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Mauritius:
Geography

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Background
Definition
Although known to Arab and Malay sailors as early as the 10th century, Mauritius was first explored by the Portuguese in the 16th century and subsequently settled by the Dutch - who named it in honor of Prince Maurits van NASSAU - in the 17th century. The French assumed control in 1715, developing the island into an important naval base overseeing Indian Ocean trade, and establishing a plantation economy of sugar cane. The British captured the island in 1810, during the Napoleonic Wars. Mauritius remained a strategically important British naval base, and later an air station, playing an important role during World War II for anti-submarine and convoy operations, as well as the collection of signals intelligence. Independence from the UK was attained in 1968. A stable democracy with regular free elections and a positive human rights record, the country has attracted considerable foreign investment and has earned one of Africa's highest per capita incomes. Recent poor weather, declining sugar prices, and declining textile and apparel production, have slowed economic growth, leading to some protests over standards of living in the Creole community.
Location
Definition
Southern Africa, island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar
Geographic coordinates
Definition
20 17 S, 57 33 E
Map references
Definition
Political Map of the World
Area
Definition - World rank and map
total: 2,040 sq km
land: 2,030 sq km
water: 10 sq km
note: includes Agalega Islands, Cargados Carajos Shoals (Saint Brandon), and Rodrigues
Area - comparative
Definition
almost 11 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries
Definition
0 km
Coastline
Definition
177 km
Maritime claims
Definition
measured from claimed archipelagic straight baselines
territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Climate
Definition
tropical, modified by southeast trade winds; warm, dry winter (May to November); hot, wet, humid summer (November to May)
Terrain
Definition
small coastal plain rising to discontinuous mountains encircling central plateau
Elevation extremes
Definition
lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mont Piton 828 m
Natural resources
Definition
arable land, fish
Land use
Definition - World rank and map
arable land: 49.02%
permanent crops: 2.94%
other: 48.04% (2005)
Irrigated land
Definition
220 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources
Definition
2.2 cu km (2001)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
Definition
total: 0.61 cu km/yr (25%/14%/60%)
per capita: 488 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards
Definition
cyclones (November to April); almost completely surrounded by reefs that may pose maritime hazards
Environment - current issues
Definition
water pollution, degradation of coral reefs
Environment - international agreements
Definition
party to: Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note
Definition
the main island, from which the country derives its name, is of volcanic origin and is almost entirely surrounded by coral reefs; home of the dodo, a large flightless bird related to pigeons, driven to extinction by the end of the 17th century through a combination of hunting and the introduction of predatory species


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