The national mapping agency in Libya is the Survey Department of Libya (SDL), which was established in February 1968 as part of the Ministry of Planning. It became an independent department in 1971 and is currently responsible for surveying and mapping including geodetic, cadastral, photogrammetric, and topographic work. Mapping reflects the uneven distribution of population and economic activities, with very little coverage of the sparsely settled southern desert regions of the country.
Italian, British and German medium scales were all prepared during World War II, but modern mapping of the state was established before the revolution of 1969 by American agencies. A 1:250,000 scale series from the US Army Map Service (now National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA)) covered the area to the north of 28°N and was derived from 1:60,000 scale aerial photographs. The coastal belt was mapped with a 1:50,000 scale base map compiled from mid 1950s aerial coverage and completed in 240 quarter-degree sheets. Both of these series were on the Transverse Mercator projection, UTM grid, International ellipsoid.
American aid ceased after the revolution. After the oil-led development in the 1970s it was decided to revise the 1:50,000 map, to start work on a new 1:25,000 scale series covering populated areas in the coastal belt and to extend the 1:250,000 map to the whole country. A new Transverse Mercator two-degree band-based projection was adopted to minimize distortion in larger-scale series and revised mapping was begun with aid from the French Institut Géographique National and Polish GEOKART. Some revised 1:50,000 scale sheets have been published as orthophoto maps, with contour overprints.
Soviet military topographic mapping of Libya exists at the following scales: 1:1,000,000 (18 sheets, complete coverage, published 1973-1991); 1:200,000 (277 sheets, complete coverage, published 1978-1988); 1:100,000 (729 sheets, primarily complete coverage, published 1971-1989) and city (1:10,000) topographic mapping of Bengasi and Tripoli published between 1977 and 1985. These products are available in print, digital raster and digital vector GIS formats from East View Geospatial.
The best available hydrographic charting of Libyan coasts is compiled by Glavnoe Upravlenie Navigatsii i Okeanografii (GUNiO).
Earth science mapping of Libya is the responsibility of the Geological Research and Mining Department (GRMD) in the Industrial Research Center. A 1:250,000 scale series covers the more northern parts of the country, with about 50 published sheets compiled with Czech aid, and series at 1:1,000,000 and 1:2,000,000 scales are also published. All have Arabic text. Earlier small scale earth science mapping of the country was issued by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). 1:2,000,000 scale coverage is still available for four themes, but only the geological map was published as a full-color edition.
SDL published a national atlas in English and Arabic versions in 1978.
Urban planimetric mapping programs from SDL are carried out at 1:2,500 and 1:5,000 scales and include most of the major settlements.
A number of single-sheet and tourist maps of the country are produced by overseas agencies. USGS produced a 1:2,000,000 scale map in 1970 with joint English and Arabic language explanatory texts and 125 m contours. GEOprojects publishes a useful tourist map in its Arab world map library series, and Cartographia also publishes a single sheet tourist map.