Timehri Airport, Guyana
Location: Northern South America, bordering the North Atlantic
Ocean, between Suriname and Venezuela
Geographic coordinates: 5 00 N, 59 00 W
Map references: South America
total: 214,970 sq km
land: 196,850 sq km
water: 18,120 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Idaho
total: 2,462 km
border countries: Brazil 1,119 km, Suriname 600 km, Venezuela
Coastline: 459 km
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the outer edge of the continental
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: tropical; hot, humid, moderated by northeast trade
winds; two rainy seasons (May to mid-August, mid-November to mid-January)
Terrain: mostly rolling highlands; low coastal plain; savanna
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Roraima 2,835 m
Natural resources: bauxite, gold, diamonds, hardwood timber,
arable land: 2%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 6%
forests and woodland: 84%
other: 8% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 1,300 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: flash floods are a constant threat during
Environment - current issues: water pollution from sewage
and agricultural and industrial chemicals; deforestation
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification,
Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship
Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Background: Guyana achieved independence from the UK in
1966 and became a republic in 1970.
In 1989 Guyana launched an Economic Recovery Program, which marked
a dramatic reversal from a state-controlled, socialist economy towards
a more open, free market system.
Results through the first decade have proven encouraging.
Size: Approximately 215,000 square kilometers.
Land area about 197,000 square kilometers.
Topography: Three major regions: the coastal plain
comprising only 5 percent of land area but with 90 percent of population;
the white sand belt inland from coastal plain with hardwood forest
and most of Guyana's mineral deposits; and interior highlands, largest
and southernmost of three regions consisting of mountains, high
plateaus, and savannahs.
Climate: Tropical with uniformly high temperatures
and humidity, modified slightly by trade winds along coast. Summer
rainy season countrywide and second rainy season in coastal areas.
Data as of January 1992
With a land area of approximately 197,000 square kilometers, Guyana
is about the size of Idaho. The country is situated between 1 and
9 north latitude and between 56 and 62 west longitude. With a 430-kilometer
Atlantic coastline on the northeast, Guyana is bounded by Venezuela
on the west, Brazil on the west and south, and Suriname on the east.
The land comprises three main geographical zones: the coastal plain,
the white sand belt, and the interior highlands .
The coastal plain, which occupies about 5 percent of the country's
area, is home to more than 90 percent of its inhabitants. The plain
ranges from five to six kilometers wide and extends from the Courantyne
River in the east to the Venezuelan border in the northwest.
The coastal plain is made up largely of alluvial mud swept out
to sea by the Amazon River, carried north by ocean currents, and
deposited on the Guyanese shores. A rich clay of great fertility,
this mud overlays the white sands and clays formed from the erosion
of the interior bedrock and carried seaward by the rivers of Guyana.
Because much of the coastal plain floods at high tide, efforts to
dam and drain this area have gone on since the 1700s .
Guyana has no well-defined shoreline or sandy beaches. Approaching
the ocean, the land gradually loses elevation until it includes
many areas of marsh and swamp. Seaward from the vegetation line
is a region of mud flats, shallow brown water, and sandbars. Off
New Amsterdam, these mud flats extend almost twenty-five kilometers.
The sandbars and shallow water are a major impediment to shipping,
and incoming vessels must partially unload their cargoes offshore
in order to reach the docks at Georgetown and New Amsterdam.
A line of swamps forms a barrier between the white sandy hills
of the interior and the coastal plain. These swamps, formed when
water was prevented from flowing onto coastal croplands by a series
of dams, serve as reservoirs during periods of drought.
The white sand belt lies south of the coastal zone. This area is
150 to 250 kilometers wide and consists of low sandy hills interspersed
with rocky outcroppings. The white sands support a dense hardwood
forest. These sands cannot support crops, and if the trees are removed
erosion is rapid and severe. Most of Guyana's reserves of bauxite,
gold, and diamonds are found in this region.
The largest of Guyana's three geographical regions is the interior
highlands, a series of plateaus, flat-topped mountains, and savannahs
that extend from the white sand belt to the country's southern borders.
The Pakaraima Mountains dominate the western part of the interior
highlands. In this region are found some of the oldest sedimentary
rocks in the Western Hemisphere. Mount Roraima, on the Venezuelan
border, is part of the Pakaraima range and, at 2,762 meters, is
Guyana's tallest peak. Farther south lies the Kaieteur Plateau,
a broad, rocky area about 600 meters in elevation; the 1,000-meter
high Kanuku Mountains; and the low Acarai Mountains situated on
the southern border with Brazil.
Much of the interior highlands consist of grassland. The largest
expanse of grassland, the Rupununi Savannah, covers about 15,000
square kilometers in southern Guyana. This savannah also extends
far into Venezuela and Brazil. The part in Guyana is split into
northern and southern regions by the Kanuku Mountains. The sparse
grasses of the savannah in general support only grazing, although
Amerindian groups cultivate a few areas along the Rupununi River
and in the foothills of the Kanuku Mountains.
Data as of January 1992
Guyana is a water-rich country. The numerous rivers flow into the
Atlantic Ocean, generally in a northward direction. A number of
rivers in the western part of the country, however, flow eastward
into the Essequibo River, draining the Kaieteur Plateau. The Essequibo,
the country's major river, runs from the Brazilian border in the
south to a wide delta west of Georgetown. The rivers of eastern
Guyana cut across the coastal zone, making east-west travel difficult,
but they also provide limited water access to the interior. Waterfalls
generally limit water transport to the lower reaches of each river.
Some of the waterfalls are spectacular; for example, Kaieteur Falls
on the Potaro River drops 226 meters, more than four times the height
of Niagara Falls.
Drainage throughout most of Guyana is poor and river flow sluggish
because the average gradient of the main rivers is only one meter
every five kilometers. Swamps and areas of periodic flooding are
found in all but the mountainous regions, and all new land projects
require extensive drainage networks before they are suitable for
agricultural use. The average square kilometer on a sugar plantation,
for example, has six kilometers of irrigation canals, eighteen kilometers
of large drains, and eighteen kilometers of small drains. These
canals occupy nearly one-eighth of the surface area of the average
sugarcane field. Some of the larger estates have more than 550 kilometers
of canals; Guyana itself has a total of more than 8,000 kilometers.
Even Georgetown is below sea level and must depend on dikes for
protection from the Demerara River and the Atlantic Ocean.
Data as of January 1992
Guyana has a tropical climate with almost uniformly high temperatures
and humidity, and much rainfall. Seasonal variations in temperature
are slight, particularly along the coast. Although the temperature
never gets dangerously high, the combination of heat and humidity
can at times seem oppressive. The entire area is under the influence
of the northeast trade winds, and during the midday and afternoon
sea breezes bring relief to the coast. Guyana lies south of the
path of Caribbean hurricanes and none is known to have hit the country.
Temperatures in Georgetown are quite constant, with an average
high of 32°C and an average low of 24°C in the hottest month
(July), and an average range of 29°C to 23°C in February,
the coolest month. The highest temperature ever recorded in the
capital was 34°C and the lowest only 20°C. Humidity averages
70 percent year-round. Locations in the interior, away from the
moderating influence of the ocean, experience slightly wider variations
in daily temperature, and nighttime readings as low as 12°C
have been recorded. Humidity in the interior is also slightly lower,
averaging around 60 percent.
Rainfall is heaviest in the northwest and lightest in the southeast
and interior. Annual averages on the coast near the Venezuelan border
are near 250 centimeters, farther east at New Amsterdam 200 centimeters,
and 150 centimeters in southern Guyana's Rupununi Savannah. Areas
on the northeast sides of mountains that catch the trade winds average
as much as 350 centimeters of precipitation annually. Although rain
falls throughout the year, about 50 percent of the annual total
arrives in the summer rainy season that extends from May to the
end of July along the coast and from April through September farther
inland. Coastal areas have a second rainy season from November through
January. Rain generally falls in heavy afternoon showers or thunderstorms.
Overcast days are rare; most days include four to eight hours of
sunshine from morning through early afternoon.
Data as of January 1992