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1.1 Definition - Contour interval, Horizontal equivalent, general contours, Index contour
1.2 Criteria for selection of contour interval
1.3 Characteristics of contours
1.4 Methods of control for contour survey
1.4.1 Direct method
1.4.2 Indirect method i.e. grid method, cross section method and radial method
1.5 Methods of interpolation of contours
1.6 Uses of contour maps
1.7 contour gradient
1.8 Contour of some natural features

1.1 Definition - Contour interval, Horizontal equivalent, general contours, Index contour
1.1.1 Contour
The line of intersection of a level surface with the ground surface is known as the
contour line or simply the contour. It can also be defined as an imaginary line on the ground, joining the points of equal elevation
above the assumed datum.it is a plan projection of the plane passing through the points of equal heights on the surface of the earth. A
map showing only the contour lines of an area is called a contour map.
For example, a contour of 100 m indicates that all the points on this line have an RL of 100 m. Similarly, in a contour of 99 m, all
points have an RL of 99 m, and so on (Fig1.1).

Fig1.1 contours of a lake

Concept of contour can be made clear by surveying the boundary of still water in a pond. If the level of the water surface is 100m, then periphery of
water represents a counter of 100 meters. Now, suppose that water level is reduced by 1m, the new outside boundary of water will then represent a
contour of 99m,(fig 1.1).

1.1.2 Contour interval

The vertical distance between any two consecutive contours is known as a contour interval. The contour interval is kept constant on a map to depict
correct topography of the terrain. Suppose a map includes contour lines of 100 m, 98m. 96m and so on. The contour interval here is 2 m. The contour
interval is an even space that represents an increase in elevation.

1.1.3 Horizontal equivalent

The horizontal distance between any two consecutive contours is known as horizonta1 equivalent. It is not constant. It varies according to the
steepness of the ground. For steep slopes, the contour lines run Close together and for flatter slopes they are widely spaced.

1.1.4 General contours and Index contour

Topographic maps may have many contour lines. It is not possible to label the elevation
of each contour line. To make the map easier to read every fifth contour line vertically
is an index contour .Index contours are shown by darker brown lines on the map. These
are the contour lines that are usually labeled. The map below is a section of a topographic
map. The thin lines are the normal contours or general contours. The thick lines are the
Index contours. Notice that elevations are only marked on the thick lines. Because we only
have a piece of the topographic map we can not look at the margin to find the contour interval.
But since we know the elevation of the two index contours we can calculate the interval
Fig.1.2 Index contour

1.2 Criteria for selection of contour interval

The vertical distance between consecutive contour is termed as contour interval. It is desirable to have a constant contour interval throughout the
map. In special cases, a variable contour interval may also be provided. A variable contour interval is, as far as possible avoided since it gives a false
impression of the relative steepness of the ground in different parts of the map. Generally contour intervals are taken as 1 to 15 m .The smaller the
contour interval, the more precisely the terrain relief is predicted on the plan .The contour interval depends upon the following factors

(i) Scale of the map (ii) Purpose of the map

(iii) Nature of the Country (iv) Time

(v) Funds

1. Scale of the Map: The contour interval is kept inversely proportional to the scale of the map. If scale of the map is sma1l, the contour interval is
kept large so that there is no overcrowding of the contours. On the other hand, if the scale of the map is large, the contour interval can be kept small.

2. Purpose of the Map: The contour interval on a map also depends upon the purpose for which map is prepared. If the map is prepared for accurate
earthwork calculations, small contour interval is to be used for accurate work.in the case of location surveys, settingout for drainage, reservoir and
road, where extent of the survey is large, a large contour interval is to be chosen.

3. The nature of the Ground:

The contour interval depends upon the general topography of the terrain. For a flat ground, the contour interval is small, but for a steep slope, the
contour interval a large. If the ground is broken, the contour interval is kept large so that the contours do not come too close to each other.

4. Time: Contour interval is kept large when time is less.

5. Funds: Contour interval is kept large when funds as less.

The following table suggests some suitable value of contour interval based on the nature of the terrain and scale of the map

Table of punmia page 252

For general topographical maps, the contour interval may be decided from the following formula:

Contour interval = 𝑖𝑛 𝑚𝑒𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑠
𝑁𝑢𝑚𝑏𝑒𝑟 𝑜𝑓 𝑐𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑚𝑒𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑠 𝑝𝑒𝑟 𝑘𝑖𝑙𝑜𝑚𝑒𝑡𝑒𝑟

= 𝑖𝑛 𝐹𝑒𝑒𝑡
𝑁𝑢𝑚𝑏𝑒𝑟 𝑜𝑓 𝑖𝑛𝑐ℎ𝑒𝑠 𝑡𝑜 𝑎 𝑚𝑖𝑙𝑒


Determine suitable C.I. on a map on scale of 1:25000.


Given scale of the map is 1:25000

25000m in field = 1 meter in map= 100 cm


For 25000 = 100cm

For 1km= x 1000 cm = 4cm

Contour interval = 𝑖𝑛 𝑚𝑒𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑒𝑠 = 5𝑚𝑒𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑠

1.3 Characteristics of contours

1 Two contours of different elevation do not cross each other except in the case of contours of a overhanging cliff or cave.
2 Contours of different elevations do not combine or unite to each other except in the case of contours of a vertical cliff.
3 When contours are drawn closer to each other, it shows a steep slope on the ground, when they are far apart it shows the gentle slope on the
ground, when contours are equally spaced they represent a uniform slope and when they are parallel straight and equivalent they represent a plane

Bc punmia
4 A contour is perpendicular to a line of the steepest slope.
5 A contour must form a close loop itself in the map or must go out of the boundaries of the map.
6 A set of ring contours with higher values of contour inside and lower values outside represents a hill and if the higher values are outside and lower
values inside then it represents a depression like a pond.
7 Contour lines cross a watershed or ridge lines at right angle. they form U-shape curve with the concave side of the curve towards the higher
ground level.
8 Contour lines a valley lines at right angles. They form sharp V-shape curve across it with convex side with the convex side of the curve towards
the higher ground.

9 Contours do not have sharp turning.

10 Contours do not pass through permanent structures such as buildings.
11 Depression between summit are called saddle or pass.

1.4 Methods of control for contour survey

The method of establishing / plotting contours in a plan or map is known as contouring.
Contouring consists of finding elevations of various points in the area surveyed. At the
same time the horizontal positions of those points should also be found. Thus, it needs vertical control and horizontal control in the work. For vertical
control levels. Theodolite or clinometers may be used while for horizontal controls chain, compass, plane table or theodolite are used. Based on the
instruments used, there can be different methods of surveying. However, broadly speaking there are two methods of surveying:
i) Direct methods. ii) Indirect methods

1.4.1 Direct method

In the direct method, the contour to be plotted is actually traced on the ground.in the direct method, two survey parties are generally work
simultaneously, one locating the points on the contours and the other surveying those points. Points which happen to fall on a desired contour are only
surveyed, plotted and finally joined to obtain the particular contour. This method is slow and tedious and thus used for large scale maps, small contour
interval and at high degree of precision. Direct method of contouring can be employed using Level and Staff and plane table as follows:

Vertical control:
In this method, first of all, a benchmark is require to be fixed in the project area.
 The level is set up on any commanding position and back sight is taken on the bench mark. Let the back sight reading on the bench mark be 1.485
 If the reduced level of the bench mark is 100 m, the height of instrument would be = 100 + 1.485 = 101.485 m.
 To locate the contour of 100.5 m value, the staff man is directed to occupy the position on the ground where the staff reading is =101.485 -
100.500 = 0.985 m.
 Mark all such positions on the ground where the staff reading would be 0.985 m by inserting pegs.
 Similarly, for 101m contour locate the points where the staff reading would be 101.485 -101 = 0.485 m
The contour of 101.5 m cannot be set from this setting of the instrument because the height of instrument for this setting of the instrument is only
101.485 m. Therefore, locating contours of higher value, the instrument has to be shifted to some other suitable position. Establish a forward station
on a firm ground and take fore sight on it. This point acts as a point of known elevation, for shifting the position of the instrument to another position,
from where the work proceeds in the similar manner till the entire area is contoured.

Horizontal Control:
For horizontal control for that point is usually exercised with plane table survey. Then staff man is directed to another point on the same contour. After
locating few points. Plane table person draws each contour line. Simultaneously 2 — 4 contour lines are traced in the area levelling instrument can
command. Then instrument station is shifted by taking change point. Shifting of leveling and plane table need not be simultaneous. For getting speed
in leveling, sometime hand level or on Abney level are used. In this method, after locating a first point on a contour line say 90 in contour line the
surveyor stands on that point with hand level suspended at a convenient height. For every point selected horizontal control is exercised and plotted. For
large scale works theodolite or compass traverse may be adopted.

Figgggggggggggg change

1.4.2 Indirect method

In this method, some guide points are selected along a system of straight lines in the field, generally as corners of well-shaped geometrical figures such
as squares, rectangles, and then spot levels are determined. Elevations of desired contours are interpolated in between spot levels and contour lines are
drawn by joining points of equal elevation. while interpolating, it is assumed that the slope between any two adjacent guide points is uniform .Indirect
methods are less expensive, less time consuming and less tedious as compared to the direct method. These methods are commonly employed in small
scale surveys of large areas or during mapping of irregular surface or steep slope. There are three different ways usually employed for indirect method
of contouring:
1. Square or grid method
2. Cross section method
3. Redial method

Square or grid method

In this method, the area to be surveyed is divided into a grid or series of squares (Figure0) .The square size may vary from 5 m x 5 m to 25 m x 25 m
depending upon the nature of the terrain, the contour interval required and the scale of the map desired. Also, the grids may not be of the same size
throughout but may vary depending upon the requirement and field conditions. The corners of the squares are numbered serially, as 1,2,3 ..and so on.
A temporary bench-mark is set up near the site and the level is set up at a suitable position. The staff readings on the corners of the squares are taken
and noted in the level book maintaining the sequence of the serial numbers of the corners. The RLs of all the corners are calculated. The skeletons of
the squares are plotted to a suitable scale of the map. The respective RLs are written on the corners of the square, after which the contour lines are
drawn by interpolation. Special care should be taken to give the spot levels to the salient features of the ground such as hilltops, deepest points of the
depressions, and their measurements from respective corners of the grids, for correct depiction of the features. The method is used for large scale
mapping and at average precision.

Fig locating contours by method of square

Cross section method

In this method a base line, centre line or profile line is considered. Cross-sections are taken perpendicular to this line at regular intervals (say 50 m, 100
m etc.). After this, points are marked along the cross-sections at a regular intervals (say 5m, 10m, etc.). A temporary bench-mark is set up near the site,
Staff readings are taken along the base line and the cross sections. The readings are entered in the level hook: the base line and the cross-section should
be mentioned. The RL. of each of the points are calculated. The base line and cross sections are plotted to a suitable scale. Subsequently the RLs of the
respective points are noted on the map, after which the required contour line is drawn by interpolation.
This method is suitable for route survey, where cross—sections are taken transverse to the longitudinal section.(figure)

Fig: cross section method of contouring

Radial method
Radial method is also known as tacheometric method. In this method a number of radial lines at known angular interval are drawn on
the ground and position of the points at equal distance are marked. Spot levels of these points and horizontal distances from instrument
station are determined by taking tacheometric observation and tacheometric formula. The points are plotted to the scale of the map and
spot levels are entered. The contours of desired values are then located by interpolation. This method is convenient in hilly terrain where
chaining is difficult, with level stations chosen at high points so as to command a large area from each.
Fig. bc and agor
Compression between direct and indirect methods of contouring:


1 Very accurate method Less accurate method as compared to direct method
2 Relatively slow and tedious and expensive Quicker, less tedious and can be carried out at low cost
3 Suitable for contouring of small area with low undulation Suitable for hilly area and steep slope
4 Points are graphically located on the ground Points are interpolated in the office
5 Calculations cannot be checked at the end of the work Calculation can be checked when needed
6 Appropriate for small projects requiring high accuracy Appropriate for large projects requiring moderate to low
such as, layout of buildings, factory, structural foundations accuracy such as, layout of highway, railway, drainage canal
etc. etc.

1.5 Methods of interpolation of contours

After finding RL of many points on the ground and plotted the position of those points. Points on contour lines are identified assuming
uniform slope between any two neighboring points is uniform. This process of drawing contour proportionately between the plotted
ground points or in between plotted contour is known as interpolation of contour. For example. For this purpose any one of the
following three methods may be used.

i) Estimation
ii) Arithmetic calculation
iii) Mechanical or Graphical method.

i) Estimation
In this method the position of the contour points between guide points are located by estimation and the contours are the drawn through
them. This method is extremely rough and is used for small scale works only such as topographical map of scale 1:50, 0000.

ii) Arithmetic calculation

In this method, positions of the contour between two known points are located by making accurate arithmetic calculations. This is most
accurate method but time consuming.
For example, let A, B, D and C be the guide points plotted on the map, having elevations of 607.4, 617.3, 612.5 and 604.3 meters respectively (Fig.
10.12). Let AB BD CD =CA 1 m on the plan and let it be required to locate the Position of 605,610 and 615 m contours on these lines. The vertical
difference in elevation between A and B is (617.3 - 607.4) = 9.9m. Hence the distance of contour points from A will be:

Distance of 610m contour points = x 2.6 = 0.26 m and
Distance of 615m contour point = x 7.6 = 0.76 m
These two contour points may be located on AB.
Similarly, the position of the contour points on the lines AC, CD, BD
and also on AD and BC may be located. Contour lines may then be
drawn through appropriate contour points as shown in Fig. 1 0. 12.
iii) Mechanical or Graphical method
In the graphical method, the interpolation is done with the help of a tracing paper or a terracing cloth. There are two methods:

Method 1: Parallel Lines Method

On a tracing sheet several parallel lines are drawn at regular interval. Every fifth or tenth line is made dark for easy counting. If RL of A is 98. 4m and
that of B is 100.2m and also assume bottom most dark line represents 98 in RL and every parallel line is at 0.2 in intervals. Then hold a point on second
parallel line on A. Rotate tracing sheet so that 100.2th parallel line passes through point B. then intersection of dark lines on AB represents the points
on 99mm and 100 m contours. Similarly, contour points along any line connecting two — level points can be obtained and contour lines interpolated
and pricked. This method maintains the accuracy of arithmetic calculations, at the same time is fast also.

Method II: Radial Lines Method

In this method a line PQ is drawn on a tracing sheet from the midpoint of PQ say R, a perpendicular line RO is drawn. O’’ is selected at any convenient
distance. PQ is divided into a number of equal parts, say 20 parts. Then the radial lines from ‘O’ to these equally spaced points are drawn. A number
of guide lines l-l, 2-2, etc. are drawn parallel to PQ. To interpolate between two points A and B on drawing sheet, tracing sheet is held with its guide
lines parallel to AB. OQ is assigned a contour line point just below that of RL of A. Of dark lines are at every 5 ray interval, and contours are required
at every 1 mm interval, the interval between two consecutive rays is 0.2 m. Appropriate ray is made to appear on A and tracing sheet is rotated till the
ray corresponding to B coincides with B. Then the contour points on AB correspond to the dark lines intersection with AB. These points are produced
and the contour points on line AB are obtained. Thus, in this case also exact interpolation is made mechanically.

Fig: parallel line method Fig: Radial line method


After locating contour points between a networks of guide points, smooth contour lines are drawn connecting corresponding points. For drawing
contour lines French curves should be used. A surveyor should not lose the sight of characteristics of the contours. Brown color is preferred to draw
the contours so that they can be easily distinguished from other features: Every fifth contour is made thicker for easy readability. On every contour
line its elevation is written either above, below or by breaking the line. If map size is large, it is written at the ends also. However, in writing these
elevations uniformity should be maintained.

1.6 Uses of Contours

Contours provide valuable information about the nature of terrain. This is very important for selection of sites, determination of catchment area of a
drainage basin, to find intervisibility between stations etc. Some of the salient uses of contours are described below.
1. To Determine Nature of Ground
From a given contour plan, the section
along any given direction can be drawn
to know the general shape of the ground
or to use it for earth calculations for a
given communication line in the
direction of' the section. Thus, let it be
required to draw the section along the
line xy through the contour map (Figure
18.3). The intersection points between
the line and contours are projected at
different elevations of the contours are
projected and joined by smooth curve.
The smooth curve depicts the nature of
the ground surface along XY.

2: To Locate Route
Contour map provides useful information for
locating a route at a given gradient such as highway, canal, sewer line etc. Let it be
required to locate a route from P to Q at an upward gradient of 1 in 100. The contour
map of the area is available at a contour interval of 5 meter at a scale of 1:10000.The
horizontal equivalent will therefore be equal to 100 meter. Then with centre at P with a
radius of 2 cm draw an arc to cut the next higher contour, say at q. With q as centre,
mark the next higher contour by an arc of radius 2 cm say at r. Similarly, other points
such as s,t,u…. etc. are obtained and joining the points provides the location of route.
(Figure 18.2)

3: Intervisibility between Stations .

When the intervisibility between two points cannot be
ascertained by inspection of the area, it can be
determined using contour map. The intervisibility is
determined by drawing a line joining the stations /
points say AB and plot the elevations of the points and
contours intersected by AB as shown in Figure 18.3. If
the intervening ground is found to be above A'B' line,
the intervisibility is obstructed. In the figure, the
ground is obstructing the line of sight.

4: To Determine Catchment Area or Drainage Area

The catchment area of a river is determined by using contour map. The watershed line which indicates the drainage basin of a river passes through
the ridges and saddles of the terrain around the river. Thus, it is always perpendicular to the contour lines. The catchment area contained between the
watershed line and the river outlet is then measured with a planimeter (Figure 18.4).

5: Storage capacity of a Reservoir

The storage capacity of a reservoir is determined from contour map. The contour line indicating the full reservoir level (F.R.L) is drawn on the
contour map. The area enclosed between successive contours are measured by planimeter (Figure 18.5). The volume of water between F.R.L and the
river bed is finally estimated by using either Trapezoidal formula or Prismoidal formula.
6.Selection of a Canal Alignment
Suppose a reservoir is to be constructed at R across a river. An irrigation canal RL is required to be constructed to irrigate the areas of two villages
Rampur and Shyampur located on opposite slopes of the ridge. We know that water in canals flows under gravity. From the contour map (Fig. 7.24)
it may be noted that the elevation of the reservoir site R is 547m approx. The canal alignment should therefore be kept below this level.


The imaginary Iino lying throughout on the surface of the earth and preserving a constant inclination to the horizontal, is known as contour gradient.
The inclination of a contour gradient is generally given either as rising gradient or falling gradient and is expressed as the ratio of the vertical height
in a specified horizontal distance. Suppose the bed of a canal is lowered by one meter in a length of 100 meters, then, the gradient is 1 in 100.If we
know the inclination of the contour gradient, its direction may be easily located on the ground by using one of the following surveying instruments.

(i) Clinometer (ii) Theodolite

(iii) Level (iv) Ghat tracer.

Location of contour gradient:
Suppose it is required to locate the centre line of a road in a hilly
area with a ruling gradient of 1 in 20. Let the starting point A be
on a 94.00 m contour line (Fig. 6.16). Since the contour interval
is 2 m and gradient 1 in 20, the horizontal distance between A
and the point on the next contour (96m) is 2 x 20 = 40 m. With
the centre at A and radius equal to 40 m (taken on the same scale),
an arc is drawn cutting the contour line of 96.00 at point B.
Taking B as the centre and with the same radius, another arc is
drawn to get the next point C. The other points are located in a
similar manner.

Fig contour gradient


1. By Abney level
The Abney level (Fig. 6.17) is nothing but an improved type of clinometer. It consists of a telescope and spirit bubble. A mirror is provided over the
bubble at an angle of 45° to help observe the image of the bubble. The bubble tube is attached to the vernier arm which can be rotated by a worm-
and- wheel arrangement. To fix the contour gradient, the index of the vernier is set to the angle corresponding to the given gradient. The Abney level
is held over the starting station A against a pole at a suitable height C. A mark D is made on another pole at the same height. This pole is held over
the next point of gradient. It is made to move up or down along the hill slope until the mark D is bisected at point B; at the same time the bubble
should be at the centre of its run. Now the line joining the station point A to the point B is practically parallel to the line of sight and therefore on the
given gradient. The points A and B are marked on the ground with pegs. The Abney level is then shifted and held on the point D. The next point of
the gradient is fixed according to the previous procedure. The other points are fixed on the gradient in similar fashion.

2. By levelling Instrument
In this method, the RL of the starting point is first determined with reference to the permanent bench-mark. Then the level is set up at a suitable
position and a BS reading is taken on the starting point. Thus the HI is calculated for this setting. Then, by knowing the gradient and the peg interval,
the RLs of the successive pegs are calculated. After this, the required staff readings on the pegs are determined. The locations corresponding to the
calculated staff readings are identified and the points marked on the ground with pegs.
3.1 Introduction and uses of theodolites
3.2 Geometry of theodolites
3.3 Classification of theodolites
3.4 Technical terms, fundamental lines and planes of theodolites
3.5 Working principle of theodolites
3.6 Temporary adjustment of theodolites
3.7 Measurement of angles
3.7.1 Horizontal angles
3.7.2 Vertical and zenithal angles
3.8 Laying out of horizontal angles
3.9 Errors in theodolites survey


4.1 Traverse definition, purpose, types and equipments

4.2 Traverse field works
4.3 Traverse adjustment and computation of total coordinates
4.4 Traverse plotting
4.5 Omitted measurements in traverse


5.1 Basic definition

5.2 Area by division into simple figures
5.3 Area by different methods
5.3.1 Area by coordinates
5.3.2 Area by trapezoidal rule
5.3.3 Area by Simpson's 1/3 rule
5.4 Volume by cross section
5.5 Volume by Trapezoidal formula
5.6 Volume by Prismoidal formula
Practical (Field works):
1. Perform Contouring on a sloped ground by indirect method (Grid method) [15 Hours]
2. Perform Plane tabling and detailing [15 Hours]
3. Measure area from plane table map [10 Hours]
4. Carryout Theodolite handling practices [10 Hours]
5. Perform traversing by Theodolite, computation, grid sheet making and plotting of traverse
[25 Hours]
Evaluation of Practical: Continuous evaluation (Viva + Instrumentation + Objective test)
1. Dr. BC Punmia, "Surveying"- Vol I & II, Laxmi Publication New Delhi
1. R. Agor, " Surveying and Leveling" , Khanna Publication New Delhi
2. SK Duggal, "Surveying" Vol I & II,T ata MC Graw Hill Publishing
3. N Basnet & M Basnet , "Basic Surveying I", Benchmark Education Support Pvt, Ltd, Tinkune
4. N Basnet & M Basnet, " Basic Surveying II", Published by D. Shrestha & R. Shrestha, Rajmati
Press, Lalitpur