AFTER nearly three years of anticipation– and criticism by some for inaction– officials this week announced concretesteps in the $92 million effort toupdate the country’s National PropertyRegistry and National Cadastre – whichdocument the ownership, size, location,value and map of properties.The effort is receiving a boost from anairplane belonging to the U.S. NationalAeronautics and Space Administration,which is taking aerial photos of propertiesthroughout the country.Aided with this material, property titles,data and maps, officials hope to improvethe country’s ability to settle property disputes,collect property taxes and defendprotected lands.There are 1.2 million properties registeredin Costa Rica, and 1.6 million cadastralplans, or maps. In a correct system, thenumbers would be equal. In addition, atleast 208 campesino settlements are partiallylocated inside protected areas.“We don’t have a cadastre in thiscountry. What we have is a collection ofproperty maps,” said Patricia Vega,Minister of Justice, during a conferenceTuesday to announce what officialsbelieve is a running start to a promisingyear in improving the system.A team of scientists and pilots hasalready begun taking the photos. Theywill continue to do so for six weeks,working 12 hours a day.Eventually, the photos and other informationwill be part of a computerized systemthat would be accessible online, replacingthe current cumbersome paper system.An improved cadastre system wouldhelp “increase security of investments inproperty, as much private as public,” Vegasaid. It would also help with conflict resolutionin property disputes, which currentlymust be settled in the already burdenedcourt system.The $92 million project is beingfinanced through a $65 million loan fromthe Inter-American Development Bank(IDB), with the remainder of funds comingfrom within Costa Rica.Vega acknowledged criticism of theproject’s high cost, saying it is an “ambitiousproject” that requires the collaborationof a multitude of agencies.Officials hope to complete the firstphase of the project by the end of 2007.