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Vietnam's Geography

Southeastern Asia, bordering the Gulf of Thailand, Gulf of Tonkin, and South China Sea, alongside China, Laos, and Cambodia
Geographic coordinates:
16 10 N, 107 50 E
Map references:
Southeast Asia
total: 331,210 sq km
country comparison to the world: 65
land: 310,070 sq km
water: 21,140 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly larger than New Mexico

Land boundaries:
total: 4,639 km
border countries: Cambodia 1,228 km, China 1,281 km, Laos 2,130 km
3,444 km (excludes islands)
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Current Weather
tropical in south; monsoonal in north with hot, rainy season (May to September) and warm, dry season (October to March)


low, flat delta in south and north; central highlands; hilly, mountainous in far north and northwest
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: South China Sea 0 m
highest point: Fan Si Pan 3,144 m
Natural resources:
phosphates, coal, manganese, rare earth elements, bauxite, chromate, offshore oil and gas deposits, timber, hydropower
Land use:
arable land: 20.14%
permanent crops: 6.93%
other: 72.93% (2005)
Irrigated land:
30,000 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources:
891.2 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 71.39 cu km/yr (8%/24%/68%)
per capita: 847 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards:
occasional typhoons (May to January) with extensive flooding, especially in the Mekong River delta
Environment - current issues:
logging and slash-and-burn agricultural practices contribute to deforestation and soil degradation; water pollution and overfishing threaten marine life populations; groundwater contamination limits potable water supply; growing urban industrialization and population migration are rapidly degrading environment in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note:
extending 1,650 km north to south, the country is only 50 km across at its narrowest point

rice_fields_mtn.jpg (24589 bytes)There are four geographic sections in Vietnam, ranging from rugged mountains to marshy fertile flatlands.  Vietnam's "S" shape takes it from China, in the north, the the Gulf of Thailand in the south.  In the north, there are mountains that extend up to 3.143 m at Fan Si Pan, the highest point in Vietnam; the east and southeast consists of the Red River Delta, an alluvial plain; south of this Delta is the Truong Son (Annam Highlands) which is considered to be the backbone of Vietnam.  A plateau (Central Highlands) also occupies this area and can be found between Cambodia and the South China sea.  The Mekong Delta is located in the southernmost portion of Vietnam and makes up a fertile, marshy flatland that goes from the Central Highlands (north of it) south to the mangrove swamps on the Ca Mau peninsula.

The Red River and the Mekong River are navigable in their entirety and are considered to be the two major rivers in Vietnam.  To help prevent flooding in their deltas, a system of dikes and canals has been erected.  This has helped improve farming in the Mekong Delta due to salt water flooding from the South China Sea, especially during the long, wet monsoon season.  

Vietnam's climate is amazingly varied, but this is due to the vast range of latitudes and altitudes in the country.  The average temperature in the north is about 81 degrees F (27 degrees C) and in the south a nice 70 degrees F (21 degrees C) and is generally humid.  Two monsoons control the weather, one is considered to be a dry monsoon which occurs mainly in the north from about October/November to March.  The other brings wet, warm weather to the entire country, with the exception of the mountainous areas, from April/May to October.  July and August are considered to be the hottest and most humid months.  


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