Revised National GIS-Based Cultural Heritage Database for Bhutan

Research output: Book / ReportReportProfessional


This final report summarizes the most important heritage datasets in Bhutan that could be used to support planning processes (of large infrastructure and or national zoning) and most important, to point planners and other stakeholders to the existence, status and use of such datasets.

The main datasets identified are A) the NLCS Nye Atlas an extensive and ongoing effort to map all heritage and sacred sites across Bhutan; B) the Bhutan cultural Atlas an online repository mapping intangible and tangible heritage by the College of Languages and Cultural Studies and C) the National Inventory of Heritage sites (not spatially explicit) managed by the Department of Culture.

The project was successful at identifying the existing heritage datasets, its status and usability. The first 2 datasets are stored as geospatial data (using geographic coordinates to pinpoint on earth the locations). Geospatial data is often not easy to manage or to integrate in planning processes.

In this final report, we have proposed several options and methods that allow planners to get an overview and understand the location and influence of heritage in space: the heritage spatial intensity.

Naturally, the visualization techniques here presented are only possible thanks to the high quality base data provided by the owners of the heritage data for this research purposes. E.g. the effort of NLCS in surveying all heritage, cultural and sacred sites delivers a detailed and comprehensive dataset that should be consulted by any planner attempting to propose design or changes in the Bhutanese geography. This project uses this data to show visualization methods that should help planners and other stakeholders to understand the spatial heterogeneity of heritage. This is, the fact that some places are more heritage intense than others and hopefully such understanding will sensitize planners to choose locations minimizing heritage impacts. But access to this visualizations, should never replace access to the detailed datasets. These enable a detailed understanding of which type of heritage is present where and that is essential when considering mitigation efforts. Access to the detailed datasets should be done via request to the owners.

The last chapter reports on a study on using spatial data to provide evidence for urban development and encroaching on cultural landscapes, case study of Chimi Lhakhang. We conclude that spatial data is currently lacking to properly analyze urban development at the fine scale needed. To perform such analyses it is necessary to develop dedicated and highly detailed data sets. This could be done by interpreting high resolution satellite imagery or aerial photography.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
Commissioning bodyWorld Bank
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2017


  • Bhutan
  • cultural heritage
  • GIS
  • Mapping
  • data processing


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