Kabul: research and data

Furushgah; central shopping area

Image: the marketplace (furushgah) at dusk. An incredibly intense experience of public urban space!

This is a central link-page for research and data on Kabul which I accumulated during my dissertation research. If this is your first time visiting this page, please also go to my reviewed listing of other sources of information on Kabul and Afghanistan. Papers are immediately below. Maps and GIS data are below.

“Planning on contested ideological terrain: Kabul” Presented in Napoli at the 2007 planning conference hosted jointly by AESOP and ACSP.

*Note: In 2006 and 2007 I created static web-pages in the form of a blog, while studying and working in Kabul. In 2011 I converted this website to a WordPress format. You can access the original blog postings from the “Archive” area on the right-hand side of this page.

Maps and shapefile data on Kabul

The Afghanistan Information Management Service (AIMS) graciously provided GIS data from which I began my research in 2003. Sadly, new geographic data on Kabul is very hard to find. Here I provide spatial data on Kabul in Shapefile format. If you want to use this data but you have no idea what “GIS” means, please visit my introduction to GIS page.

Historical Kabul: development predating 1920

Here is some base-data that pertains to all the time-period maps:
Contour Lines: derived from AIMS data, but made smaller via Delaunay Reduction algorithm in GRASS.

The 1978 Master Plan for Two Million: this was the third comprehensive master-plan of the city.
Airport, Police, and Cemeteries
Aquifer-Recharge Areas along the Kabul and Logar Rivers
Educational land uses
Green OpenSpaces: extensive parkways per the Modernist ideal
Health Care land uses
Industrial land uses
Commercial Markets: not a lot of them, but even socialist planners allowed for some of these
Mountainous Areas: also open-space, but kept undeveloped for seismic safety
General Public Land Uses
Land Reserved for Future Urban Growth
Residential development, 1-3 story
Residential Apartments, 4-16 storys
Surface Highways and Railroad

Of course, the ’78 Plan was ratified at exactly the same month that wars began. So the actual city looked quite different when I started working and researching there in 2003.The war-damage was impressive, especially from the Mujahid Civil War from 1992-1996 (yes, the anti-Soviet ‘freedom fighters’ did most of the destruction and slaughter during their factional in-fighting). However buildings were only totally destroyed in a limited area:
Kabul destruction, 1992-1996

Thanks to various foreign militaries, we have excellent base-data on the condition of the city as of October 2001.
Commercial development in Kabul as of 2001
Irregular development on flat areas as of 2001
Irregular development on hillside areas as of 2001
Regular-pattern residential development as of 2001
Apartment blocks, built from 1964-1992
Educational land uses
Industrial developments
Public land uses
Security land uses: Ministry of Defense and Police

When I returned in 2006, Kabul had grown dramatically due mostly to external and internal refugees of war, drought, and land-conflicts. The following shapefiles show that change:
Commercial development growth, 2001-2006
Irregular flatland growth, 2001-2006
Irregular hillside growth, 2001-2006
Regular-pattern growth, 2001-2006

Kabul Municipality wants to govern the expansion of the city as it expands beyond its planned area. In 2005, the Muni expanded the number of wards (nahya) from 18 to 22. The new wards extend northwest into the southern Shomali, northwards to Deh Sabz, eastward beyond Arzan Qimat, and southward. The following map shows the current 22-ward area of the municipality.
[NOTE: there has been some terminological confusion because the sub-areas of provinces (wolayat) are called Districts. During the ‘aughties, planners also translated the sub-areas of the city (nahya) as ‘districts’ as well. To reduce confusion I use the more classic English term “ward” as the translation for nahya.]

The image below was compiled from the shapefiles listed above. The images are copyleft 2007 by Pietro Calogero. Use for education and research is encouraged; use for monetary profit is prohibited.

Kabul in 2006; General placenames

Kabul in 2006; General placenames

locator-map of Kabul

locator-map of Kabul

Middle East generic map

Middle East generic map


Kabul: research and data — 7 Comments

  1. Do you by chance have the “Afghanistan Settlements” shapefile from AIMS? Their website’s latest update has made their GIS files undownloadable, and I need that particular one for a school project. They so far have not answered my requests for assistance.

    Alex Sidles

    • I do have a file from July 20, 2003, so it is public information. Alas I do not have anything more recent. I will send it to you.

  2. Thanks for publishing such useful information about Kabul and Urbanization in Kabul. I am writing my Master thesis about Municipal Governance in Afghanistan in the Context of Urbanization. It would be a comparative study of at least three cities namely Kabul, Jalalabad and Mazar-e-Sharif. I would greatly appreciate if you have any data about Municipal service delivery in any city in Afghanistan and what is the strategy of Municipalities in dealing with increased urban population and settlement, be it natural or caused by in-migration.


    • In some of the chapters of the dissertation I do talk about service delivery in Kabul. I cannnot speak about other cities, because I did not study them.
      For Kabul, the challenge in 2002-2007 was that the Municipality did not want the new refugee-returnees to settle in informal areas. Informal, irregular settlements violated the Master Plan. So from the city government’s point of view, it did not make sense to deliver water, sewerage, or even road-construction to areas that should be demolished and rebuilt as proper, organized urban settlements. In fact the Ministry of Rural Reahbilitation and Development installed several thousand hand-pump wells in the outlying, informal settlements of Kabul so that people got access to water, but the City government did not have to acknowledge their presence.

  3. Dear Mr. Calogero

    May I have your e-mail add.
    I have a MA degree in Geography and Urban planning and I am very iterested in studying on Kabul urbanization issues especially on the topic of “cities under occupation” and the roll of international financial institutions like the World Bank or IMF in shaping these cities.
    May I have your e-mail add to learn from your experience and knowledge in this regard.

    Thank you in advance

    Shourangiz Dadashi