By Paul Frommelt, Office of Corporate Communications
The National Geospatial-Intelligence
Agency has added to its database 7,682 new named geographic features and
modified an additional 1,152 features in Nepal since the 7.9-magnitude
earthquake hit the area in the early morning hours of April 25.
In 2009, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names and the U.K.’s Permanent Committee on Geographical Names
agreed to change the transliteration system used on geographic names in
Nepal. This change meant that nearly all the existing names in the U.S.
board’s Geographic Names Database, which is maintained by NGA, were no longer spelled correctly and would require modification.
however was a low priority, and modification had yet to begin when the
earthquake struck. Following the earthquake, NGA assembled a team to
work on Nepal exclusively to make the necessary updates to support U.S.
and international recovery activities, said Marcus Allsup, NGA Global
“It is critically important that all U.S. users
are referring to specific places by the same name,” said Allsup. “This
is why Congress and the Department of Defense have directed all federal
government entities to use geographic names approved and supplied by the
board for all products and reporting.”
According to Allsup,
there are three primary drivers for determining what names are updated.
The first is customer driven, based on priority. This decision is made
by NGA and the intelligence community as a whole. The second is the
availability of source material. Finally, the third driver is resources,
including personnel with the required skills and funding for contract
Agreed geographic names are required for any activity
where maps or charts will be necessary, including disaster relief
operations, air, sea and land navigation, and military mission planning
and execution. Ideally these are the names used locally, and if the
names are written in a non-roman script, will likely be recognizable
when spoken locally.
“U.S. users are likely not able to read
नेपाली भाषा, but with ‘Nepālī bhāṣā’ printed on the map in the U.S.
military or aid worker’s hands, the local non-English-speaking public
will understand the location in question,” said Allsup.
continues to add new features and modify existing ones on a daily basis
as relief efforts continue following a second 7.3-magnatude earthquake
that hit near Mount Everest on May 12.