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Geography, climate and population
Dominica is a Caribbean island that lies between the French islands of Guadeloupe and Marie-Galante to the north and Martinique to the south. It has been a member of the Commonwealth since independence in 1978. It is 47 km long and has a maximum width of 26 km. The total area is 750 km2 and its the largest island in the Windward and Leeward groups of the Eastern Caribbean.
Dominica is politically divided into 10 parishes: Saint Andrew, Saint David, Saint George, Saint John, Saint Joseph, Saint Luke, Saint Mark, Saint Patrick, Saint Paul, Saint Peter. The capital is Roseau.
In 2012, the total physical cultivated area was estimated at 24 000 ha, of which 75 percent (18 000 ha) consisted of permanent crops and 25 percent (6 000 ha) of temporary crops (Table 1).
The island is of volcanic formation, with rich volcanic soils and with signs of activity including solfataras (volcanic vents) and hot springs. The terrain is very rugged and steep. A range of high, forest-clad mountains runs from north to south, broken in the centre by a plain drained by the Layou river, which flows to the west. The highest points are Mount Diablotin (1 447 m) and Mount Trois Pitons (1 424 m). The forest area is 45 000 ha. Since 1975, there is an extensive system of national protected areas covering approximately 20 percent of the national territory.
The climate is characterized as tropical maritime with dominant influences being the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the north-easterly trade winds. Year-round daytime temperatures average 26-27ēC in coastal areas and 19-21ēC in mountainous areas, while night-time temperatures vary from 18-22ēC on the coast to 10-12ēC at higher elevations. The island possesses a number of micro-climates due to its mountainous terrain.
Dominica is the wettest island in the eastern Caribbean, with total annual rainfall exceeding 10 000 mm in some of the higher elevations. Average annual coastal rainfall varies from 1 500 to 3 700 mm. Average long-term annual rainfall at country-level is estimated at 2 083 mm. Rainfall is distributed between a dry season from December to May and a rainy season from June to November, the most likely period for hurricanes. The rugged topography results in a considerable amount of orographic rainfall making the island susceptible to landslides, particularly in mountainous areas. Relative humidity remains high throughout the year consistently averaging above 85 percent in the mountainous interior areas.
In 2013, the total population was about 72 000 inhabitants, of which around 32 percent was rural (Table 1). Population density is 96 inhabitants/km2. The average annual population growth rate in the 2003-2013 period has been estimated at 0.2 percent.
Topographic conditions have forced human settlements onto narrow coastal areas particularly in the south and west with approximately 44 000 persons, or 61 percent, living along the coast. Roseau, the capital, is the largest city with 15 000 persons representing almost 21 percent of the total population.
In 2012, 96 percent of the urban population had access to improved water sources. In 2007, 94 percent of the total population had access to improved water sources (96 and 92 percent in urban and rural areas respectively) and 81 percent of the total population had access to improved sanitation (80 and 84 percent in urban and rural areas respectively).