Official name: Union of Myanmar
Area: 678,500 square kilometers (261,969 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Hkakabo Razi (5,881 meters/19,295 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 6:30 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 1,931 kilometers (1,200 miles) from north to south; 925 kilometers (575 miles) from east to west
Land boundaries: 5,876 kilometers (3,643 miles) total boundary length; Bangladesh 193 kilometers (120 miles); China 2,185 kilometers (1,355 miles); India 1,463 kilometers (907 miles); Laos 235 kilometers (146 miles); Thailand 1,800 kilometers (1,116 miles)
Coastline: 1,930 kilometers (1,197 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
Myanmar is located in Southeast Asia, bordered by India and Bangladesh in the northwest, China in the northeast, Laos in the east, Thailand in the east and southeast, and the Indian Ocean to the south and the west. It is slightly smaller than the state of Texas.
Myanmar has no territories or dependencies.
Myanmar has a tropical climate with three seasons: a cool winter from November to February, a hot season in March and April, and a rainy season from May through October, when the southwest monsoon arrives. The average annual temperature is 28°C (82°F). Temperatures can dip below 0°C (32°F) in mountainous areas, and soar as high as 45°C (113°F) on the central plains. Humidity ranges from 66 percent to 83 percent. Most of the country's rainfall occurs during the monsoon. Annual average rainfall is 508 centimeters (200 inches) along the coast and 76 centimeters (30 inches) for central regions. Frost and snow occur in the high mountains of the north.
Myanmar, the largest nation of mainland Southeast Asia, has an extraordinary variety of terrain, from glaciers in the north to coral reefs in the south. There are four major topographic areas: mountains in the north and west, the Shan Highlands in the east, the plains of central Myanmar, and the delta and valley regions in the south near the Irrawaddy and Sittang Rivers.
In the late 1980s, the military government changed the name of the country from Burma to Myanmar; the government also changed the names or spellings of many geographic features.
Myanmar's western shores curve along the Bay of Bengal, coming to a point at Cape Negrais. The Irrawaddy delta and the southeastern region's coasts together frame the upper corner of the Andaman Sea, joining at the Gulf of Martaban. All of these bodies of water are parts of the Indian Ocean.
There are no notable sea inlets or straits off Myanmar.
Offshore, there are many large islands and hundreds of smaller ones. The islands of Myanmar's western coast and delta have been formed by erosion of the shoreline. Just off the northwest coast, the large islands of Ramree (1,350 square kilometers/520 square miles) and Cheduba (523 square kilometers/202 square miles) are part of the Ramri Group. Bilugyun is a large island on the southwest coast. Also in the southwest is an undersea ridgeline that forms the Mergui Archipelago—some nine hundred islands ranging in size from Kadan Island (440 square kilometers/170 square miles) to small rocks.
In the northwest of Myanmar, the coast has rocky ridges with deep channels. After Cape Negrais, Myanmar's southern delta coast is formed by silt from the Irrawaddy and other rivers. From the mouth of the Sittang River, the coast stretches to the south, studded with inlets, rocky cliffs, and coral reefs.
An earthquake likely formed Myanmar's largest lake: Indawgyi, with an area of 116 square kilometers (45 square miles). The second-largest inland lake is the shallow Inle Lake, which covers about 67 square kilometers (26 square miles) on the Shan Plateau. It is the residue of an inland sea that is still shrinking. The lower Chindwin River basin has several crater lakes. Most other lakes and ponds are situated in the courses of former rivers.
The Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River, which is 2,170 kilometers (1,350 miles) long, is Myanmar's primary drainage system. Rising in the far north of Myanmar, the Irrawaddy flows south across the entire country before entering the sea through a nine-channel delta. It is the longest river found entirely within Myanmar. The Irrawaddy's most important tributary is the Chindwin River (960 kilometers/600 miles), which drains the northwest. The Sit-tang (Sittoung) River (483 kilometers/300 miles) rises just south of Mandalay and parallels the Irrawaddy on its eastern flank. The lower valleys of the Irrawaddy and Sittang Rivers form a vast, low-lying delta area of about 25,900 square kilometers (10,000 square miles) that continually expands into the sea due to silting.
Myanmar's other large river, the Salween (Thanlwin), rises in China and flows south across the Shan Plateau in eastern Myanmar. The Salween covers 1,325 kilometers (823 miles) within Myanmar, in a series of rapids and waterfalls that run through steep, narrow valleys.
In the eastern Shan State the mighty Mekong River (4,200 kilometers/2,600 miles) forms Myanmar's 235-kilometer (146-mile) border with Laos. In the southeast, many short streams run westward to the Andaman Sea, most notably the Tenasserim. There are also a number of small rivers in the southwest, flowing south out of the mountains into the Bay of Bengal.
The "dry zone" of north-central Myanmar has seven rainless months each year, during which its rivers go dry and windstorms are frequent.
The vast deltas and flood plains of the Irrawaddy and Sittang Rivers form the heart of Myanmar and provide its most productive farmland. Bamboo grows extensively in many parts of the country.
Myanmar used to be rich in rainforests, monsoon forests, and mangrove forests. Now, most of these woodlands are gone due to deforestation. The country's remaining forest cover, now less than 30 percent, is found mostly in the relatively inaccessible mountain areas of the north and northeast. The loss of forest cover in Myanmar not only has threatened animal and plant populations, but also has caused landslides, flooding, and drought.
Steep, craggy limestone hills with many caves are found in the Shan Plateau and in the southeastern part of the country. Elsewhere in Myanmar there are foothill areas leading up to the mountain chains.
There are many mountain ranges throughout the country. Myanmar's northern mountains, including the Patkai and Kumon ranges, are among the southernmost extensions of the Himalayas. These mountains are very high and rugged; they include Hkakabo Razi at the northernmost tip of the country. At 5,881 meters (19,295 feet), it is the highest peak in the nation.
The mountains run south along the western border with India and Bangladesh. This belt is composed of many ranges, including the Patkai, the Mangin, and the Chin Hills, which continue southward to the extreme southwestern corner of the country. The Arakan (Rakhine) Mountains extend southeastward along the coast. Notable peaks in the west include Saramati (3,860 meters/12,663 feet) and Mount Victoria (3,053 meters/10,016 feet). To the southeast of Mount Victoria, almost 2500 kilometers (160 miles) south of Mandalay, lies Mount Popa, a spectacular extinct volcano that rises 1,518 meters (5,009 feet) from the surrounding plains.
The Pegu Yoma (Bago) Mountains are in central Myanmar. In the southeast, the Dawna and Bilauktaung ranges mark the border with Thailand on the Malay Peninsula.
The Shan Plateau features deep limestone river gorges. The most notable are the gorge of the Salween (Thanlwin) River and Gokteik Gorge, which is cut by the Namtu River.
In northeast Myanmar, the Shan Plateau—149,743 square kilometers (57,816 square miles) in area—rises to an average elevation of about 914 meters (3,000 feet). Its western edge is clearly marked by a north-south cliff that often rises 610 meters (2,000 feet) in a single step.
Several artificial lakes and dams can be found throughout the river regions. The largest of the dams is the Thaphanseik Dam in Kyunhla Township, which was completed in 2001.
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Yin, Saw Myat. Myanmar . New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2002.
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Myanmar's Informative Resources on Culture, Travel, and Business . http://www.myanmars.net/ (accessed April 11, 2003).