a separate division of remote sensing which will be looking after these processes.


Standardisation provides a uniform description of the data. It increases the mutual understanding of geographic data among users and at the same time eliminates the technical problems in

exchanging geodata between different geographical information systems, coupled with increased integration and combination of geodata and related information. To implement this concept, MOMRA has adopted and developed the relevant standards like:

• ISO 1900, 2001 for quality management system
• ISO TC211 recommendation for geographical information
• FIG 2014 recommendation for cadastral system
• Mapping specification and standards developed by MOMRA in collaboration with Geomatics Canada


In the past, cadastral registration in the country occurred in a non-homogeneous fashion by courts and municipalities, mostly without proper georeference. The government of KSA enacted

the "Cadastral Registration Act", the provisions of which will be jointly implemented by MOMRA and the Ministry of Justice. To tackle complicated land issues, MOMRA is moving to the Parcel Oriented Multipurpose Land Information System with automated methods for managing and analysing land records. The city of Huraymila, 90 km north-west of Riyadh, has been selected for implementing this system. Through this system, e-land administration will be implemented making all transactions possible through Web. The concept is in realisation stage and once completed, it will be first of its kind in the kingdom.


Spatial data infrastructure (SDI) provides a basis for spatial data discovery, evaluation, and application for users and providers within all levels of government, commercial sector, non-profit sector, academia and by citizens in general. The SDI developed by MOMRA focuses on the municipalities. Geospatial as well as its associated details pertaining to all the municipal areas are centrally served through a custom designed online application. The data has been classified into relevant geodatasets, which further include feature classes designed in a way to cater daily requirements of the municipality.


eMunicipality will provide tools and services to help municipalities deploy, access, integrate and utilise data and services. eMunicipality will act as a common face of all the municipalities to interact among themselves, clients and other government organisations within the kingdom for improved decision making, sustainable development and hassle free services.