[Tagging] How to determine the value for admin_level?

Greg Troxel gdt at ir.bbn.com
Sun Sep 1 12:23:50 UTC 2013

amrit karmacharya <amrit.im at gmail.com> writes:

> OSMNepal community is standardizing the administrative boundary tags. We
> have the following heirarchy.
> one way is to give them level from 2-7 according to heirarchy. Would this
> be an appropriate tagging scheme?

As Frederik points out, admin_level=8 is typically used for "town",
"city", or "municipality".  To the extent that (some) administrative
divisions in Nepal are functionally similar to administrative divisions
in other countries, using the same admin_level numbers is helpful
because in theory osm is a country-agnostic database, and then a query
on level=4 would get semantically consistent results.

It would help to hear a bit more about how these levels function.  My
text below is a bit US-centric, and this is of course just one opinion.

> 1) country

This is clearly admin_level=2

> 2) development regions (total 5)
> 3) zones (3 in 4 development regions, 2 in 1 development region, total 14)

So the hard part is to guess which of these is really the most important
thing.  Reading your text, and the wikipedia aritcle :-), it sounds like
"Nepal is divided into zones, which are grouped into districts" which
means that zones are the real subdivision, and then regions are a
grouping of zones.  In terms of the US, "New England" is a region which
contains 6 states.  But in our case, it's not a political subdivision,
and there are no boundary tags in OSM.

So I think zones should get admin_level=4.  Development regions should
then be admin_level=3.

How long have zones existed?  Development regions?  If the zone concept
is 150 years old and the development region 25, that's a huge clue that
zones are the real subdivision.  But I have no idea about that history -
I'm just guessing from the modern-sounding "development region".

> 4) district (4-8 districts in 1 zone, total 75)

This feels like county in the US (an important level, half-way between
state and town), and I would tend to call it admin_level=6.   It seems
like districts are very important, but that's similar to Irish
counties.  (In Ireland, there is a grouping of counties called
provinces, but from what I can tell, the province has very little
government function and is mostly historical.)

> 5) village and municipality

This sounds like 8.  Do villages/municipalities have defined borders?
Is every bit of land in Nepal in some one of these?  Or is there land
not 'in' a village, like we would call in the US "unincorporated areas"?
Does each village have some form of government, that has authority only
in the government?

My questions are really about whether this should be 8.  But it helps to
understand the answers when drawing boundaries.

> 6) ward

Is this a subdivision of a village, used for village
administrative/voting purposes?   Is every ward entirely within one
village?  If so, this sounds like admin_level=9.

Greg (osm user gdt)
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