The Survey Department Nepal (NSD) in the Ministry of Land Reform and Management is the central organization for all mapping services in the country and undertakes cadastral, geodetic and topographic surveys.  It was founded in 1958, compiles cadastral, topographic, administrative and land resource mapping and is establishing an active digital mapping program with new topographic coverage, following substantial Canadian, German, Japanese and Finnish technical aid programs.

Until the 1960s mapping of the country was carried out in conjunction with the Survey of India, and conformed to standard specifications established across the sub-continent.  A one-inch map of Nepal in 266 15′ quads was started under the Colombo plan in the 1950s, based upon survey data completed by NSD in 1962.  This series was on a polyconic projection, Everest ellipsoid, and showed relief with 100 ft contours.  The series was completed in 1980, and photographically enlarged to 1:50,000 scale as an interim measure pending modernization of the mapping infrastructure.  Meanwhile American 1:250,000 scale (Series U502) maps were compiled from Survey of India quarter-inch coverage.

The final initiative is to update the topographic coverage and establish a new geodetic framework for topographic mapping.  New basic scale mapping of the country has been started by NSD, which will offer metric 1:25,000 scale coverage of the terrain and lower mountain ranges and 1:50,000 scale coverage of the more mountainous parts of Nepal.  This program will result in polychrome hard copy mapping on the UTM projection and was started in 1989.  1:25,000 scale coverage of the Lumbini zone has been compiled in a cooperative arrangement with the Japanese technical aid agency JICA and completed in 1992, while Finland has been assisting in the compilation of 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 scale coverage of the eastern and central development regions.  This area has been used as a pilot for the introduction of a new digital mapping system, and there are plans to capture the whole of the new topographic mapping and to institute a policy of continuous update based upon recent aerial photography.  Hard copy map publication of the remaining western parts of the country should have been completed by Year 2000.

High quality topographic mapping of East Nepal has been carried out by the Arbeitsgemeinschaft fϋr Vergleichende Hochgebirgsforschung.  These were published in the Nepal Kartenwerk series, mostly at 1:50 000 scale, in German and English and with 40 m contours. The major Himalayan summits and trekking areas are covered and the series extends down to Kathmandu, with the valley and Kathmandu itself covered.

Soviet military topographic mapping of Nepal is available at the following scales: 1:1,000,000 (4 sheets, complete coverage, published 1958-1973); 1:500,000 (8 sheets, complete coverage, published 1970-1987); 1:200,000 (38 sheets, complete coverage, published 1955-1987) and a city (1:10,000) topographic map of Kathmandu published in 1979.  These products are available in print, digital raster and digital vector GIS formats from East View Geospatial.

DMG had completed provisional geological mapping of all lowland parts of the country, on one-inch sheet lines in programs started in the 1960s.  A five-sheet 1:250,000 scale geological map was derived from the Canadian data in the 1980s, and a new single-sheet 1:1,000,000 scale map was published in 1994.  The current earth sciences program includes new 1:50,000 scale mapping.  Coverage of the Pokhara valley has been extended to the area around Kathmandu, and it is planned to have compiled over 20 sheets, by 2000.

An initiative involving the use of satellite imagery and was initiated by the Nepal National Remote Sensing Center in conjunction with the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu.  In 1986 a full colour 1:250,000 scale image map was produced with funding from the World Bank and the German technical aid program GZT.  This national resources and mapping project used rectified LANDSAT MSS coverage, to produce a 19-sheet coverage of Nepal on (Series U502) sheet lines.

Overseas involvement in mapping projects in Nepal has resulted in a wide variety of different map themes. Vegetation mapping of Nepal was compiled by the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).

The Carte écologique du Nepal was started in 1970 and completed in 1985, and included multicolour 1:50,000 and 1:250,000 scale maps covering most of the country and issued with explanations.  More recent vegetation mapping initiatives have been sponsored by Forest Research and Soil Survey Center (FRSSC) Kathmandu and a GIS-based digital national forest inventory is being created with aid from Finnmap.

Other environmental mapping of the country has been prepared as part of the Mountain Hazards Mapping Project funded through the United Nations University.  Prototype land use, hazards, geomorphic damage and base maps of three test areas in different environmental zones have been compiled and published.

Three initiatives have substantially altered the official Nepalese map base in the 1980s and 1990s.  The first arose from a Canadian aid project initiated in 1977, which funded new aerial photographic coverage of the whole country.  This aerial coverage has been used to compile important resource map bases.  Three 1:50,000 scale monochrome series were completed: a land utilization map; a soil map (designated as a land system series) and a map of land capability.  All give national coverage in 266 sheets on topographic sheet lines. Climatalogical mapping, in seven sheets covering the Western part of the country, was completed at 1:250,000 scale, and a black and white 1:125,000 scale geological map covering Nepal in 82 sheets was also compiled, in association with the Nepalese earth science mapping agency, the Department of Mines and Geology (DMG) in Kathmandu.

NSD also maintains cadastral information in Nepal. Surveying was started in 1964 to support land reform and was completed in 1996, resulting in 1:2,400 and 1:4,800 scale manuscript mapping.  It is intended to move from this graphical cadastre towards a multi-purpose record and land information system, in an eight-year project started in 1997.

Commercial mapping has increased with the growing popularity of Nepal as a destination for tourists.  Small scale maps of the country are available from companies such as Berndtson & Berndtson (B&B), Nelles, ITM, the French Institut Géographique National (IGN) and Mairs.  Specialist trekking maps are published by Western companies such as West Col who distribute the Leoman ridge line series, and Cartoconsult who have started to publish a series of satellite image based trekking maps of Nepal.  Nepa Maps, Kathmandu publish an extensive trekking range with mapping derived from Soviet 1:200,000 scale coverage, or for some areas, from Nepali 1:50,000 scale mapping.  Several local mapping agencies, notably Mandala Maps and Himalayan Booksellers, publish lower quality trekking maps and the Suspension Bridge Division of the Ministry of Works and Transport has also published a 1:250,000 scale six-sheet trekking series of the whole country.  These and other trekking maps are available from the SM Trading Company in Kathmandu.

NSD has published small scale mapping of Nepal and a wide variety of administrative series.  These include a five-sheet bilingual 1:500,000 scale map of the regions, and a number of larger scale series in Devanagiri script: zonal mapping in 15 sheets at 1:250,000; 76 sheets at 1:125,000 scale mapping district boundaries and nearly 4,000 sheets at scales between 1:10,000 and 1:50,000 providing mapping down to the village level.  Census mapping of Nepal is carried out by the Central Bureau of Statistics, established in 1959.  Other administrative mapping is carried out by the National Planning Commission (NPC) which is establishing digital thematic image coverage for each district development commission in Nepal.  NPC is capturing topographic data as a backdrop for ARC/INFO and ERDAS-based digital mapping.

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