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Human Story

Digital Maps create our Future

Project to Systematize Geospatial Information Technology of SOB

The Survey of Bangladesh, SOB, was established in 1767 under the British occupation. At the corners of its historical building, there are the old maps in those days, photos of the successive Surveyor Generals of SOB or old equipment for surveying. It is just like a museum, if you look at these items.

After facing such a long history of SOB, you may not imagine that they have introduced the latest technology to draw the map of Bangladesh in this building. Behind the old, heavy door, there are forty workstations for digital mapping with 3D imaging processing.

Bangladesh does not have the modern and accurate maps up to now. The Bangladeshi operators in this room are now creating the map of Bangladesh (1:25,000). They are tracing 11,250 pieces of aerial photographs of the country at these workstations. "We cannot easily find a place like this in Japan, with so many latest 3D workstations in one room" Mr. Yamato Tanaka, JICA expert for this project, explained.

PhotoPictures of Survey generals on the wall of Survey of Bangladesh

PhotoWorkstations for mapping with 3D processing in SOB


Bangladeshi government is now working on the project for creating accurate 1:25,000 nation-wide digital maps by 2016. The Japanese government and JICA support this project to systematize the geospatial information technology of SOB, and Mr. Tanaka is sent to SOB under this project. The previous project started in 2009 and finished in September 2013, but JICA is continuously engaged in it until 2016.

In Bangladesh, although they have a long history of SOB, they could not create accurate modern maps due to lack of budget. JICA started supporting mapping in Bangladesh in 1992 with preparation of survey points. Since then, JICA has been supporting mapping in this country through creating Dhaka map of 1:5,000, introducing the up-to-date printing machines and more. So far, thirty six staff members of SOB came to Japan for training and forty Japanese experts have been sent to SOB.

PhotoMr. Yamato Tanaka, JICA expert for SOB (left)

PhotoTracing the roads on the aerial photographs by hands on the workstations


PhotoBrigadier General Md Wahidul Islam Talukder, Surveyor General of Bangladesh

"Mapping is the starting point for all kinds of project, whether it is public or private. But since we don't have the accurate maps, we always start from surveying. That adds cost of the projects 3% to 5% in average," says Colonel Mahmudun Nabi, Director of SOB.

He added, "If we have the accurate maps, we can be ready for the natural disasters, for example. Digital mapping will change the country a lot." When they complete the digital mapping, they can save five thousand million USD per year, according to one study.

Creating accurate maps in Japan also took a long time and efforts. They completed 1:25,000 mapping in 2007. Starting from 1880's with creation of survey points, it took more than 100 years to complete mapping Japan. In Bangladesh, they are trying to complete mapping only in 24 years, which is more than five times faster than in Japan.

The JICA project, however, not only aims at creating digital mapping. It also aims at human resource training for mapping in this country. Once the basic maps are created, there will be new demands for variety of specialized maps based on the purposes of the users. There will be needs for such human resource not only at governmental organizations, but also at private companies for dealing with the maps and geographical information. In fact, it is said that there is the world-wide market for digital mapping whose size is said to be one hundred billion USD. It is not just a dream for Bangladesh to be one of the providers of human resources to this huge market in the near future.

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