Survey of Bangladesh Ushers in an Era of Geospatial Data Management and Digital Mapping in Bangladesh

--Brig Gen Md Wahidul IslamTalukder ndc,afwc, psc


prelude- by Guardian

Interview by Harun-Al-Rashid

“To achieve the desired goal of digital Bangladesh, we are approaching towards a total digital environment in the field of surveying and mapping. We are committed to produce quality geospatial products using latest technology and fulfill the need of the agencies as well as the citizens of Bangladesh.” said Brig Gen Md Wahidul Islam Talukder, ndc, afwc, psc, Surveyor General of Bangladesh in an exclusive interview with The Guardian.

The Surveyor General further said that realizing the need of the age, Survey of Bangladesh (SOB) has undertaken a project named ‘Improvement of Digital Mapping System (IDMS)’. The main objectives of the project are to produce and provide Digital Topographical Maps, Geospatial Data along with Digital Elevation Model (DEM) and Ortho-Photo.

In reply to a specific question, he informed that SOB is approaching towards the modern system to acquire a sustainable capability to create, produce and deliver products in the field of surveying and mapping using state-of-the-art technology. In this context, he appreciated the cooperation of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Bangladesh in extending its technical support to the efforts of SOB; adding that SOB is now committed to provide appropriate and extensive geospatial data to the citizens and user community for Digital Bangladesh.

Secretary (MOD) and the Surveyor General                             Surveyor General receiving crest from JICA


In reply to another question the Surveyor General also informed us that SOB is one of the oldest organizations in the country. He also said that SOB is trying its best to provide interoperable and updated geospatial data. Surveyor General urged all geo-information users to take maximum benefit from these.

In an exclusive interview, Brig Gen Wahid replied to several questions covering entire activities, problems, potentials, contributions and future plans of SOB. Although the department is very technical in nature, Surveyor General’s deliberations are quite interesting, informative and educative. The essence of his valuable interview is presented here for The Guardian readers at home and abroad:


 Q-1  The Guardian:   Please give us a brief introduction about founding history of Survey of Bangladesh (SOB) and its journey to present position.

Surveyor General:     The Survey of Bangladesh (SOB) is the national surveying and mapping organization of Bangladesh under the Ministry of Defense. This department started functioning as ‘Bengal Survey’ on 1st January 1767 in undivided India and conducted survey and mapping activities until 1947.

After the partition, the organization started its new role as Survey of Pakistan and established a regional office at Comilla, which was subsequently shifted to Dhaka in July 1958. This regional office was transformed into Survey of Bangladesh after independence in 1971.

With the passage of time, SOB has attained remarkable progress in surveying and mapping with photogrammetric system and well equipped geodetic units. With a view to monitor and review Mean Sea Level (MSL) for the country, it has established a tidal gauge station in the river Karnaphuli at Rangadia, Chittagong. SOB has also established National Geodetic Datum (Vertical and Horizontal) at Gulshan, Dhaka and Geodetic Control Network all over the country.

Presently, the SOB is creating Digital Topographic Base Maps of new scale, GIS-database and Digital Elevation Model (DEM). These data would greatly help in analytical science for geospatial modeling, study on socio economic and environmental geo-statistics and planning of all land related development works.


Surveyor General inspecting the field activity                          Surveyor General along with Joint Secretary (MOD)

Q-2   The Guardian:   SOB is a technical institution in nature, would you please discuss the academic background and professional efficiencies of the employees and at the same time what are the  training activities/facilities available to improve  professionalism?

Surveyor General:     Professional works are mainly of applied sciences. The required educational qualifications are different for officers, supervisory staffs, technicians and other disciplines. To enhance the professionalism, a two-year Basic Training including Field Training at SOB is a must for all officers, supervisory staffs and technicians. Besides, various thematic training packages and On the Job Trainings (OJT) are arranged regularly. Learning from seniors and working under professional supervision are the foundation of our professionalism. Sometime we outsource training courses from public universities and training institutions at home and abroad. Many members of SOB from all echelons do undertake training, learning through post graduate, thematic training courses, international conference or study tours as available.

In reply to second part of the question, at this moment SOB is capable of carrying out training courses on field surveying, geodesy and digital mapping. SOB provides training to the officers and technical staffs of own and various government organizations.

Q-3   The Guardian:   Would you please tell in brief about the present functions of SOB and how far it has been able to implement its functions?

Surveyor General:      The mentionable important functions of SOB are three folds. These are: firstly, establishing and maintaining geodetic control network. Secondly, production of different series of topographical maps and GIS database and thirdly, International Boundary Survey between Bangladesh-India (Mizoram) and Bangladesh-Myanmar.


Field Boundary Indpection                                                                       Bangladesh-Mayanmar field Boundary Inspection

Besides, SOB also carries out some surveying, mapping and geodetic work, map printing and GIS-database preparation of national importance for other departments and agencies once requested considering availability of time and resources.

To answer second part of your question, even if we have some limitations on budget, manpower and equipments like any other organization but, SOB is implementing its task and functions with full satisfaction.

Q-4   The Guardian:   Would you please inform about the different types of geospatial data produced? 

Surveyor General:     Maps produced are of different topographical series basing on the scale. Existing Base Maps are in the scale of 1: 50,000 which are under replacement with the maps in the scale of 1:25,000. Other available maps are Communication Maps, Guide Maps of major cities, Administrative Maps of Divisions/Districts. These maps are extensively used by common citizens, various government and non-government organizations. Other geospatial data includes horizontal and vertical coordinates/values of geodetic control points, GIS database, Digital Elevation Model (DEM), Ortho-Photo and aerial photographs, etc.

Q-5   The Guardian:   In this context, would you inform about the different types of surveys done by SOB, their uses and importance in the country?

Surveyor General: SOB carries out both plane and geodetic surveys. Plane surveys include Traverse Survey, Plane Table Survey, Ordinary Leveling, etc. Geodetic or Trigonometric Surveys include Triangulation, High Precision Leveling and Astronomical surveys. Other types are mainly Reconnaissance Survey, Field Verification and Revision Surveys, Sea Level Observation, International boundary surveys and so on.


Joint Secretary (MOD) visiting the field survey at Sylhet

All these surveys are needed for the preparation of different types of maps, determination of geodetic coordinates with special emphasis on height information, Geoid Model, determination of Mean Sea Level (MSL) for Bangladesh etc. These are very important for development planners, infrastructural developments, pre and post disaster management and other development activities of the nation. Recently SOB has established 6 permanent GNSS stations all over the country for precision results for GPS users.

Q-6   The Guardian:   What are the objectives of ongoing project “Improvement of Digital Mapping System (IDMS)”?  Would you discuss the project in details and the beneficiaries?

Surveyor General:     The Project has been undertaken with the objectives of providing Digital Topographic maps of 1:25,000 and 1:5,000 scale and GIS database to the users. We are also preparing Digital Elevation Model (DEM) and Ortho-Photo of the whole country. CapacityBuilding of SOB with improvement of skills of the staffs is another main objective. Besides, a Digital Mapping Centre (DMC) is constructed at Dhamalkote, Mirpur-14, Dhaka.


5 story DMC at Dhamalkot

Beneficiaries of topographic geospatial data under this project are the Defense Services, Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), Department of Land Records and Surveys (DLRS), Roads and Highways Department (RHD), Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh, Chittagong and Mongla Port Authorities, Department of Environment (DOE), Water Development Board (WDB), Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), Department of Forest, Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD), Department of Relief and Rehabilitation, Bangladesh Telecommunication Company Limited  (BTCL) and Mobile Companies, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), Bangladesh Police, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and many more.

Q-7   The Guardian:   Would you know that Government of Bangladesh is pursuing for digital Bangladesh and has accordingly called upon all to work together. In this context, would you say what you are doing to fulfill the desired goal?

Surveyor General:     Our products will be of great aid in analytical use for the scientists, engineers and social and environmental analyst. This can be used as navigational tools in mobile and car, water craft, aircraft tracking systems in the coming years.

To achieve the desired goal of digital Bangladesh, we are approaching towards a total digital environment in the field of surveying and mapping. We are committed to produce quality geospatial products using latest technology and fulfill the need of the agencies as well as the citizens of Bangladesh.

Q-8   The Guardian: Would you please explain about Aerial Photographs and Satellite Imagery?

Surveyor General:     Aerial photographs are taken from aircraft with special type of camera onboard. Presently, digital aerial photographs are acquired in visible wave lengths of RGB (Red, Green and Blue) and in Color Infrared. For primary data, aerial photographs are preferred to satellite imagery because of better resolution and visual effects. Smaller ground objects are much distinct than that of satellite imagery. SOB has recently acquired digital colored and Color Infrared photographs of 25 and 50 cm GSD (any feature larger than 25 and 50 cm respectively on ground is distinctly identified)  during December 2010 to March 2012 for the entire country.

Satellite imageries with 2.5m resolution were acquired along the international boundary where aerial photographs could not be taken due to flying restrictions of aircrafts.


Q-9  The Guardian: What is Geodesy? Will you please throw some light on it?

Surveyor General:  Geodesy is the branch that determines the size and shape of the Earth and the interrelation of points on its surface. Survey of Bangladesh has a Geodetic Section that carries out surveys related to determination of coordinates both horizontal and vertical. It also deals with providing an accurate geometrical framework for the control of topographical and other surveys. SOB has established numbers of Ground Control Points (GCP) all over the country of three categories. These are Benchmarks (only heights), 2-dimentional points (x, y) and 3-dimentional points (x,y and height).  They also determine the Geoid Model and Mean Sea Level for Bangladesh.

Geodetic section is very important unit of SOB. This section has already changed the geodetic survey technology from conventional geodetic survey to precision GPS survey for establishing ground control points. At present geodetic grade GPS receivers in conjunction with GNSS-CORS, digital level, mobile mapper, etc are used which are advanced technology oriented.


Q-10 The Guardian:  Would you please briefly explain ‘Digital Data’ and its use in SOB?

Surveyor General:     Digital Data means information created, converted, manipulated, maintained and stored in digital formats. The most important aspect of digital data is quick sharing. At present, existing analogue maps are scanned or converted and stored digitally. On the other hand, under the present IDMS project, all types of GIS datasets are created and stored in a server based environment. Besides, GNSS-CORS provide scope to facilitate real time survey and navigation. Data from GNSS-CORS are captured, stored, maintained and disseminated through server linked to internet. Data from Tide Gauge is collected both in analogue and digital formats to review the changes.

Q-11 The Guardian: What types of maps do you issue and how?

Surveyor General: We issue maps both in hard and soft copies. It is worth mentioning that, SOB has a modern printing press for printing hard copies (paper maps) and stored in MRIO (Map Record and Issue Office) for subsequent delivery to the users. MRIO is the outlet of SOB of maps, data, etc.

Soft copies are issued in CDs and Hard Discs in different formats. These are downloaded from central server of SOB as per the request and delivered through MRIO.

The demands are received, scrutinized and products are delivered after necessary approval from the Surveyor General. However, a fee of nominal price as approved by the Government is charged.

Q-12 The Guardian:   Would you discuss the present status and the institutional capacity of SOB and tell us whether the existing status and institutional capacity is enough? If not, what measures you suggest to improve?

Surveyor General:     At present, the SOB is carrying out routine surveying and mapping activities, project works and some works for other agencies on request.

Under routine activities- maintenance and densification of Geodetic control points, updating different series of topographic maps, updating city guide maps and boundary surveys with India (Mizoram) and Myanmar are notable. SOB is also operating and maintaining six GNSS-CORS and a tidal station. At the same time SOB is creating and generating digital GIS database using aerial photographs and satellite imagery for the entire country and for divisional cities of Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi, Sylhet and Barisal.


Boundary Pillar, Bangladesh-Myanmar                                     Tidal Station at Rangadia

Capacity building is being greatly improved while preparing the products under the present IDMS project. After the completion of the project, as scheduled by June 2016, organizational capacity and efficiency of individual staffs will be greatly enhanced. To produce more experts, officers and staffs are being sent for higher training in foreign countries like, Netherlands, Japan, China and India.

Q-13 The Guardian:   SOB has already implemented a number of projects. Would you please mention the projects and also inform about any upcoming project?

Surveyor General:     Yes, SOB has implemented a number of projects. Some of these are Topographic Mapping of Bangladesh-Procurement of Equipment and Machinery (July 1996 to June 2001), Strengthening the Capability of Survey of Bangladesh in Geodesy (May 1992 to June 1995), Supply of Cartographic Equipment (March 1999 to June 2004), Study on Urban Information Management for Greater Dhaka City (November 2002 to June 2006), Bangladesh Digital Mapping Assistance Project (October 2009 to September 2013) and Improvement of Digital Mapping System of Survey of Bangladesh (July 2007 to June 2016, ongoing).

Another upcoming project named ‘Strengthening the Digital Cartographic Capability of SOB’ is in the pipe line and will start soon.

Q-14 The Guardian:   SOB performs some extra departmental works. Would you please focus on that?

Surveyor General:     Survey of Bangladesh is capable of carrying out different types of surveying and mapping activities. The purpose of extra departmental works is to train, provide geospatial data and   supply special maps to the different organizations on surveying and mapping. Some of the extra departmental works are 10% quality checking work of BIWTA in costal areas in 1996-1999, Establishment of Bench Mark (BM) at both sides of River Meghna for BIWTA in 1996, Training of BIWTA officers, Survey works based on WGS-84 ellipsoid for different airports in 2000, Assistance to Photogrammetric works for preparation of Mouza maps of DLRS office in 1999, Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf Marine Drive survey work for Bangladesh Army in 1999, Preparation of guide map for Rajshahi City Corporation in 2003, Establishment of horizontal and vertical control points for Chittagong Port Authority in 2005, Large Scale Topographical Map, GIS-database and Ortho-photo Map for Bangladesh Ordnance Factory and surroundings, Large Scale Topographical Map and GIS database for Ansar Academy, Large Scale Topographical Map, GIS database and Ortho-photo Map for Comilla Cantonment. Some other works are also in the preparatory stages.

Q-15 The Guardian:   In this context, would you give us an idea about the relationship as well as the interactions of the SOB with different national and international organizations, especially with the academic institutions and tell what co-operation the SOB gains?

Surveyor General:     The Survey of Bangladesh has its close interactions with various national and international organizations. The relationships with various organizations are mainly focused on education, training, technology transfer and supply of products and services. SOB has very active interaction with national organizations such as SPARRSO, BBS, DLRS, LGED, DOE, RHD, BIWTA, GSB, BMD, Department of Forest, Civil Aviation Authority, Water Resources Planning Organization (WARPO), Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC), most of the public Universities and MIST, Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force and Border Guard Bangladesh.


SOB has very good relations with Geospatial Authority of Japan (GSI), National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation of China (NASG), ITC (Netherlands), IGN (France), Ordnance Survey (UK), Geosciences Australia (GA), Singapore Land Authority (SLA), Survey of India, Survey Department of Myanmar and many more in the world. SOB is also an active member of      UN-GGIM (United Nations Initiative on Global Geospatial Information Management) and UN-GGIM-AP (for Asia Pacific) and do take active part in their activities.

Officials from different Government Agency                                               Secretary (MOD) and his team at Japan

at boundary conference

Q-16 The Guardian:   Would also discuss the problems and suggest remedies?

Surveyor General:     The software and instruments used in SOB are very sophisticated. Expertises are required for repair and maintenance. Sometime local and international experts are hired and at the same time, SOB is trying to develop own experts. SOB is yet to have aerial photographic capability due to lack of aircraft, aerial photographic camera and aerial photographer and so, this job has to be outsourced. Same with high resolution satellite imagery, SOB has to procure them from international service providers.

For capacity building and also to increase the efficiency of officers and technical staffs SOB has taken various measure including new projects. For online data dissemination, SOB is planning to provide mapping services through web based mapping portals and establish a National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) to act as repository and clearing house for all sorts of geospatial data produced in various government agencies.


  Joint Boundary conference at SOB                                                           Secretary (MOD)-Visit to Japan

Q-17 The Guardian:            What is your strategy and action plan for SOB in future?

Surveyor General:     Survey of Bangladesh is the National Mapping Organization (NMO) of Bangladesh. By inducting needed hardware and software, it has enhanced its capabilities and efficiencies in many folds. As national geospatial topographical data repository, it is now heading for fully digital system in order to help all the government, non-government and private agencies in achieving the national aspiration of Digital Bangladesh. Survey of Bangladesh envisages taking its product to the door-steps of common citizens. It also strives for improving surveying and mapping activities through close cooperation and coordination with the global communities.

About action plan, all old maps are being digitized; these include maps of all divisional town, different series maps and others. SOB has planned to produce topographical maps up to Upzilla level.   The number of GNSS station in the country is planned to be increased around sixty from existing six. Establishing NSDI is a need of time. This will enhance national spatial resource management, avoid duplication of efforts, and improve interactions and working relationship among government agencies by sharing of data from common repository. We are going to strengthen the capacity of Cartographic Units and for that a new project is on the way. We are planning to introduce field gravity survey and magnetic survey under national geodetic activities. It may be mentioned that I myself and the Directors attend the UN-GGIM conference; by that SOB is establishing good relationship with the UN and Asia Pacific region.

 Q-18          The Guardian:   At the end, would you please give your valuable message for all?

Surveyor General:     Geospatial data is source of information. Scientific computation, social and environmental analytical works, development works, etc cannot be executed without geospatial data. SOB is trying its best to provide updated maps and other useful geospatial data for all. I would like to request all concerns to take maximum benefit from SOB and make use of its huge national spatial data repository.

To fulfill the need of various agencies, SOB personnel are working hard, always updated with latest technology and remain committed to the needs of the common citizens and users.

Profile of Brig Gen Wahidul IslamTalukder ndc,afwc, psc

Brigadier General Md Wahidul Islam Talukder, ndc, afwc, psc is now the Surveyor General of Bangladesh. He was born in October 1963 and commissioned in the Corps of Engineers of Bangladesh Army on 05 November 1982. Thereafter he served in many Units, EngineerCenter and School of Military Engineering, Engineer Brigade, Infantry Division and Army Headquarters. He commanded a Military Police Unit and an Engineer Battalion. He also served as Colonel Staff of 55 Infantry Division, as Brigade Commander of 14 Independent Engineer Brigade and as Director at Army Headquarters.

He has done many professional courses and attended many seminars at home and abroad. He has done his Civil Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET). He has done two courses on surveying on Geo-spatial information management system. Brigadier General Wahid is a graduate from ChittagongUniversity and also a graduate from Defence Services Command and StaffCollege, Mirpur. He completed Armed Forces War Course (afwc) and National Defence Course (ndc) from National Defence College, Bangladesh. He obtained Masters on Defence Studies (MDS) and also Masters on War Studies (MWS) from National University of Bangladesh. Brigadier General Wahid served twice in United Nations Mission. He served with United Nations Iraq Kuwait Observer Mission (UNICOM), Kuwait and also commanded an Engineer Contingent named BANENGR-5 (UNMEE) in Eritria–Ethiopia.

He is a widely travelled person who has visited many countries of Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe and America. He is married with Kaniz Fatema and having one son and one daughter. His hobbies include games, music, electronics and reading.