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Costa Rica:
Geography

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Background
Definition
Although explored by the Spanish early in the 16th century, initial attempts at colonizing Costa Rica proved unsuccessful due to a combination of factors, including: disease from mosquito-infested swamps, brutal heat, resistance by natives, and pirate raids. It was not until 1563 that a permanent settlement of Cartago was established in the cooler, fertile central highlands. The area remained a colony for some two and a half centuries. In 1821, Costa Rica became one of several Central American provinces that jointly declared their independence from Spain. Two years later it joined the United Provinces of Central America, but this federation disintegrated in 1838, at which time Costa Rica proclaimed its sovereignty and independence. Since the late 19th century, only two brief periods of violence have marred the country's democratic development. Although it still maintains a large agricultural sector, Costa Rica has expanded its economy to include strong technology and tourism industries. The standard of living is relatively high. Land ownership is widespread.
Location
Definition
Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Nicaragua and Panama
Geographic coordinates
Definition
10 00 N, 84 00 W
Map references
Definition
Central America and the Caribbean
Area
Definition - World rank and map
total: 51,100 sq km
land: 50,660 sq km
water: 440 sq km
note: includes Isla del Coco
Area - comparative
Definition
slightly smaller than West Virginia
Land boundaries
Definition
total: 639 km
border countries: Nicaragua 309 km, Panama 330 km
Coastline
Definition
1,290 km
Maritime claims
Definition
territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm
Climate
Definition
tropical and subtropical; dry season (December to April); rainy season (May to November); cooler in highlands
Terrain
Definition
coastal plains separated by rugged mountains including over 100 volcanic cones, of which several are major volcanoes
Elevation extremes
Definition
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Cerro Chirripo 3,810 m
Natural resources
Definition
hydropower
Land use
Definition - World rank and map
arable land: 4.4%
permanent crops: 5.87%
other: 89.73% (2005)
Irrigated land
Definition
1,080 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources
Definition
112.4 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
Definition
total: 2.68 cu km/yr (29%/17%/53%)
per capita: 619 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards
Definition
occasional earthquakes, hurricanes along Atlantic coast; frequent flooding of lowlands at onset of rainy season and landslides; active volcanoes
Environment - current issues
Definition
deforestation and land use change, largely a result of the clearing of land for cattle ranching and agriculture; soil erosion; coastal marine pollution; fisheries protection; solid waste management; air pollution
Environment - international agreements
Definition
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note
Definition
four volcanoes, two of them active, rise near the capital of San Jose in the center of the country; one of the volcanoes, Irazu, erupted destructively in 1963-65


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