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1UpTravel - Geography Info and Facts of Countries : . - Maldives


Maldives Geography and Facts

Location: Southern Asia, group of atolls in the Indian Ocean, south-southwest of India

Geographic coordinates: 3 15 N, 73 00 E

Map references: Asia

Area:
total: 300 sq km
land: 300 sq km
water: 0 sq km

Area - comparative: about 1.7 times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries: 0 km

Coastline: 644 km

Maritime claims: measured from claimed archipelagic baselines
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: tropical; hot, humid; dry, northeast monsoon (November to March); rainy, southwest monsoon (June to August)

Terrain: flat, with white sandy beaches

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Wilingili island in the Addu Atoll 2.4 m

Natural resources: fish

Land use:
arable land: 10%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 3%
forests and woodland: 3%
other: 84% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: NA sq km

Natural hazards: low level of islands makes them very sensitive to sea level rise

Environment - current issues: depletion of freshwater aquifers threatens water supplies; global warming and sea level rise; coral reef bleaching

Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea

Geography - note: 1,190 coral islands grouped into 26 atolls (200 inhabited islands, plus 80 islands with tourist resorts); archipelago of strategic location astride and along major sea lanes in Indian Ocean


Geography
The Maldives Republic located 500km (300 miles) southwest of the southern tip of India consists of about 1190 low-lying coral islands. These islands are spread over 26 atolls, ringlike coral formations enclosing a lagoon, which gives the Maldives its unique paradis-like appearance. No more than 200 islands are inhabited and most of them are covered by lush tropical vegetation and palm trees. About 99% of its territory is covered by the sea.


Climate
The Maldivian climate is tropically hot. Virtually summer all year around, it is the perfect place for sun lovers. There are two monsoons, the southwest from May to October and the northeast from November to April. Generally the southwest brings more wind and rain in June and July. The daily maximum temperature is 30.3 degrees Celsius and it rarely goes lower than 25.3 degrees Celsius. The best time to visit is November to (April)Easter.


   Maldives is the smallest independent country in Asia and one of the smallest in the world. It consists of about 1,000 small coral islands that form a chain 764 kilometres long and 129 kilometres wide in the Indian Ocean.

          The northern tip of the Maldives is about 600 kilometres south of India. These tropical islands cover a total of only 298 square kilometres. Fishing and tourism are the country's leading economic activities.

The Maldives were long a sultanate, first under Dutch and then under British protection. They became a republic in 1968, three years after independence.

Tourism and fishing are being developed on the archipelago.


Maldives

COUNTRY

Formal Name: Republic of Maldives.

Short Name: Maldives.

Term for Citizens: Maldivian(s).

Capital: Male.

Date of Independence: July 26, 1965 (from Britain).

GEOGRAPHY

Size: Approximately 298 square kilometers.

Topography: Includes some 1,200 coral islands grouped in double chain of twenty-seven atolls. Most atolls are ringshaped coral reefs supporting five to ten inhabited islands and twenty to sixty uninhabited islands. Average size of islands one to two kilometers and height of 1.5 meters above sea level.

Climate: Relatively high humidity but sea breezes stir air. Dry season of northeast monsoon December through March; rainy season of southwest monsoon April through October. Annual rainfall 2,540 millimeters in north, 3,810 millimeters in south.

Data as of August 1994


Maldives

PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT

Physiography

Maldives consists of approximately 1,200 coral islands grouped in a double chain of twenty-seven atolls. Composed of live coral reefs and sand bars, these atolls are situated atop a submarine ridge 960 kilometers long that rises abruptly from the depths of the Indian Ocean and runs from north to south. Only near the southern end of this natural coral barricade do two open passages permit safe ship navigation from one side of the Indian Ocean to the other through the territorial waters of Maldives. For administrative purposes the Maldives government organized these atolls into nineteen administrative divisions .

Most atolls consist of a large, ring-shaped coral reef supporting numerous small islands. Islands average only one to two square kilometers in area, and lie between one and 1.5 meters above mean sea level. The highest island is situated at three meters above sea level. Maldives has no hills or rivers. Although some larger atolls are approximately fifty kilometers long from north to south, and thirty kilometers wide from east to west, no individual island is longer than eight kilometers.

Each atoll has approximately five to ten inhabited islands; the uninhabited islands of each atoll number approximately twenty to sixty. Several atolls, however, consist of one large, isolated island surrounded by a steep coral beach. The most notable example of this type of atoll is the large island of Fua Mulaku situated in the middle of the Equatorial Channel.

The tropical vegetation of Maldives comprises groves of breadfruit trees and coconut palms towering above dense scrub, shrubs, and flowers. The soil is sandy and highly alkaline, and a deficiency in nitrogen, potash, and iron severely limits agricultural potential. Ten percent of the land, or about 2,600 hectares, is cultivated with taro, bananas, coconuts, and other fruit. Only the lush island of Fua Mulaku produces fruits such as oranges and pineapples partly because the terrain of Fua Mulaku is higher than most other islands, leaving the groundwater less subject to seawater penetration. Freshwater floats in a layer, or "lens," above the seawater that permeates the limestone and coral sands of the islands. These lenses are shrinking rapidly on Male and on many islands where there are resorts catering to foreign tourists. Mango trees already have been reported dying on Male because of salt penetration. Most residents of the atolls depend on groundwater or rainwater for drinking purposes. Concerns over global warming and a possible long-term rise in sea level as a result of the melting of polar ice are important issues to the fragile balance between the people and the environment of Maldives in the 1990s.

Data as of August 1994


Maldives

Climate

The temperature of Maldives ranges between 24°C and 33°C throughout the year. Although the humidity is relatively high, the constant sea breezes help to keep the air moving. Two seasons dominate Maldives' weather: the dry season associated with the winter northeast monsoon and the rainy season brought by the summer southwest monsoon. The annual rainfall averages 2,540 millimeters in the north and 3,810 millimeters in the south.

The weather in Maldives is affected by the large landmass of the Indian subcontinent to the north. The presence of this landmass causes differential heating of land and water. Scientists also cite other factors in the formation of monsoons, including the barrier of the Himalayas on the northern fringe of the Indian subcontinent and the sun's northward tilt, which shifts the jet stream north. These factors set off a rush of moisture-rich air from the Indian Ocean over the subcontinent, resulting in the southwest monsoon. The hot air that rises over the subcontinent during April and May creates low-pressure areas into which the cooler, moisture-bearing winds from the Indian Ocean flow. In Maldives, the wet southwest monsoon lasts from the end of April to the end of October and brings the worst weather with strong winds and storms. In May 1991 violent monsoon winds created tidal waves that damaged thousands of houses and piers, flooded arable land with seawater, and uprooted thousands of fruit trees. The damage caused was estimated at US$30 million.

The shift from the moist southwest monsoon to the dry northeast monsoon over the Indian subcontinent occurs during October and November. During this period, the northeast winds contribute to the formation of the northeast monsoon, which reaches Maldives in the beginning of December and lasts until the end of March. However, the weather patterns of Maldives do not always conform to the monsoon patterns of the Indian subcontinent. Rain showers over the whole country have been known to persist for up to one week during the midst of the dry season.

Data as of August 1994



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