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El Salvador

Land and Resources

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El Salvador is 140 km (90 mi) wide at its widest point and 260 km (160 mi) long, with an area of 21,041 sq km (8,124 sq mi). The only Central American state without a Caribbean shoreline, El Salvador is bounded on the west by Guatemala, on the north and east by Honduras, on the south by the Pacific Ocean, and on the extreme southeast by the Gulf of Fonseca, which it shares with Honduras and Nicaragua. The country’s geography is defined by its volcanic mountains, separated by the plateaus and valleys of the central region. The mountains descend to a narrow, fertile coastal plain, which drops steeply into the Pacific.

Rivers and Lakes

Several small rivers flow through El Salvador into the Pacific, including the Goascoran, Jiboa, Torola, Paz and the Rio Grande de San Miguel. Only the largest river, the Lempa, flowing from Honduras across El Salvador to the ocean, is navigable for commercial traffic. Volcanic craters enclose scenic lakes, the most important of which are Ilopango (70 sq km/27 sq mi) and Coatepeque (26 sq km/10 sq mi). The largest natural lake is Lake Guija (44 sq km/17 sq mi). Several artificial lakes were created by the damming of the Lempa River, the largest of which is Embalse Cerron Grande (350 sq km/135 sq mi).

Climate

El Salvador’s tropical climate varies between regions. The coastal plains along the Pacific are very hot, although the humidity is relatively low. Much of the country enjoys mountain elevation: A semitropical, springlike climate prevails from about 600 to 1,200 m (about 2,000 to 4,000 ft), and a temperate climate occurs above 1,200 m (4,000 ft). A rainy season from May through October brings the annual average rainfall for most of the country to about 2,030 mm (about 80 in). Dry and often dusty conditions prevail from November through April. The average annual temperature of San Salvador is 24°C (75°F).

Natural Resources

El Salvador lacks significant mineral resources, although it has small amounts of gold and silver, as well as limestone and gypsum. Most of its forests have been depleted, but some commercially valuable trees remain, including oak, cedar, mahogany, balsam, and rubber. Its fertile valleys and coastal plain, however, remain its principal natural resources, providing rich soil to grow substantial crops for export and subsistence.

Environmental Issues

El Salvador has one of the highest annual rates of deforestation in the world. Less than 1 percent of the nation’s total land area is designated as protected. The high percentage of primary forest that has disappeared over the years has produced problems such as poor water quality and soil erosion, especially in areas of steep terrain and thin soils. Water pollution and soil contamination from pesticides and disposal of toxic wastes have also become serious problems. The country’s high population density, especially in the metropolitan area of San Salvador, contributes to urban environmental problems, including air and water pollution. In urban areas, most people have access to safe water, but less than half the people in rural areas do.

 
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