Maldives Information Series
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GeoGraphy, cliMate and population
The Maldives are composed of 1 190 low-lying islands, spreading along a north-south axis over a distance of some 1 000 km, about 600 km southwest of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, of which 198 are inhabited.
The total land area of the Maldives is 300 km2 (Table 1). The islands form 26 natural atolls, which for administration purposes are grouped into 19 atolls (atholhu, singular and plural): Alifu, Baa, Dhaalu, Faafu, Gaafu Alifu, Gaafu Dhaalu, Gnaviyani, Haa Alifu, Haa Dhaalu, Kaafu, Laamu, Lhaviyani, Meemu, Noonu, Raa, Seenu, Shaviyani, Thaa, Vaavu; and the capital city: Male (Maale). Most of the islands are very small, few have a land area of more than 1 km2, with elevations of not more than 2 m above sea level. All the main islands lie around the rim of the atolls, he lagoons are shallow, containing sandbars and cays with deep passages between the atolls.
In 2009 the total cultivated area was an estimated 7 000 ha, of which 3 000 ha were under permanent crops such as coconut and arecanut. Annual crops such as maize, sorghum, cassava, onion and chilies were grown on the other 4 000 ha.
The islands have a tropical climate with two monsoons, the: 3⁄4 southwest monsoon from May to September; and
3⁄4 northeast monsoon from November to March.
There are many thunderstorms during the months of April and October, which is in between the two monsoons. Precipitation is uniformly distributed throughout the year, except for a dry period of about 90 days from January to March. The long-term mean annual rainfall is 1 972 mm.
The daily temperature varies little throughout the year. The annual mean temperature is 28 °C, ranging from 26.2 to 30.6 °C.
The total population in 2009 was 312 000 inhabitants, of which around 61 percent lived in rural areas (Table 1). The annual average growth rate during the period 1999-2009 was an estimated 1.5 percent. The population is concentrated on Male Island, while many of the other islands remain sparsely populated. Only 198 islands out of 1 190 are inhabited. Considering all islands together, in 2009 the average population density was 1 040 inhabitants/km2, but it is much higher if taking only those islands where the majority of the people live.
Access to improved drinking water sources in 2008 reached 91 percent (99 and 86 percent for the urban and rural population respectively) and 98 percent of the population had access
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