The Sri Lanka Survey Department (SLSD) carries out geodetic, cadastral and topographical surveying and publishes official mapping of Sri Lanka. Its history can be traced back to the establishment of a survey office in Colombo in 1800. Survey of India mapping of the island in the nineteenth century included quarter-inch coverage and larger scale cadastral mapping, and following reorganization of mapping in 1897 a one-inch topographic map was started. This series on a Transverse Mercator projection, Everest ellipsoid was completed in 1924. The current specification uses 100 ft contours, updated from aerial photographic coverage and is published in seven colors.

New 1:50,000 scale maps started to appear in 1983 in the Agricultural base mapping project. This series covers Sri Lanka in 89 sheets and also uses the Transverse Mercator projection, Everest ellipsoid, with relief shown by 10 m contours in flatter areas and 20 m contours in hilly regions. This series serves as a topographic map, but also gives a detailed breakdown of land cover and land use. 1:10,000 scale mapping of Sri Lanka has also been started. Some 25 sheets are published for each 1:50,000 quadrangle; complete national coverage would comprise of 1,835 sheets. By May 1997 334 sheets had been published, covering areas of highest development potential. These multi-color maps also feature a detailed land use classification, and show relief with a 2 m contour interval on the plains and a 5 m interval in hilly regions. A new 1:250,000 scale map in four sheets was recently published to replace the regularly revised quarter-inch map.

Soviet military topographic mapping of Sri Lanka is available at the following scales: 1:1,000,000 (2 sheets, complete coverage, published in 1974); 1:500,000 (5 sheets, complete coverage, published 1963-1973); 1:200,000 (19 sheets, complete coverage, published in 1973) and a city (1:10,000) topographic map of Colombo published in 1979. These products are available in print, digital raster and digital vector GIS formats from East View Geospatial.

Hydrographic charting of Sri Lankan waters is carried out by the Hydrographic Office within the National Aquatic Resources Agency (NARA).

The Geological Survey Department, renamed the Sri Lanka Geological Survey and Mines Bureau (SLGSMB) in 1993, has been responsible for geophysical and geological surveying and mapping. By 1975 reconnaissance level detail at a one-inch scale had been collected for the whole of Sri Lanka, and data was reduced to a published 1:500,000 scale map, published with Australian assistance in 1982. Further themes at this scale were issued in 1983.

Thematic mapping of Sri Lanka is compiled by the Land Use Division of the Sri Lanka Irrigation Department. 1:50,000 scale soil and land classification series were compiled on provincial sheet lines in the early 1990s.

A variety of thematic maps have also been issued. A one-inch scale monochrome map series depicting soil and land forms, and a series of maps showing land use and forest cover were compiled in the 1960s. Smaller scale coverage concentrates upon environmental and agricultural themes.

A full-color 1:100,000 scale series depicts land use on administrative district sheet lines, and has been in progress since the early 1980s. This map was compiled in conjunction with the SLSD’s Center for Remote Sensing, who have also produced a forest cover map, and an image map of the country. Most of these maps are published in English language versions.

A useful soft cover atlas of the country was published in 1997 by Arjuna Consulting Company, including many full color thematic maps at 1:1,650,000 scale. Arjuna also published the best recent A-Z street atlas of Colombo.

The national atlas of Sri Lanka was published by SLSD in 1988, and provides the best thematic overview, with maps at 1:1,000,000 scale.

SLSD also publishes larger scale town survey maps for over 100 urban areas in the country, many of which are now issued to new metric specifications at 1:2,000 scale. The capital area is covered in a greater number of urban scales, including 1:1,000 (two series), 1:2,000, and administrative coverage at 1:12,672, with single-sheet tourist town maps also published.

Several overseas commercial publishers issue tourist maps of the country, including Indian town and tourist publisher TTK, and maps from German firms Berndtson & Berndtson (B&B), Karto + Grafik, Nelles Verlag and Ryborsch.

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