Greening the Cadastre - 15/05/2012

Incorporating Natural/Fuzzy Boundaries

Rohan Bennett and Paul van der Molen, ITC, The Netherlands

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What will future cadastres look like? GIM International tackled this question throughout 2010 and 2011. The starting points were six potential design elements: survey accuracy, property objects (including RRRs), 3D/4D capacity, real-time updates, global connectivity and incorporation of natural or fuzzy boundaries. In GIM International’s November 2011 issue, the authors re-examined ‘Survey Accurate Cadastres’ and they now discuss the incorporation of natural boundaries in ‘Organic Cadastres’ here.


For most people, ‘cadastres’ are synonymous with ‘order’, conjuring up thoughts of thin black lines on white parchment, of digital parcel boundaries, parcel numbers and owner IDs. These are simplified representations of the real world, idealised workspaces or canvases for land surveyors and lawyers. And in that simplicity lies strength: everybody can appreciate that the recorded lines represent land tenures, land values or land uses. However, is this approach in need of an upgrade? The principles of modern cadastral systems were developed in line with the emergence of capitalism, modern land taxation and the industrial revolution. Land, along with labour and capital, was understood as a means of wealth production. Consequently, cadastres generally treated all land equally. It was merely white space on the map to be identified, carved up and allocated.

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Last updated: 27/02/2018