Congo, Land and Resources
Along the Atlantic coast is a low, treeless plain, which rises inland to the Mayumbe Mountains, an almost completely forested region with an average elevation of about 550 m (about 1,800 ft). In the south central region is the fertile valley of the Niari River. To the north lies the central highlands region, the Plateau Bateke. The plateau is cut by numerous tributaries of the Congo and Ubangi rivers. The Congo Basin occupies the northeastern part of the country. Dense tropical rain forests cover about 65 percent (2000) of the country’s total area and constitute a major natural resource. The principal commercial species are okoume (a mahogany) and limba (a hardwood). Savanna vegetation is found in the northeast and the higher plateau areas. Wildlife is diverse and abundant, including antelope, giraffes, cheetahs, crocodiles, and numerous birds and snakes.
The climate is tropical, with mostly high heat and humidity. While the Mayumbe Mountains experience a long dry season, parts of the Congo Basin receive more than 2,500 mm (more than 100 in) of rainfall annually. Average temperatures in Brazzaville are 26°C (78°F) in January and 23°C (73°F) in July, with an annual rainfall of about 1,500 mm (about 60 in). Temperatures along the coast are slightly cooler.
Petroleum, found offshore, is the Congo’s principal mineral resource. Other resources include potash, gold, iron ore, lead, and copper.
Only 4.5 percent (1997) of the country enjoys protected status. Access to safe water has tripled in urban areas since 1980, but it remains very poor in rural areas. Air pollution from vehicle emissions is also a serious environmental problem.