Need for introducing Geospatial Technology In Our ‘patwari’ system


Professional Engineer & Chartered Land Surveyor

Chief Executive

Geomatics And Engineering Services (Pvt.) Ltd.,

Our land registration system, run by famous or infamous officials ‘Patwaris’ of the land revenue department, is based on mixture of what local set up already existed on the sub-continent and what English people practiced in their own country when the British took over. It is a simple system and can work wonders provided it is run by the “book”. Over the years with degradations of morals of the society; corruption and cheating creped in and the system went to the ‘dogs’ as they say. Poor people lost land and those with power / muscles and money got whatever they wanted. The situation is in shambles and shameful, although Government of Punjab is trying its best to put the system back on tracks and introduce some discipline into the system.

What we have learnt from the electronic and printed media basically they are simply computerizing the land records from big registers to computer hard disks. We need to do lot more than this simple exercise transferring data from registers to electronic medium i.e. computers.

In 2000 the renowned Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto, globally recognized for his work on the informal economy and an evangelist of property rights, published a book titled The Mystery of the Capital. In his book, he outlines the struggle of poor people in developing countries to obtain legal titles to property. De Soto, who Time magazine named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, considers land titling as a fundamental factor in shaping household capital for people living in poverty. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan praised him for his new insights into how we capture economic growth and development [Wim van Wegen].

Geospatial technology has advanced a lot over the past couple of decades and is fully and effectively being used for land registration purposes. It is practiced even in some of the developing countries of Africa and South America; among those who have recently introduced modern cadastral system are Chile, Ghana, Jamaica, Mongolia, Namibia and Nigeria.

The rate of progress in GPS technology is so fast that in a matter of few years our mobile phones will give us GPS derived coordinates accurate to a decimeter. We need to prepare our land registration system based on coordinates of the landed property. Minimum information / data desired relating to a land parcel in a genuine computerized system is list hereunder:

  • Owner’s name including picture & CNIC number.
  • GPS derived coordinates of the land corners and dimensions of the parcel of land.
  • Satellite image of the parcel of land.
  • FBR Income Tax number if listed as tax payer.

“Patwaris” need to be put through GIS training with particular reference to application of Geospatial technology to land registration.

Countries are beginning to embrace the potential of geospatial technology and information in order to develop their economies. This is particularly so in fields such as land administration and real estate.

Another element in the scheme of the things in our country is the property dealer / estate agent. It is a well known fact that most, except for a very minor percentage, are poorly educated individuals. In many cases property dealers / estate agents are nothing but muscle boys themselves or have muscles boys on their payroll to deal with poor small land owners and even “Patwaris”.

There is an urgent need to introduce control over the property dealerships i.e. introduction of certification and registration after going through a course of Land Registration and use of Geospatial Technology like it is practiced in U.K. A qualified property dealer / estate agent should be equipped with computer hardware & relevant software to locate the property on GOOGLE Earth using the official / Patwari supplied GPS Coordinates for a prospective client thus save a time consuming costly trip to site in early stages of the deal.

But why is a modern cadastral system so vital? Why should a good land administration policy be regarded as the backbone of a nation that wants to end poverty and shake off the label of ‘developing’ or ‘less-developed’ country? The answer: because land administration systems manage ownership and secure tenure. Another key reason is that a cadastre supports the land and property tax system, which is a precondition of running a modern country efficiently. Greece provides a recent example of the importance of a well-functioning cadastre for a country’s economy. Greece is the only European country without a digital land ownership registry. The lack of a good land administration system strongly affects the country’s attempts to modernize its economy and forms a major obstacle for the Greek government in finding a way out of the debt crisis [Wim van Wegen].

With the introduction of Geospatial Technology in land administration / revenue department Government of Punjab will be better equipped to make decisions about land and property tax administration in shortest possible time based on accurate data.