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Geography of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Related subjects: African Geography

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Map of the DR of the Congo
Satellite image of Democratic Republic of the Congo
Topography of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo includes the greater part of the Congo River Basin, which covers an area of almost 1,000,000 square kilometres (390,000 sq mi). The country's only outlet to the Atlantic Ocean is a narrow strip of land on the north bank of the Congo River.

The vast, low-lying central area is a basin-shaped plateau sloping toward the west, covered by tropical rainforest and criss-crossed by rivers, a large area of this has been categorised by the World Wildlife Fund as the Central Congolian lowland forests ecoregion. The forest centre is surrounded by mountainous terraces in the west, plateaus merging into savannas in the south and southwest, and dense grasslands extending beyond the Congo River in the north. High mountains of the Ruwenzori Range (some above 5,000 m/16,000 ft) are found on the eastern borders with Rwanda and Uganda (see Albertine Rift montane forests for a description of this area).


The DRC lies on the Equator, with one-third of the country to the north and two-thirds to the south. The climate is hot and humid in the river basin and cool and dry in the southern highlands, with a cold, alpine climate in the Ruwenzori Range. There is a South of the Equator, the rainy season lasts from October to May and north of the Equator, from April to November. Along the Equator, rainfall is fairly regular throughout the year. During the wet season, thunderstorms often are violent but seldom last more than a few hours. The average rainfall for the entire country is about 1,070 mm (42 in). Despite being on the Equator, snow does fall in the country in the high Ruwenzori Range.


Location: Central Africa, northeast of Angola

Geographic coordinates: 0°00′N 25°00′E

Map references: Africa

total: 2,345,410 km2
land: 2,267,600 km2
water: 77,810 km2

Area - comparative: slightly less than one-fourth the size of the US

Land boundaries:
total: 10,744 km
border countries: Angola 2,511 km, Burundi 233 km, Central African Republic 1,577 km, Republic of the Congo 2,410 km, Rwanda 217 km, Sudan 628 km, Tanzania 473 km, Uganda 765 km, Zambia 1,930 km

Coastline: 37 km (23 mi).

Maritime claims:
exclusive economic zone: boundaries with neighbors
territorial sea: 12  nmi (22 km)

Climate: tropical; hot and humid in equatorial river basin; cooler and drier in southern highlands; cooler-cold and wetter in eastern highlands and the Ruwenzori Range; north of Equator - wet season April to October, dry season December to February; south of Equator - wet season November to March, dry season April to October

Location of country on world map

Terrain: vast central plateau covered by tropical rainforest, surrounded by mountains in the west, plains and savanna in the south/southwest, and grasslands in the north. The high mountains of the Ruwenzori Range on the eastern borders.

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Pic Marguerite on Mont Ngaliema (Mount Stanley) 5,110 m

Natural resources: cobalt, copper, cadmium, petroleum, industrial and gem diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, germanium, uranium, radium, bauxite, iron ore, coal, hydropower, timber

Land use:
arable land: 2.96% (1998 est), 3% (1993 est.)
permanent crops: 0.52% (1998 est.), 0% (1993 est.)
permanent pastures: 7% (1993 est.)
forests and woodland: 77% (1993 est.)
other: 96.52 (1998 est.), 13% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 110 km2 (1998 est.), 100 km2 (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: periodic droughts in south; Congo River floods (seasonal); in the east, in the Great Rift Valley, there are active volcanoes

Environment - current issues: poaching threatens wildlife populations (for example, the Painted Hunting Dog, Lycaon pictus is now considered extinct in the Congo due to human overpopulation and poaching); water pollution; deforestation (chiefly due to land conversion to agriculture by indigenous farmers); refugees responsible for significant deforestation, soil erosion, and wildlife poaching; mining of minerals ( coltan — a mineral used in creating capacitors, diamonds, and gold) causing environmental damage

Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification

Geography: straddles Equator; very narrow strip of land that controls the lower Congo River and is the only outlet to South Atlantic Ocean; dense tropical rainforest in central river basin and eastern highlands

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