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About SD

November 2003

Announcement of a new publication

Cadastral surveys and records of rights in land

FAO Land tenure studies series 1



Accurate knowledge of natural resources and an accurate description and record of such knowledge are the first essentials to their rational use and conservation. Measurement is a principal means of acquiring knowledge. It is, moreover, a most potent instrument of description and record and an essential method in almost every form of human activity. Land survey is the process of measurement and delineation of the natural and artificial features of the earth. The surveyor's observations, measurements and computations and the maps drawn from these are the record of knowledge acquired through survey. The maps are, furthermore, a description of the features measured and delineated in very precise and practical form. These measurements and delineations, when recorded in the form of maps either on paper or within a computer, are at once the best basis of accurate inventories of natural resources.

Hardcopy and digital maps are the media in which the nature, extent and position of resources can best be described and a firm foundation for their orderly and systematic conservation and development. A series of maps can be used as an accurate record of geological formations; depth and movement of water; movements, temperatures and pressure of the air; volume and distribution of rainfall; distribution of flora and fauna; details of human population or activities; and so on. Digital maps can be combined, manipulated, analysed and displayed in different ways through the use of geographic information systems. In the comments that follow, the term "map" includes maps in digital form.

In spite of the great use and value of good maps it is a lamentable fact that much of the world is still not adequately mapped for its present needs, especially in urban areas. Many maps are no longer up to date since there has been insufficient investment in map maintenance. The situation in respect of records of rights in land can be no better than that of the large-scale mapping, because a large-scale map is the only satisfactory means of identifying particular pieces of land and of defining their boundaries. The situation as to records of rights, however, may be and probably often is a good deal worse than than that of the available maps. Although full information as to national records of rights in land is not readily available, enough is known to be stated definitely that there are many advanced countries in which the system of recording rights leaves much to be desired, and that many less advanced countries still have no formal record of rights in land at all.

(Also available in Spanish)

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