Home Articles Putting Bulgaria on the map

Putting Bulgaria on the map


Dr. Temenoujka Bandrova
President, Bulgarian Cartographic Association

The recent approval by Bulgarian parliament to sign Cooperation Agreement with European Space Agency is seen as a great step towards the future development of geospatial industry in the country. Dr. Temenoujka Bandrova, President of Bulgarian Cartographic Association shared her thoughts on what the country should do next to meet the European geospatial expectations.

Would you like to give an overview of the geospatial uptake and challenges in Bulgaria?

The creation of digital spatial data in Bulgaria started in 1995 with the adoption of a regulation for developing cadastral plans of the settlements. Later during the application of restitution laws, many settlements have been fully mapped in digital form. The Law on Cadastre and Property Register (LCPR) was adopted in 2001, and since then the sources, accuracy, structure and format of cadastral data have been formally regulated.

However, numerous problems arose due to differences in the precision, structure and format of the geospatial data for the settlements and rural areas created under the regulatory frames of different laws. These problems caused negative perception towards geospatial data, which was also supported by the negative practices of the Bulgarian legislation. The LCPR and other related laws (Law on Territory Planning, the Water Act, etc.) have been repeatedly modified and as a result, only 30% of the country is geospatially-mapped.

Many organizations gathering their own data do not share and do not use the same standard in gathering and storing data. This caused problems when data needs to be overlaid. There are inefficient coordination and lack of clear implementation rules in Bulgaria.

I very much hope that some new changes in law on geospatial application will lead to better implementation of the EU INSPIRE Directive and the country could utilize geospatial technology up to its true potential.

Which sector is the biggest geospatial user in the country?

Regional Development and Ecology are the strongest sectors using geospatial information. Definitely others like Ministry of Defence, Interior, and Agriculture are also big users.

Any sector that you feel could use more of this technology?

Disaster management. We have Aerospace Monitoring Center at Ministry of Interior which is supplied with two ground satellite stations for real time data receiving and processing. There are also several different systems allowing integration of data from different sources. Data dissemination to all institutions involved in risk management process of natural hazards via Geoportal also exists. With all these existing technologies, our disaster warning system in practice is still not effective.

During the 5th International Conference on Cartography and GIS in Riviera last month, 80 people attending Gala Dinner were stranded overnight in the mountain due to flooding. 15 minutes of heavy rain caused strong flash floods blocking several cities (in Varna city, 12 people lost their lives; in Albena resort, 1 hotel was destroyed; region capital Dobrich was closed for visitors). We were informed that the only access road back to Riviera was closed due to the rise in river water level. We were saved by the Bulgarian Army via helicopters. This incident provoked many ideas for common projects and for the geospatial community to work harder in contributing our knowledge into more effective disaster management system in the country.

Heavy flood in Stara Planina Mountain, Varna

ICCGIS 2014 delegates evacuated by helicopters

Bulgaria recently announced its membership in European Space Agency and Group on Earth Observations (GEO). What prompt such move towards the space / remote sensing activities?

This was a good cooperation between the government and academic society of the country. The government of Bulgaria at the moment is one of the most academic ones (several ministers are professors). This was government’s understanding that Bulgaria will receive big profits from such memberships, future projects and developments of high technologies products and services.

The membership of Bulgaria in GEO will allow the integration of data and information from various sources in order to find and adopt sustainable solutions to environmental problems, and the performance in the field of geodesy and cartography.

Apart from the Association and teaching, you’re also a Project Manager in a local private company. Do you see any gap between the academicians and local industry in Bulgaria? And how does the Association play its role in bridging this gap?

You are absolutely right! There are many talks about this gap which definitely exists. The fact that I am working as a professor and at the same time in private cartographic company helps me a lot to understand what exactly are the business needs and I try to develop my teaching programme towards this practical direction.

Bulgarian Cartographic Association has personal and business (company) members. This provides good platform for discussions and taking the right solutions. Several educational courses are supported by the Association. The University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy is also active in this plan. The courses are attended not only by students and teachers but also by people from industry. So, we try to build the bridge and help both sides to benefit.

The most important activity is the regular International Conference on Cartography and GIS. The 5th edition organised in Bulgaria has gathered participants from many countries of the world, from academic and business society.

What is the biggest challenge faced by cartographers in the 21st century?

Cartography as one of the ancient science is living in 21st century because it uses the most developed technologies. At the same time, cartography cannot forget users and its human aspect. These days we can see many cartographic products developed for mobile devices, using sensors, GIS, SDI, big data, created in 3D, 4D or animated environment but every time we can understand if this product is made by cartographers or not. This is our biggest challenge. How to keep cartography close to users and how to deliver this enormous information coming to us in the most understandable, clear and helpful way. The fast-paced development of technologies gives cartographers many tools to do this. We simply should deliver the spatial information to our users.

Do you think digital maps will replace paper maps entirely in the future?

Difficult question! I want to say no but digital maps become more and more dynamic in our lives. At least I hope it will not happen in the near future. There are still places for both digital and paper maps, and both have their advantages and disadvantages.

As the President of Bulgarian Cartographic Association, what is the goal that you’d like to achieve for Bulgarian cartographers?

When Bulgarian Cartographic Association was established, we defined the tasks that we need to do, such as contributing our opinion in legislation of cartographic activities; collecting, disseminating and promoting information on cartographic activities in Bulgaria; assisting young cartographers; organizing a network of institutions to take joint decisions on the development of cartography in Bulgaria; and to represent the Bulgarian cartographic society to the international organizations.

Some of these tasks are already in action. But to achieve all of them we need closest contacts and contributions with governmental organizations. At the moment we are working very well with Agency of Geodesy, Cartography and Cadastre and many of our members participate in the working groups which create a strategy for development of national geospatial information, geodesy and cartography.

Realisation of our aims will be difficult but still I am optimist of our future.

How do you think Bulgaria as a country can contribute to the European geospatial scene?

This should happen as fast as possible. We are part of European family and all members expect that Bulgaria will contribute with quality geospatial information. We know how to do this. We have European directive – INSPIRE. We need to create our national Geoportal and exchange our data with our neighbour countries and with every country that needs our data. To realise all this we need the right political directions, understanding from the government and European support.