Congo Democratic Republic of

THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC of the Congo, formerly known as Zaire, has a land area of 905,351 sq. mi. (2,344,858 sq. km.), with a population of 63,655,000 (2007 est.), and a population density of 65 people per sq. mi. (25 people per sq. km.). Forests cover 80 percent of the country, with only three percent of the land arable, and 7 percent is used for pasture, mainly grazing cattle and sheep.

Only two percent of electricity production comes from fossil fuels, with 98 percent produced from hydropower. Most of the hydropower is generated from the hydroelectric plants at the Inga Dams, located on the Congo River. The two plants Inga I and Inga II provide electricity for the Shaha province, with plans to build Inga III and the Grand Inga plants, which would generate 4,500 megawatts and 39,000 megawatts, respectively. Grand Inga provides more hydroelectric power than is currently consumed by the entire African continent.

As a result of this hydroelectricity, and the undeveloped nature of the country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has one of the lowest per capita rates of carbon dioxide emissions in the world, with less than 0.1 metric tons per person in 1990, which fell to 0.03 metric tons per person by 2003. Only three countries have lower per capita emissions: Afghanistan, Chad, and Somalia. Manufacturing and construction account for 28 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from the country, with transport accounting for 19 percent, and residential use, 11 percent. As a result, the overall level of carbon monoxide emissions is high, making up nearly 13 percent of all carbon monoxide emissions in sub-Saharan Africa.

The government of Mobutu Sese Seko took part in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change signed in Rio de Janeiro in May 1992, and two years later ratified the Vienna Convention. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, under Joseph Kabila, was the 143rd country to agree to the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, signing it on March 23, 2005.

SEE ALSO: Congo; Developing Countries; Forests.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. D.M. Gordon, Nachituti's Gift: Economy, Society and Environment in Central Africa (U. of Wisconsin Press, 2006); Shamsher Singh, Sub-Saharan Agriculture: Synthesis and Trade Prospects (World Bank, 1983); World Resources Institute, "Congo Dem Rep—Climate and Atmosphere," www.earthtrends.wri.org (cited October 2007).

Robin S. Corfield Independent Scholar

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