Her Majesty Jetsuen Pema Wangchuck, Queen of Bhutan, launched the National Geospatial Portal during the Bhutan GIS Expo in Thimphu on 13 October 2014. The National Geospatial Portal will serve as a gateway for users across Bhutan to discover, access, and share geospatial data and information. The portal is a free access site.
The event was jointly organized by the National Land Commission (NLC) of Bhutan and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). The Portal was launched to commemorate the third wedding anniversary of Bhutan’s King and Queen.
With the Portal in place, users will be able to access data related to Bhutan without having to visit individual agencies. The Portal takes Bhutan a step closer toward fulfilling its vision of building a coordinated national data infrastructure.
Highlighting the role of geo-information in Bhutan’s socio-economic development, the NLC Secretary, Pema Chewang, said the Portal will act as one-stop data shop for users. “The development of the Portal is very important and was long overdue,” he said.
Initiated by the NLC and Centre for GIS Coordination, the Portal was built with support from ICIMOD under the framework of the SERVIR-Himalaya Initiative. The global SERVIR programme, jointly supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), integrates science and technology into development programmes. SERVIR-Himalaya is implemented by ICIMOD.
Addressing the gathering, ICIMOD’s Director General Dr David Molden said geo-information will encourage the use of technology in addressing the challenges brought about by climate change, especially in reducing the impact of natural disasters. He also highlighted the role of NASA and USAID in promoting information sharing for public good.
Following the launch of the Portal, an exposition showcased various GIS products and services applicable in Bhutan from different national and international agencies. Students from five higher secondary schools in Thimphu took part in a geo-information quiz competition. Officials from different government departments and non-governmental organizations, school students, and the general public attended the exposition.
Dema Yangzom of the Department of Hydro-Met Services said she would visit the site regularly. “The Portal is a treasure box for GIS users, especially for amateurs like me,” she said.
A lecturer at the College of Science and Technology, Kritan Adhikari, the Portal can speed up research work as data are made available online. “This will save a lot of time as we don’t have to travel long hours to access and acquire such data,” he said.
Students who visited the exposition said they learnt about the use of satellite imageries in understanding and addressing climate change and related issues. The event successfully raised awareness and interest on the importance of geospatial information and information sharing.