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Jamaica:
Geography

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Jamaica Page


Background
Definition
The island - discovered by Christopher COLUMBUS in 1494 - was settled by the Spanish early in the 16th century. The native Taino Indians, who had inhabited Jamaica for centuries, were gradually exterminated and replaced by African slaves. England seized the island in 1655 and established a plantation economy based on sugar, cocoa, and coffee. The abolition of slavery in 1834 freed a quarter million slaves, many of whom became small farmers. Jamaica gradually obtained increasing independence from Britain, and in 1958 it joined other British Caribbean colonies in forming the Federation of the West Indies. Jamaica gained full independence when it withdrew from the Federation in 1962. Deteriorating economic conditions during the 1970s led to recurrent violence as rival gangs affiliated with the major political parties evolved into powerful organized crime networks involved in international drug smuggling and money laundering. Violent crime, drug trafficking, and poverty pose significant challenges to the government today. Nonetheless, many rural and resort areas remain relatively safe and contribute substantially to the economy.
Location
Definition
Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba
Geographic coordinates
Definition
18 15 N, 77 30 W
Map references
Definition
Central America and the Caribbean
Area
Definition - World rank and map
total: 10,991 sq km
land: 10,831 sq km
water: 160 sq km
Area - comparative
Definition
slightly smaller than Connecticut
Land boundaries
Definition
0 km
Coastline
Definition
1,022 km
Maritime claims
Definition
measured from claimed archipelagic straight baselines
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to edge of the continental margin
Climate
Definition
tropical; hot, humid; temperate interior
Terrain
Definition
mostly mountains, with narrow, discontinuous coastal plain
Elevation extremes
Definition
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Blue Mountain Peak 2,256 m
Natural resources
Definition
bauxite, gypsum, limestone
Land use
Definition - World rank and map
arable land: 15.83%
permanent crops: 10.01%
other: 74.16% (2005)
Irrigated land
Definition
250 sq km (2002)
Total renewable water resources
Definition
9.4 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
Definition
total: 0.41 cu km/yr (34%/17%/49%)
per capita: 155 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards
Definition
hurricanes (especially July to November)
Environment - current issues
Definition
heavy rates of deforestation; coastal waters polluted by industrial waste, sewage, and oil spills; damage to coral reefs; air pollution in Kingston results from vehicle emissions
Environment - international agreements
Definition
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note
Definition
strategic location between Cayman Trench and Jamaica Channel, the main sea lanes for the Panama Canal


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