Once I had changed the direction of my project, the next task was deciding on sources, interface, and overall design. For the former, I decided to make use of the International River Boundary Database (IRBD), which contains information about border rives including their lengths (estimated using GoogleEarth. While that was a great database, it did represent a problem of visualization. How might I actually show these on a map? I decided to use multiple technologies. First, I got public access shape files from the World Bank, the Global Runoff Data Center (part of the World Meteorological Organization) which produced the Major River Basins of the World, and a shapefile of the world’s borders available here. I also used data and information from the Program in Water Conflict Management and Transformation which contains data and data sets on transboundary resource basins in the world including shape files.
Translating the IRBD into a visual map with information was undeniably time consuming and frustrating when I accidentally broke the code. It was, more importantly, an immense learning experience because I physically mapped and marked de facto rover borders across the world. Inevitably, I ended up looking up information about border rivers that I did not know about! For example, the Shattal-al-Arab, formed by the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers is the border between Iraq and Iran near its mouth. During the first Iran-Iraq War between 1980-1988, the river was an important focal point with regards to navigation rights. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the river was again important as it was the only outlet to the Persian Gulf and an important waterway to transport humanitarian aid.
Before I began working with any spatial data, I downloaded all (yes, all) the KML files from the IRBD and created one file. This was my master file to use when using geospatial data like shapefiles in making my map. I then imported the Major River Basins shapefile in QGIS as well as the world boundary shape file. Then, I got around to the laborious task of cutting out. The image below is what I began with.
Cutting one river at a time took days, literally. But once I was done, I had a map that was workable. I then had to tweak some parts of it to make it visually appealing. Importing it into Mapbox was actually super easy and it looked great! I just had to decide which aspects of the map I would like highlighted, including labels for places etc. After that was done, I then went back to the IRBD to begin labelling the individual rivers. The larger question however was, how would I ensure labels and accompanying information would show on the map? Initially I thought I would need to fundamentally alter my map and began looking for various kinds of themes and code that would help me. Eventually, I found a Mapbox tutorial that helped me figure how to label rivers and then display them. It involved making a new tileset and exporting it to the map as a new layer. Seemed easy enough. So off I went making a new tileset. I didn’t realise that meant populating over a 1000 markers individually. Once those were done, I started describing the labels. Needless to say, I am still working on them. Exporting the tileset into my extant map and having it show up on Mapbox was easy. Getting all that to show up on Github was surprisingly easy, once I made sure I had the code all right.