Home Articles State-wide digital database and GIS of cadastral maps

State-wide digital database and GIS of cadastral maps

Alok Upadhyaya
Chief Executive Officer, Kampsax India Pvt. Ltd.
Gurgaon, India
[email protected]


Availability of accurate and updated cadastral maps is a primary requisite for successful planning and policy making for any country. Flawed cadastral maps can put land and revenue system at stake. This paper, at a conceptual level, highlights the drawbacks of the traditional cadastral maps and the possible advantages of digital cadastral maps over these.

At the 12th All India Cadastral Survey Conference in Hyderabad hosted by the State Government in November 1996 the Minister of Revenues – Mr T Devender Goud – admitted that: “Recorded or registered land particulars had largely failed to reflect either the correct title, boundary, extent or classification. Such imperfect land records had been the root cause of civil litigation, agrarian unrest and fall in farm production”. Mapping in India has till now been performed by SoI. India was mapped between 1965 and 1985 at 1:50,000 scale covering about 5000 sheets. Larger scale topographical mapping (1:1000 to 1:4000 scale) remains a dream for India. In fact only 2% of the country has been covered on large scale. Whereas, countries that have achieved accelerated growth have already completed large scale mapping of the entire country. Denmark started computerisation of land records in 1985, digitisation of cadastral maps in 1997. The entire data was web-enabled in 2000. In fact, an Orthophoto of the entire country on 40 cm resolution is available in public domain at the web site www.kortal.dk. This site has been maintained by Kampsax A/S. The specific area maps can be purchased via internet. Whereas India is still struggling with restriction policies and public is not allowed free access to digital maps of high accuracy which is needed to avoid cost and time overrun of infrastructure projects as well as maintenance of town utilities (500 important towns). None of these 500 towns have Utility Maps combining cadastral information with the utility. Even metro towns don’t have large scale updated maps.

Limitations of existing cadastral maps
India being an agrarian country with 70% of the population dependent on the agricultural practices, it still does not have an effective and productive land tenure reforms due to some inherent factors like:

  • Mostly land record system, has not been modified and properly documented except for few urban pockets.
  • Most part of the community land grabbed and utilized by the people without the ownership right and information.
  • Most part of the community land distributed from time to time to poor and destitute population of the country has been either grabbed or put into legal conflict due to inherent poorly maintained land record system under severe malpractice.
  • Differing hard copy records of land record system of the same region/area with different government departments like Forest and Revenue office giving rise to never ending property disputes and proper development.
  • Still vast areas exist as unregistered land with no proper legal ownership either with government or private lands leading to vast wasteland untouched by proper planning and sustainable development.

So, to achieve a decentralised policy intended to bring administrative authorities closer to villagers and to collect land taxes from vast agro-economic resource, there is a need to have an effective, accurate and easy to access land revenue system. Succe-ssful developmental planning calls for production or updating of reliable base maps and land registration systems to guarantee land allocation and property rights which can well be achieved by digital conversion and correction of base cadastral maps.

Advantages of internet ready digital cadastral maps over Paper/cloth maps

Conventionally, keeping of Cadastral maps with plot-boundaries and their numbers written over them have been the prime responsibility of Village Patwari in Tehsil office. Differing paper/cloth records of land record system of the same region/area with different government departments like Forest and Revenue office have been giving rise to never ending property disputes and hindering proper development. This has led to a limited and monopolized system for any kind of information transaction. In turn this has led to widespread corruption and malpractices.

With digital version of maps and the availability of updated maps through government sale counters at district, tehsil and village level would reduce the rampant corruption and unnecessary land related disputes.

The conventional cadastral maps stored and maintained usually on a low quality paper or cloth are subject to various kinds of degrading factors like climate change, pests, wear and tear etc. These cannot be corrected easily without a fresh manual mapping for larger area in question and without putting enough time and money. However, a digital version of cadastral maps can be edge matched seamlessly and even corrected easily using high spatial resolution aerial photographs for any kind of scale transformation to any change in the plot boundary in question.

In a conventional setup both physical cadastral maps and land holding information are separately maintained manually whose modification and incorporation is a long process. The Tehsil/District/Village level Patwari records do not match with central records on a given date. However, in an internet linked digital database linked cadastral maps make it an easy process for any kind of online updating like computer railway reservation system.

Storage and Retrieval
Digital copy of cadastral maps can be exactly reproduced in hard copy form or electronically transported over the internet among various departments and made available to all users ensuring common uniformity with all kinds of associated information.

Information Content and Utility
In a conventional setup of cadastral information (Khasra map and Khatauni Register), the information content is limited to debatable land holding size and ownership information with the old record of agricultural pattern. However, digital cadastral maps can be dynamically linked with village level crime analysis & prevention, diseases control, movements of goods/crop etc.

Information Sharing
Today global market and information have shrunken to desktop level whereby information sharing is a matter of second’s gap, the intra- and inter- government department’s information sharing at cadastral level is a difficult task in the present situation. These can be achieved by having an internet linked Centralized Digital Cadastral Information Network available without any hassle, which in turn will streamline not only the revenue information but also will be useful to formulate an effective national policy in time.

Security Aspect
The existing system is subject to various kinds of malpractices like distorting the plot boundary or changing the ownership etc. But in a digital cadastral system, by virtue of its transparency and centralized accessibility, modification and updating of records or boundary can be restricted to a few authorized departments at the central level.

Legal validity of Digital Maps
Existing paper/cloth maps would be digitally scanned and line maps prepared. This process will produce exact replica of paper/cloth maps. The Patwari/district revenue officer would check and incorporate necessary corrections and certify that old paper record and the new digital map are identical. Similarly, Khatoni details would be computerized and printouts would be checked by Patwari/district revenue officer. Thereafter, the digital maps would have the legal sanctity required under the law.

Utility in Integrated Resource Development Planning
A digital cadastral map can be overlaid dynamically with existing resource data or satellite data or accurate real time resource information at cadastral level for a) Soil characteristics and type. b) Present landuse and cropping pattern. c) Ground and surface water availability. d) Extent of natural (flood/earthquake etc.) as well as anthropogenic (soil salinity/water logging) hazards. e)Socio-economic variables.

Availability of digital maps via Internet

Conversion of Existing Maps
The first step is to collect and digitize the existing cadastral maps. The second step to collect all the Khatoni details and computerized them in local language i.e. Hindi. The third step is for seamless edge-matching of the cadastral map not only with the adjoining villages but also at the Block, Tehsil and District level in a sequence. The digital maps and computerized Khatoni details should be linked to prepare the interne-ready GIS.

The digitized cadastral maps has to be updated for spatial and non-spatial information taken from field or suggested by revenue department at the time of mutation or authorized change in the ownership details etc. The update shall be done online. The revenue officers would be allowed changes only after such changes are registered at a central registry through internet online.

Web enabling Digital Maps
The digital map and GIS details has to be made available and loaded on a single server for easy access of these maps via internet through STD telephone lines at village/district/tehsil level for over the counter sale against payment of a specified amount. Normal telephone line, simple computer and the Internet would link the sale counters.