140-year-old base maps in danger of extinction

The storeroom in the Survey, Settlement and Land Records Department, where maps as old as the ones made by the British have been bundled up and stored.

The 140-year-old original Karnataka maps have been in complete ruins and are in the danger of crumbling into dust at the office of the Survey, Settlement and Land Records.

The revenue department, on a digitisation drive to preserve all their records, have left out the base maps, withering and tearing up due to frequent use and sloppy maintenance.

The maps have been neglected for the past 15 years. Earlier, the department staff used to keep naphthalene balls and sprinkle tobacco powder in the map storeroom to shut out termites and insects, but the practice was stopped 10 years ago. Officials are now waiting for a policy decision to preserve them.

A once-a-month vacuum cleaning seems inadequate to completely remove the dust settled on the platform where the maps have been bundled up. Officials do their best to handle the maps with a feather touch, aware that they are a bunch of hand-drawn originals.

The British Raj building where the department is housed also helps preserve the maps as they keep a cool temperature indoors with sufficient ventilation.

"We'd like the government to do something," an official said. "We laminated the maps as a backup measure and have a set of maps in our storage laminated. We scanned the maps and are not digitising them. We have launched Dishaank and Sameeksha apps to ensure the maps are not frequently touched and crumpled."

The department may not need the maps frequently, but they remain a major source of reference and back-up source for surveyors and need protection, the official said.

The maps record section, located at the city centre, contains maps of all 30,662 villages in Karnataka. The maps here had been created at various stages, right from 1863 to 1900 when the state boundaries were marked for the first time, to re-survey maps from 1900 to 1920, and Hissa survey maps drawn between 1920 and 1950. In total, six crore survey documents of the state are in existence.

Now, registers with details of base maps are being digitised under Akaarband. Created since 1965, the registers contain data in the form of survey numbers, Hissa numbers and land details.

The registers are maintained at the taluk office and details of each village are kept in one register.

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140-year-old base maps in danger of extinction

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