Mapping of Iran was established by the British in their Survey of India programs with complete quarter-inch reconnaissance coverage of the country, and partial half-inch mapping. Not until after World War II were national bodies established with mapping responsibilities. The civilian official mapping agency is the National Cartographic Centre (NCC) first set up with UN assistance in 1953. Its responsibilities encompass the maintenance of geodetic and levelling networks, topographic base mapping, and the production of the national atlas and thematic mapping. Meanwhile military mapping had been the responsibility of the National Geographic Organization (NGO). For most of its history NCC has concentrated upon the larger scales and coordinated production, while NGO has produced restricted military small and medium scale series. The two organizations merged in 1968, but were separated again after the Islamic revolution.

Military series covering Iran at 1:50,000, 1:250,000 and 1:1,000,000 scales have been compiled using photogrammetric methods following triangulation, levelling and aerial photographic coverage initiated in the late 1950s. These are all on the UTM projection, Hayford ellipsoid. The 1:50,000 specification includes complete coverage in 2,670 six-color sheets, with each covering a 15′ × 15′ area. The 1:250,000 series covers the whole country in 136 seven or eight-color sheets; 12 maps are published for each International map of the World sheet. Other series include a 1:500,000 map in 42 sheets. These maps are all complete, and limited work has been carried out to revise data. 1:250,000 scale coverage has been digitized. 1:50,000 scale coverage is becoming available in digital form. Only the 1:1,000,000 scale map has been revised, and is fully available in a digital form.

NCC initiated new projects after 1979 with a view to modernizing the civilian mapping infrastructure, but little progress was made during the years of the Islamic revolution and the Iran-Iraq war. A 1:25,000 series was planned and work started on analogue production in 1990. Over 500 four-color sheets were produced with UN support and published by the end of 1992. Meanwhile officially sanctioned plans for a national topographic database were launched and it was decided to produce digital 1:25,000 base maps for the whole country. The first phases of this project involved photogrammetric data capture, and a new national digital standard was developed. Over 10,000 sheets are needed for national coverage; these are derived from 1:40,000 scale black and white aerial coverage, and are based on the UTM projection and WGS84 spheroid. The database is organized into nine superclasses, hard copy map design is separated from the design of map displays for on-screen manipulation. It is intended to complete this project by 2007. All of these official NCC maps and atlases are published in the Persian language.

Soviet military topographic mapping of Iran is available at the following scales: 1:1,000,000 (15 sheets, complete coverage, published 1974-1990); 1:500,000 (43 sheets, complete coverage, published 1973-1992); 1:200,000 (288 sheets, complete coverage, published 1972-1992); 1:100,000 (1,056 sheets, complete coverage, published 1974-1991) and city (1:10,000 to 1:25,000) topographic mapping of 27 major cities from Abadan to Zanjan published between 1970 and 1992. These products are available in print, digital raster and digital vector GIS formats from East View Geospatial.

In 1996 NCC started a project for an intermediate 1:100,000 scale base map of the country. Using GPS control established for the 1:25,000 map it is intended to cover the whole country in a three-year period with digital and hard copy image maps, derived from SPOT XS stereo images. By-products will include a national DEM and slope and aspect maps.

NCC is also responsible for the preparation of hydrographic charts of Iran, in conjunction with the Ports and Shipping Organization. Areas of interest extend beyond Iranian territorial waters to cover the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea, and NCC produces paper and digital versions of these data. Aeronautical charting of the country is also carried out by NCC.

Geological and other earth science mapping of Iran is the responsibility of the Geological Survey of Iran (GSIr) and a rich variety of mapping has been produced often in conjunction with oil exploration activities. GSIr was founded in 1958 with assistance from the United Nations. National programs at 1:250,000 and 1:100,000 scale were started in the 1970s, and have resulted in full-color mapping of much of the country. 1:250,000 scale coverage is sometimes accompanied by an explanatory text. The whole country has been mapped, but all the sheets have not yet been published. 1:250,000 scale aeromagnetic coverage is available for almost all the country, with red or green overprints on a grey topographic base. National geological 1:1,000,000 scale coverage was completed by the National Iranian Oil Company in the 1970s, and magnetic intensity coverage was completed in 1989 on the same sheet lines. A wide variety of single-sheet themes are still available. Progress in geological mapping was halted after the Islamic revolution during the Iran-Iraq war, but the publication program resumed in the 1990s.

Thematic atlases were published by a number of official agencies in the period prior to the national atlas project. Small-scale national coverage of Iran appeared as sheets published in the Tϋbinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients (TAVO), and these remain the best available western language coverage of the country for several themes.

In 1991 NCC became responsible for the compilation of a national atlas of the country. This project was conceived as running in two distinct phases, the first was completed with the publication of a single-volume atlas in 1994, including 140 maps, most at 1:6,500,000 scale. A second phase is generating more detailed thematic volumes, with a goal of producing about 20 different atlases. Health, energy, geology, and gardening were complete by 1997, and education, higher education, industry, agriculture, population and transportation had been published by 1999. These large format volumes are published in the Persian language. It is intended to complete the program by 2000. A pilot multi-media version of the national atlas is also being designed.

Cadastral mapping in Iran is carried out by the Iranian Cadastre Center in the Deed and Land Registration Organization.

Two companies produce extensive and very similar ranges of tourist and educational maps. Sahab is a major commercial publisher of maps of Iran and the wider Middle East. The company was established in 1887 and has concentrated for many years upon the publication of tourist and educational maps, often also available in English language editions. These include a wide variety of maps and atlases of different countries using political and physical bases, a range of indexed city maps and a series of regional maps of the provinces of Iran. A number of thematic maps are also issued and a recent initiative has seen the publication of satellite image maps of the country as well as more detailed image mapping of the Tehran area and the Persian Gulf. Gita Shenasi was established in 1975 and now markets a very comparable range of maps for the tourist and educational market, including an increasing number of bilingual Persian and English editions. The Gita Shenasi range now exceeds Sahab in its coverage and complexity. About 30 province and area maps complement atlases, and small-scale country, continental and world mapping. Gita Shenasi has collaborated with the American Allen Cartography in setting up a digital database, which is being used for the publication of many of its smaller scale Iranian output, including the Iran 1999 relief map. 70 town maps of Iranian cities are published, with 23 different versions for Tehran, including 1997 versions of a 10-sheet plan and single sheet map. A recent addition to the range is an electronic atlas of the capital on CD-ROM.

Other mapping of Iran is published by the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and by RV from Germany, and GIP Reclus released a thematic atlas of the country in 1998.

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