This is an attempt to present the views of eminent academicians representing different regions of Asia, namely, the Laos – Southeast Asia’s smallest nation with immense natural resources including tropical wood, hydro-electricity, rubber, minerals, and agricultural land, and the progressive Philippines – the third largest English speaking country with its liberalised trade regime in areas of telecom, mining, oil sector and power (us-asean.org) – offer multifarious opportunities for GIS tecnologies to grow. The article gives a glimpse of geospatial scenario of the two ASEAN nations.
The National Geographic Department (NGD)
NGD is the authority in charge of land surveying, mapping, and geodetic control networks. The department has recently compiled a country wide 1:100,000 scale topographic map, and in addition larger scale maps (1:25,000 and 1:10,000 and 1:5,000) of the agricultural plains and areas of high importance. With the main interest of GIS users in high quality digital maps equivalent to 1:50,000 scale covering the whole of Laos, NGD is now working on updating the country wide topographic map in digital forum. The latest printed map covering the whole of Lao PDR is the result of survey carried out from 1980 to 1981, twenty-six years ago. It was a part of mapping project supported by the then Soviet Union. Vietnam, Japan and Finland have sponsored aerial photography and other mapping activities in the country as part of several development projects. (Table 1)
The main policy document that exists in geospatial domain is the Decree on Surveying, Aerial Photography and Mapping Activities in the Territory of Lao PDR, No. 255 / PM. By another policy, Decree No 73/PM, dated 14th July 1994, NGD is given the power to promulgate regulations and supervise surveying, aerial photography and topographic mapping. The Decree states that all surveying activities in Lao PDR, should conform to a single unified system. However, there is not yet a technical instruction on the practical implementation. The Decree also emphasises that all surveying, aerial photography and topographic mapping needs approval from the NGD and after completion of survey projects the results shall be submitted to NGD. Only few organisations have adhered to the Decree that is why it is a cumbersome exercise to get an overview of the geographical datasets available in Laos today. In 1997 Laos got a new geodetic datum with recourses from the Land Titling Project. It is referred to as Lao National Datum 1997 and has the origin in Vientiane, Nongteng, Astro Pillar. NGD is recommending all land surveys in the country to use this datum.
Other major organisations that generate GIS data are:
- Science, Technology and Environment Organisation (STEA)
- Forest Inventory and Planning Division (FIPD)
- National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI)
- Information Center, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF)
- Ministry of Transport, Communication, Post and Construction (MTCPC)
- Mekong River Commission (MRC)
Recently it has been announced that the STEA will establish a new National Database Centre with support from the Indian Government.