Are the Western Sahara borders wrong?


i found on Wikipedia this map for the Western Sahara:

But the borders in OSM look like this:

In OSM there is no continous territory for the Western Sahara/Polisario

Which of both borders is the correct one?

With best regards

Please read the answer on the help site:

It’s an interesting question. The wikipedia map is I suspect intended to show how the location of the “berm” (also known as the “Moroccan Wall”) has moved through the territory of the former Western Sahara, rather than accurately defining the SADR / Mauritania border.

The berm’s visible on imagery in OSM, and people have spent quite a bit of time trying to get the location right. The Mauritania border on the other hand is just an arbitary straight line - I suspect that much less effort goes into controlling that on the ground.

If you can find evidence that e.g. the “on the ground” Mauritanian border is wrong in OSM then it’s definitely worth mentioning. I don’t think that a schematic map in Wikipedia is evidence for that though - I’m sure that there’s far more work gone into getting the SADR / Moroccan-controlled-area boundary correct in OSM than in wikipedia, and the Mauritanian border I suspect isn’t marked on the ground.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that as escada has mentioned there have been politically motivated edits in the area - the DWG continues to get complaints from groups on both sides or the argument. I’d definitely suggest a discussion before any border change to make sure that everyone gets a chance to comment. There’s an “international boundaries” forum at (most posts in German but they do understand English). If you want you can also mail OSM’s Data Working Group on .

Best Regards,

Andy, from the Data Working Group.

Edit: One area which may be “wrong” is here:

you can see the Moroccan area is “clipped” at the Mauritanian boundary, and doesn’t follow the line of (clearly Moroccan-controlled) fortifications to the south. Obviously this is “wrong in the other direction” from what you suggest. In this case I suspect that the real world is just simply too complicated to be easily parcelled up into clean separate areas.

When four or more groups have four or more different stories of who owns what, it is definitely “too complicated.”

Thank you, so the conclusion is that the current borders are biased, but were not changed because this could cause edit wars?

No, normally the current borders reflect reality. They should reflect the “exact” location where you have to show your passport, or where there is a physical obstacle reflecting the border. That’s no bias.

To expand on the previous posting, they should reflect who has physical control of the territory, not who is the legal owner.

Ideally, they should also be made based on observations made by people actually visiting the border. In this case, I doubt that there are local mappers along most or all of the border, so the much less satisfactory method of using aerial, or satellite, imagery has to be used.

No, the borders were set as they are to resolve the editing dispute over what is SADR territory and what is Moroccan territory. It was when they were added that people noticed the problem I mentioned above - that there seems to be overlap between Moroccan territory and Mauritania. That’s an entirely separate issue, and one that we didn’t attempt to address as part of the Morrocco / SADR / Spain issue (which you can see all the details of from escada’s link).

When you say “the current borders are biased” which border are you talking about and who do you think it is biased in favour of or against?

Yes :slight_smile: - but unfortunately someone’s got to do it! Thankfully here we’re only defining a line on a map, not trying to support both sides on the way towards some kind of resolution, as the people from are, and the minefields we’re dealing with are only figurative rather than actual, unlike the picture on that page.

I am in favor of the neither group, but the current borders on OSM just do not seem correct to me.

Here is an isolated piece of desert which belongs to the Western Sahara between Morocco and Mauritania. Obviously no one seems to live there and no one has control of this piece of land. This border line cannot make any sense to me.

That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t reflect reality though does it? Sometimes real life doesn’t fit into a convenient vision of independent nation states that you move between and show your passport as you move from one to the next. The northern border in the middle there is very much a “hard border” visible on the imagery as a south-facing border complete with military emplacements every so often. The southern border isn’t.