Canadian Assistance in Land Resources Mapping

Canadian Assistance in Land Resources Mapping


Susta DagarmaBuddhi Narayan Shrestha

Border Researcher and
Madan Puraskar Winner

Canada is 10,576 nautical kilometre far from Nepal. And Canada is 67 times larger than Nepal in area. But in the case of population, Canada has only 35 per cent more people than Nepal. The highest point in Canada is the Mount Logan that bears 5959 metre and Nepal has the Mount Everest (Sagarmatha) 8848 m highest peak in the world. However, both the countries have very good relationship. Nepal-Canada diplomatic relation was established on 18 January 1965. Canada has provided grant assistance to Nepal for the formulation and implementation of various projects, and Land Resources Mapping Project (LRMP) is one of them.


The LRMP was a project to produce an exact and accurate inventory and analysis of the land resources, present landuse and land capability of Nepal as a basis of rational development planning at the national, regional and local level. It was a program designed to assist the development process. It has provided basic resources use and capability information on the land resources of Nepal, in a detailed and comprehensive nature. As such, the maps, data and information have been used in the planning and implementation for overall economic development of Nepal.


As everybody knows that land is the major resources of Nepal. However, Nepal has the potentiality of roughly 83,000 MW hydro-electric power resources, second to Brazil in the world. But only 680 megawatt of the power potentiality has been harnessed till this date. On the other side, more than 50 percent of the total land resources has been utilized by the Nepali farmers. The economy of Nepal is based almost on agriculture. Nearly 75 percent of the total population derives its main form of livelihood from the land and they are engaged in agriculture and agricultural activities. But Nepali farmers have not used their lands according to the capability of the land (soil), pattern of the land use and suitability of the crops. If the land would have been utilized by the farmers according to its potentiality, capability and suitability; it could boost the agricultural production. As a result, per capita income of the Nepali farmers could be increased and the GDP of the nation would go up. For this, it is necessary to have knowledge how to manage the resources of the land appropriately; on which land what type of crop would be more suitable and productive in the particular season of the year. All these information with data have been generated in various types of land resources maps which were prepared with the help of Canada government.


The LRMP, a joint project of Nepal Government and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), was established in 1978. The project was designed and implemented to provide basic, consistent, country wide data for land resources policy and planning in Nepal. Studies were carried out from 1980 through to 1985 and were based on aerial photography taken in 1978 and 1979, that completed a land resources survey covering all of Nepal. The project produced land use maps, land system maps and land capability maps at a scale of 1:50,000 with the data. The maps and accompanying data for all of Nepal were completed by the end of 1985 and reports were published and handed over to Nepal Government in 1986.


A comprehensive and uniform basic data have been generated by land resources maps. Data and information generated by these maps have been served as a fundamental basis for project management, administration and planning on a national, regional, district and local level. Potential areas for agriculture, irrigation, forestry have been delineated to estimate the forest plantation areas, to estimate the fertilizer requirements for various areas, to calculate livestock fodder requirements proportioning agricultural and forest sources and so on. As a matter of fact, land resources maps and data have presented the real pictures of the degree of slope of land, depth of soil mentioning the actual capability of the land. All these information have been very useful for the development of agriculture and agro-based industries.


The main components of the LRMP were specially three major mapping series focused on land utilization, land capability and land system (soil). All the mapping series were based upon the interpretation of 1;50,000 aerial photographs supported by extensive field checking and sampling.


Land Utilization Map

The land utilization maps have computed the land use such as agricultural and non agricultural land, grazing and fallow land, forestry land and lands covered by rocks and boulders and perpetual snow. The cultivated agricultural lands are categorized and sub-divided into Tarai cultivation, hill slope cultivation and valley cultivation (valley floor, Taar, alluvial fans and lower foot-hill slopes). By using the land use map, one can find specially the wheat, paddy, maize lands showing the coverage of land under certain particular crop in a particular season.


Land utilization map series has defined the then current use and condition of the land; whether it is under forest, used for grazing or for crop production. In other words these maps have covered both agricultural and forestry landuse. It is commendable that land utilization mapping provided the first detailed statistics for current landuse in Nepal. This land use survey was supported by an extensive farmer survey, which was correlated with the cropping systems. In order to optimize the benefits from agricultural landuse and development of the land and water resources with minimum damage to the ecology, LRMP had made a comprehensive survey of the resources of the country and their present conditions and utilization.


Land Capability Map

The land capability maps have presented the degree of slope of land, nature of soil, temperature and moisture conditions which are of special significance for determining the appropriate land uses in a particular area of the district. These maps have also provided information regarding suitability of lands for irrigation agriculture.


Land capability mapping was based on the land features, in conjunction with climotological aspect, which describe the basic potential and constraints for land use in various parts of the country. Land had been evaluated for other uses including perennial cropping, fuel and fodder production, timber extraction, grazing and watershed protection. Land capability classification is qualitative, based mainly on the physical productive potential of the land. In the context of the capability, lands have been divided into seven different classes.


Land System Map

The land system map has provided a mythology for describing detailed information regarding land forms (soil), its texture, feature and the nature of the terrain. Land forms have been differentiated on the basis of patterns of physical structure, geological materials, slope and arable agricultural limits. Seventeen different types of land forms have been detected under the land system of Nepal.


Extensive studies were made to identify forestry and nursery, potential forest and plantation yields, irrigation potentiality leading to basin water requirements, estimated fertilizer requirement, predict the availability of rice straw for a paper mill, calculate the value lost through agricultural disruption caused by domestic water supply canals, predict food shortage and judge the potential effectiveness of food for work programs.


During the project implementation Nepal is divided into five Physiographic Reasons, according to its natural construction, ranging from the low lying sub-tropical Tarai, through the Siwalik to the snow covered High Himal as follows:
S.N. Physiographic Regions,  Per Cent,    Height in Metre
1.  High Himal =                     23 percent,   4000 – 8848 Metre
2.  High Mountain  =             20 percent,   2200 – 4000 Metre
3.  Middle Mountain =          30 percent,   800 – 2400 Metre
4.  Siwalik Low Hill =            13 percent,  200 – 1500 Metre
5.  Tarai plain  =                     14  percent, 60 – 330 Metre
Total = 100  percent


Categorization of land

Land Resources Mapping Project (LRMP) had adopted the categorization of land use as follows:
• Cultivated lands: All lands under agricultural practices.
• Non- cultivated inclusions: These are small pockets of land close to cultivated lands; too small to be mapped at a scale of 1:50,000. Although these pockets are not mapped separately from cultivated areas, there are nevertheless measured as a distinct land use category. They may contain barren areas, trees, shrubs, or grass.
• Grazing (grass lands): Large flat lands covered by grasses with the minimal number of other vegetation.
• Forested lands: It must have at least 10% crown cover but small pockets of plantation and burned areas are also included.
• Other lands: All land areas not included in other categories and may include rocky areas, lakes, ponds, waterways or settlements.

According to above mentioned categorization, data on basic land use categories as a whole of
Nepal have been computed and established as following land use categories:

S.N.           Types of uses,                                            Per Cent
1.  Cultivated Land (agricultural crops)                         21
2.  Non-cultivated (fallow) Land                                       7
3.  Grazing (grass land) Area                                           12
4.  Forest and Shrub Area                                                42
5.  Rocks, ice, water bodies, settlements and others   18
Total = 100


Computation of total area of Nepal

After the completion of the project, the total land area of Nepal was computed for the first time more scientifically. Before the LRMP various ministries, departments and organization of Nepal and international agencies had been mentioning the total area of Nepal differently. On the basis of LRMP data, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) somehow adjusted and enunciated as the total land area of Nepal as 147,181 square kilometer. And this is followed by all and now it is established nationwide. Determination of the total area of Nepal was one of the major works of LRMP.


The total area of Nepal was calculated scientifically by planimetering the 266 map sheets and data using the international boundaries supplied by the government of Nepal. Area on map series had been measured, using compensating polar planimeters, an accuracy of ± 2 percent. The actual area measurements were carried out on ozalid copies of the maps. Each unit area was circumscribed a minimum of twice to ensure the required precision. The calculations applied to the planimetry data were rigorously checked, and the area totals of each sheet were verified as being within the acceptable limits.


LRMP data users

The value of the basic data for a wide range of uses was; as expected, recognized by different users. It is interesting to note that the maps and data prepared by the LRMP have been used by not only Nepal government organizations; but also by international organizations such as FAO, UNDP, UN-HABITAT, ADB, NGOs, INGOs and researchers; as the basic data on land and its information.


Ministry of Land Reform and Management (MoLRM) has established a National Land Use Project. They have used basically the LRMP data. However, they are preparing large scale land use maps and rather much more detailed land use database with the help of satellite images adopting the GIS technique with the help of basic data, information and maps prepared by LRMP.


MoLRM, with the consultation of Planning Commission has published the National ‘Land Use Policy’ of Nepal in 2012 on the basis of LRMP reports and data. The policy has been guided by the reports prepared by the LRMP. Now the government has classified the whole land of Nepal into six different types of land use areas as agricultural area, settlement (residential), professional business, forest and public use areas.


Last item

The maps and data had been generated in the manual format by LRMP. At the same time most of the reports were manual. This is one of the hindrances of the project. If it had been established in GIS database and maps produced in digital form, it would have been more valuable and user friendly that could be updated by the stakeholders.


It is because that the manually prepared reports and data sheets are out of available in the market. At that time limited copies of the paper copy reports had been prepared and it is now out of stock. Now the users have to find out the person who have this report and it should have to make photo copies which is cumbersome. However, some maps of the remote areas where there are no development activities are available in map sell depot of the market.


The next issue is the scale of maps- as it is small scale on 1:50,000. As a matter of fact, the maps of the Tarai plain areas and valley areas; where there are much development activities and faster changes of land use such as Pokhara, Chitawan, Kathmandu valley; should have at least on the scale 1:25,000 or still on larger form in the metropolitan areas. To meet all these needs, now it is a felt need to formulate a project to make up-to-date all the maps in the digital format and to establish the data and information in the form of GIS database. It is because of the fact that in 1979 the agricultural land including forest and shrubs were computed as 81 percent and the built-up area was 13 percent. But in 2008, the agricultural land has been decreased to 58 per cent and built-up area (settlement) has been increased at a faster rate as 37 per cent. Forest cover area has been decreased from 42 per cent to 37 per cent. This is due to deforestation by the local adjacent inhabitants and also during Maoists insurgency period.



1 National Sample Census of Agriculture-2011/12 (December 2013), Central Bureau of Statistics, Kathmandu:6
2 Land Resources Mapping Project Nepal (October 1984), Kenting Earth Sciences Limited, Kathmandu:1
3 Summary Report (1986), Land Resources Mapping Project, Kenting Earth Sciences Limited, Kathmandu, Nepal:33
4 Summary Report (1986), Land Resources Mapping Project, Kenting Earth Sciences Limited, Kathmandu, Nepal:5

5 Economics Report(1986), Land Resources Mapping Project, Kenting Earth Sciences Limited, Kathmandu, Nepal: List of Table
6 A Summary of the LRMP Results (March 1986), Ministry of Water Resources, Water and Energy Commission, Kathmandu:1 and 27
7 Summary Report (1986), Land Resources Mapping Project, Kenting Earth Sciences Limited, Kathmandu, Nepal:40


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