Bhutan Leverages Technology for Precision Mapping with Support from Japan

In the heart of the Himalayas, where rugged terrain and breathtaking landscapes define the kingdom of Bhutan, a quiet revolution in mapping technology is unfolding. From the humble beginnings of manual surveying to the sophisticated utilization of drones and LiDAR, Bhutan has embraced innovation to create highly accurate topographic maps crucial for its development.

Traditionally, surveying involved painstaking manual efforts to map out the intricate contours of Bhutan’s diverse landscapes. Over time, the advent of aerial photography and remote sensing brought about significant advancements. However, it is the integration of drones and LiDAR technology that has propelled Bhutan into a new era of precision mapping.

LiDAR, an acronym for Light Detection and Ranging, utilizes laser-based technology to meticulously scan and measure targets with unparalleled accuracy. Drones, on the other hand, offer a swift and efficient alternative to traditional methods, significantly reducing surveying time and enhancing the ability to focus on specific landscapes. Yet, for comprehensive coverage of vast areas, satellite imagery remains indispensable.

In a landmark initiative, the Government of Japan is set to deliver satellite image datasets to Bhutan’s National Land Commission Secretariat (NLCS) as part of the Development of a Digital Topographic Map project. This collaborative effort, facilitated by the JICA Office in Bhutan, aims to create high-precision digital maps covering key regions and urban areas of Bhutan.

These maps, with scales ranging from 1/25,000 to 1/5,000, promise to provide invaluable geospatial information, including precise coordinate data. They will serve as a fundamental resource for decision-making across various sectors, from agriculture to water resource management and land administration.

Samten Dhendup, Director of the Department of Survey and Mapping under NLCS, highlighted the multifaceted applications of these topographic maps. He emphasized their role in facilitating developmental activities, such as road construction, by providing detailed digital terrain models and 3D images accessible on electronic devices.

Moreover, the maps offer accurate latitude, longitude, and height data, essential for informed planning and decision-making processes. Dhendup emphasized that having tangible models enhances policy-planning efforts, allowing for better strategic alignment and resource allocation.

However, despite their transformative potential, these maps have limitations. They cannot provide real-time information on imminent disasters like floods or landslides. Dhendup explained that continuous monitoring would require a substantial investment in satellite image subscriptions, highlighting the cost-intensive nature of maintaining such systems.

Nevertheless, the Development of a Digital Topographic Map project underscores Bhutan’s commitment to harnessing technology and fostering partnerships for sustainable development and resilience-building. By leveraging cutting-edge mapping technologies, Bhutan is poised to navigate the challenges of environmental change while charting a path towards a more prosperous and resilient future.

In the land of the Thunder Dragon, where tradition meets innovation, the journey towards precision mapping symbolizes a steadfast commitment to progress and sustainability. Bhutan’s embrace of technology serves as a beacon of inspiration for nations striving to harness the power of innovation for the greater good.

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