GEOGRAPHY Location: Colombia lies in the northwestern part of South America,
borderedby the Caribbean Sea to the north and the North Pacific
Ocean to the west.
Size: At 1,138,910 square kilometers, including insular possessions—
Isla de Malpelo, Roncador Cay, Serrana Bank, and Serranilla Bank—
Colombia is the fourth largest country in South America.Of the above
total, land constitutes 1,038,700 square kilometers and water, 100,210
Land Boundaries: Colombia’s continental neighbors are Ecuador and Peru to the south; Brazil and Venezuela to the east; and the isthmus of Panama to the west, connecting to Central America.Borders with neighboring countries total 6,004 kilometers, as follows: Ecuador, 590 kilometers; Peru, 1,496 kilometers (estimated); Brazil, 1,643 kilometers; Venezuela, 2,050 kilometers; and Panama, 225 kilometers.
Disputed Territory: Unresolved territorial disputes persist with Nicaragua and Venezuela. The issue of Nicaragua’s alleged sovereignty rights over the Colombian islands of San Andrés y Providencia lying off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua occasionally produces diplomatic disputes. Nicaragua revived the issue in 2002 by asking the International Court of Justice at The Hague to validate its claim. Colombia’s dispute with Venezuela over substantial maritime territory lying off the Guajira Peninsula and in the Golfo de Venezuela (Gulf of Venezuela), an area popularly referred to by Colombians as the Golfo de Coquibacoa, is being resolved through bilateral negotiations, although elements of national prestige continue to make it a national issue in both countries.
Length of Coastline: The only South American country bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Colombia has a total of 3,208 kilometers of coastline—1,448 kilometers on the Pacific Ocean to the west and 1,760 kilometers on the Caribbean Sea to the north.
Maritime Claims: Colombia claims a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone, a 12-nautical mile territorial sea, and jurisdiction over the continental shelf to a 200-meter depth or to the depth of resource exploitation.
Topography: The mainland territory is divided into four major geographic regions: two are the Pacific and Caribbean lowlands, which rise abruptly to the central highlands and then to the Andean highlands, which are composed of three rugged parallel mountain ranges (the Eastern Cordillera, the Central Cordillera, and the Western Cordillera). The highest mountain is the Pico Cristóbal Colón (5,800 meters). The Andean Cordillera range is situated in the west-central part of the country and stretches from north to south, along almost the whole length of the country. Between the Cordilleras are high plateaus and fertile valleys that are crossed by the country's major river systems. These dominating highlands, which constitute the third region, separate the Caribbean and Pacific lowland regions from the fourth region—the llanos (lowland plains), which are flat grasslands, and the tropical rainforest of eastern Colombia.
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Principal Rivers: The main rivers are the Magdalena, 1,540 kilometers; the Putumayo, 1,500 kilometers; and the Cauca, 1,014 kilometers. The Cauca and Magdalena, which flow northward, separate the three principal Andean mountain ranges and join after emerging from the mountains and descending through marshy lowlands to the Caribbean. A total of 18,140 kilometers are navigable by riverboats.
Climate: Mainly as a result of differences in elevation, Colombia has a striking variety in temperatures, with little seasonal variation. The habitable areas of the country are divided into three climatic zones: hot (tierra caliente; below 900 meters in elevation), temperate (tierra temblada; between 900 and 1,980 meters), and cold (tierra fría; from 2,000 meters to about 3,500 meters). The hottest month is March, and the coldest months are July and August.Precipitation is generally moderate to heavy, with highest levels in the Pacific lowlands and in parts of eastern Colombia. Considerable year-to-year variations are recorded, but generally most of the country has two main wet seasons with heavy daily rainfall (from March to May and September to November), and one or two dry seasons with little or no rainfall (from December to February and June to August), except in the northern plains where there is only one long wet season from May through October. The wettest month is October, and the driest month is February.Average temperature ranges in Bogotá, which has an elevation of 2,560 meters, are from 10° C to 18° C in July to 9° C to 20° C in February.
Natural Resources: Colombia is well endowed with agricultural export products, energy resources, and minerals. These resources include coal, coffee, copper, emeralds, flowers, fruits, gas, gold, hydropower, iron ore, natural nickel (also known as millerite), petroleum, platinum, and silver.The country has the largest coal reserves in Latin America and is second only to Brazil in hydroelectric potential. Colombia has immense hydrocarbons potential, but only 20 percent of its potential reserves are currently in production. Natural gas reserves are estimated to be the fourth highest in Latin America. Potential reserves in offshore basins along the Caribbean Coast are estimated to cover 150 to 200 years of consumption.
Land Use: In 2001 an estimated 2.42 percent of Colombia’s land area was classified as arable, and 1.67 percent was planted to permanent crops.According to a 1998 estimate, 8,500 square kilometers were irrigated.
Environmental Factors: The 1991 constitution codifies new environmental protection legislation, including the creation of specially protected zones, of which more than 200 were created in the early 1990s, mostly in forest areas and national parks. As a result of this charter, the Ministry of the Environment was established in 1993, but merged with the housing and drinking water division of the Ministry of Economic Development, Housing, and Potable Water in 2003.Natural hazards include highlands subject to volcanic eruptions, occasional earthquakes, and periodic droughts. Current issues include deforestation resulting from lumber exploitation in the jungles of the Amazon and the region of Chocó; illicit drug crops grown by peasants in the national parks of Sierra de la Macarena and Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta; soil erosion; soil and water quality damage from contamination by the use of chemicals in the coca-refining process, spillage of crude oil into the local rivers as a result of guerrilla sabotage of pipelines, and overuse of pesticides; air pollution (especially in Bogotá) from vehicle emissions; and preservation of wildlife.
Time Zone: Colombia Standard Time is five hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT–5).