Geospatial Data

I am rebuilding this page to point to free, high-quality geospatial data. For those specifically interested in Kabul, I keep the Kabul shapefiles posted at

GIS is shifting to geodatabases, but for the moment the best free data is available in shapefile format.

For US sites, one of the best sources is the US Census Bureau. Their TIGER files are designed to be joined with census data, so you can add all sorts of attributes to spatial entities.

Worldwide, the following are my favorite sources:
Borders: the Global Administration Database, version 2.
Hydrography (water features): Natural Earth, provided by the North American Cartographic Information Society. They also provide roads, rail, cities, and other data at a general scale.
Land Cover: Global Map provided by the International Steering Committee for Global Mapping
Roads and railroads: DIVA-GIS., and NASA-SEDAC/CIESIN’s gRoads.
Topography: I used to use ETOPO and GTOPO, but I guess the current best model is ASTER.

Basic reference shapefiles:
contour_dr25: topographic contours, smoothed with a Douglass-Reimann algorithm so that the file is smaller than the AIMS original.
roads-p: derived from the AIMS file, but I used an affine-transform to shift the whole file a few meters north to line up with other geospatial data.
edu: educational institutions. The land are devoted to schools has not changed much in the past 30 years, so this file works for multiple years.
formal_blok: apartment-housing that was built between 1964 (Mikrorayan 1) and 1992 (Mikrorayan 4).

Time-specific shapefiles:
KBL_1835: based on the maps in Archibald Forbes 1892 account of the First Anglo-Afghan War.
KBL_1920: estimated reconstruction of Kabul just before Amanullah’s Kabul Jadid Plan.
KBL_1964_GenPlan: the First GenPlan of Kabul, based on the model in the Municipality.
KBL_1970_GenPlan: the Second GenPlan, which I found explained in a UN report from the time.
KBL_1978_GenPlan: the Third GenPlan for Two Million.
KBL_1982: the actual city in 1982, based on a Soviet map.
KBL_2001: the condition of the city at the beginning of the Islamic Republic.
indust_2005: the extent of industrial areas in 2005.
securityspace_2005: the extent of security-related spaces in 2005.
KBL_2006: new development in Kabul between 2001 and 2006. These files need to be used in conjunction with the 2001 files to show the whole city at that time.

Suggestions for use:
1. Unzip the files in the directories where you want them to stay. Each zip file here contains multiple directories, each with the 4 components of a shapefile. Please think carefully about how you want to organize all these files and folders.
2. Please use the following projection to view the data accurately:
Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM), Zone 42 North, with the WGS84 datum(geoid).