The Goa Mess named Land Survey – 1

Valmiki Faleiro 

If you have a survey map of your house or property issued by the Goa Land Survey Department on tracing paper, hold it like a prized possession! 

 Not because the Land Survey Dept. no longer issues maps on tracing paper, or because the old copy will acquire antique value for your grandchildren, but because … hold your breath … chances are that the current, computer-printed *Digitized* version will be at variance with the original.  If the old one was bad, the new one is infinitely worse!

 The mess that the Land Survey Dept. now finds itself in, over the exercise of digitizing its records, is like a chapter straight out of Ripley’s Believe it or not.  Beginning this Sunday, let us examine some issues pertaining to Land Survey and Record of (land) Rights, which have caused avoidable nuisance to Goans.

 It was proper that the State decided to computerize survey maps.  Bulky paper records would be reduced to few and better manageable Compact Discs, and certified copies of maps would be issued at the stroke of a few computer keys (instead of weeks as before, when records were manually copied on tracing paper.)

 But the manner in which the laudable digitizing decision is being implemented, has given rise to a chaotic situation where two certified copies – one copied manually, the other digitized – of the same property and issued by the same authority, are different from each other!  Before delving into this latest chapter of Goa’s Land Survey saga, let us briefly peep into the past.

 The post-Liberation exercise of physically surveying the land mass of Goa was jinxed with imperfections from word go.  Immediately after enactment of the Agricultural Tenancy Act, land survey was introduced in 1965 under Legislative Diploma No.764 (cart before horse, actually, but that’s another story.)  In tune with the ruling MGP’s merger agenda, land survey rules were a copy of the Bombay Land Revenue Rules, but without the amendments carried out by Maharashtra.  (Much like the Agricultural Tenancy law, also borrowed from Maharashtra, and without Maharashtra’s amendments that provided landowners the Right of Resumption, twice.  Goa had none.)

The basis of the new Goa survey was inaccurate, outdated and erroneous coordinate data, compiled by the colonial regime around 1925.  Geographical coordinates of Aguada (the Point Zero origin for Goa coordinates), then found to be wrong, were partly corrected in 1930. 

 When the Aguada Triangulation system itself was imperfect, any wonder that several triangulation stations (like Chandel, Mopa plateau in Pernem) in the new survey have errors as large as 16 metres difference in the coordinates?  The entire grid was thrown out of scale. 

 How were these errors hidden in the new survey maps?  A smart Departmental brain produced the solution : “compensate” the errors on public nullahs and rivers.  So if you want to build a culvert or bridge across a nullah or river, which the survey map shows a span of 20 metres, be prepared for an actual ground measurement of either four or 36 metres!

 There was a clear case for discarding the Portuguese-era triangulation and adopting a new and accurate system.  This was not done.  Instead, data collected through an army of field surveyors, largely on inaccurate Plane Table sheets, was superimposed on the erroneous old grid.

 The result was chaos, as the survey got completed by 1977.  Leaving in its wake the first wave of avoidable litigation!

 So inaccurate was the survey that lines running from one taluka would not match with those in the adjacent taluka!  Reason why the Land Survey Dept. fought shy of issuing a single Map of a property that spanned two or more talukas.  If you owned, say, a contiguous property that started at a corner of Salcete and went beyond into Quepem taluka, there was no way of getting an official Map of your property on a single sheet of paper … two separate maps would be issued, one for each parcel in each taluka.

 Another ingenious leaf was borrowed from Maharashtra to hide errors.  While some villages and talukas were mapped in a scale of 1:1000 (where 1 centimetre on paper represents ten metres on ground), neighbouring villages or talukas were put on different scales, like 1:2000 or 1:4000.  Defects defaced!

 All this, of course, happened in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, when the aam Goenkar was less vigilant, public awareness almost nil.

 If the post-Liberation physical survey was bad, digitizing its maps is worse (as we shall see next Sunday.)  And happens, quite ironically, when people are far more vigilant about defending their interest in their landed property …

Submitted by Author to TGF on Jan 28, 2006

please see part 2

back to TGF front page

Post a response                                                               

The Goan Forum©

a Boa Vista-Bahamas presentation

The views expressed on this site are ONLY those of the authors. Please contact the authors if you wish to reproduce any of the posts or The Goan Forum to comment upon their content.