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Geography, climate and population
Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in Central Asia with a total area of 199 949 km2. It is bordered in the north by Kazakhstan, in the east and southeast by China, in the southwest by Tajikistan and in the west by Uzbekistan. It became independent from the Former Soviet Union in August 1991. The country is divided into seven provinces (oblasts), which are Batken, Chu, Djalal-Abad, Issyk-Kul, Naryn, Osh and Talas.
Largely mountainous, the country is dominated by the western reaches of the Tien Shan range in the northeast and the Pamir-Alay in the southwest. The highest mountain is Victory Peak (Tomur Feng, 7 439 m above sea level) at the eastern tip of the country, on the border with China. The mountain stands in the Mustag massif, one of the world’s largest glaciers. About 94 percent of the country rises over 1 000 m, and 40 percent at more than 3 000 m above sea level. Much of the mountain region is permanently covered with ice and snow and there are many glaciers, covering about 4 percent of the territory. The Fergana mountain range, running from the northwest across the country to the central-southern border region, separates the eastern and central mountain areas from the Fergana valley in the west and southwest. Other lowland areas include the Chu and Talas valleys near the northern border with Kazakhstan. The world’s second largest crater-lake, is Issyk-Kul, in the northeast with a surface area of 6 236 km2.
The cultivable area is an estimated 10 670 000 ha, or 53 percent of the total area, including 9 179 000 ha of permanent pasture. In 2009, the cultivated area was 1 351 000 ha, of which 1 276 000 ha temporary crops and 75 000 ha permanent (Table 1). In 1995 and 2000 the cultivated area was an estimated 1 326 000 ha and 1 423 000 ha respectively.
The climate is continental with hot summers and cold winters, during which frost occurs throughout the country. There is a frost-free period of 185 days per year in the Chu valley, 120–140 days per year in the Naryn valley and 240 days per year in the Fergana valley. Double cropping is therefore limited to a few vegetables. Average temperatures in the valleys vary from minus18 °C in January to 28 °C in July. Absolute temperatures vary from minus 54 °C in winter to 43 °C in summer. Average annual precipitation is an estimated 533 mm, varying from 150 mm on the plains (Fergana valley) to over 1 000 mm in the mountains. Precipitation occurs during the winter, mainly between October and April, when temperatures are low. Rainfed agriculture is therefore limited. Snowfall forms an important part of total precipitation. About 10 percent of the territory, at the lowest altitude, is classed as arid.
The total population is about 5.4 million (2011), of which around 65 percent is rural (Table 1). The annual demographic growth rate was an estimated 0.8 percent during the period 2001–2011. Population density is 27 inhabitants/km2. Average population density varies from six inhabitants/km2 in the eastern mountainous zone to about 70 inhabitants/km2 in the north.
In 2010, 90 percent of the total population had access to improved water sources (99 and 85 percent in urban and rural areas respectively) and 93 percent had access to improved sanitation (94 and 93 percent in urban and rural areas respectively).