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Zambia - Geography

Zambia is a land-locked country occupying an elevated plateau in south central Africa. Eight other countries border Zambia: Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe. Zambia's shortest route to the sea is via Zimbabwe to Beira in Mozambique.

Occupying elevated plateau country in south-central Africa it has an area of 752,620 sq.km., which is equivalent to the size of Sweden and Norway combined. Zambia's best known physical assets are its copper mines and the Victoria Falls. The visitor who arrives at Lusaka, the capital, will at once see signs of the wealth produced by the copper industry: the grandiose international airport, the opulent, copper-sheathed Parliament building and the tall office blocks in the city center.

Five hundred kilometres to the south-west the wide Zambezi river suddenly drops into an abyss, forming the largest waterfall in the world. Elsewhere the visitor may find the landscape monotonous and lackinq in human interest. Little of Zambia's best scenery is visible from the rnain roads, and it often seems that uninhabited woodland stretches everywhere to enormous flat horizons. In fact the wooc1land is neither empty nor endless. Within in it, and beyond it, most of the population still makes a living from the soi1.

The landscape of Zambia is dominated by the even skylines of uplifted plantation surfaces. About four-fifths of tbe country is covered by savanna wood1and of semi -evergreen and everoreen treeS. Hiqhest elevations are reached on the Nyika Plateau on the Malawi border (2,164 metres), where upLift associated with the East African Rift system is at a maximum. Elevation declines westward, where the country extends into the vast Kalahari Basin.

The plateau surfaces are interrupted by localized downwarps occupied by lakes, "sudd" and swamp areas and by the rift valleys of the mid-Zambesi and Luangwa. These lie in an ancient arm of the east African Rift system, but the rifting which formed Lake Tanganyika and the Lake Mweru throuoh on the country's northem barder, is of more recent age.

The continental divide separating Atlantic from Indian Ocean drainage forms the border with Zaire along the Copperbelt, then swings northeastwards to the Tanzanian border. Thus about three-quarters of the country is drained to the Indian OCean by the Zambezi and its two main tributaries, the Kafue and Luangwa, while the north-east is drained to the Atlantic, principally by the Chambeshi and Luapula via the Congo (Zaire). River discharges are markedly seasonal, although this is modified by swamp areas which act as sponges.

The dambo, a shallow, grass-covered, predominantly streamless but water-retaining valley form, is characteristic of many areas of the plateau. Rapids occur along most river courses so that the rivers are of little use for transportation. The country's larger lakes, including the man-made Lakes Kariba and Itezhitezhi, offer possibilities of water use as yet relatively undeveloped.

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