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Geography, climate and population


Malaysia is situated in southeast Asia. It is composed of two regions: peninsular Malaysia in the west, lying between Thailand and Singapore, and the states of Sabah and Sarawak, located in the east of the island shared with Indonesian Borneo. The two regions are separated by the South China Sea. The total land area is 330 800 km2 (Table 1). Malaysia is a federal country, divided into 13 states and one federal territory (wilayah persekutuan), which includes the city of Kuala Lumpur (legislative capital), Labuan and Putrajaya (administrative capital).

In peninsular Malaysia, a mountainous spine known as Banjaran Titiwangsa separates the east of the peninsula from the west. About 61 percent of the peninsula is less than 100 m above sea level and the land is generally suitable for cultivation. The interior of Sabah is criss-crossed by a series of mountain ranges and hills, the most prominent is the Crocker range, with the highest point at Gunung Kinabalu (4 101 m). Sarawak is generally mountainous with the highest range forming the border with Indonesia.

Total cultivable area is an estimated 14.2 million ha, or 43 percent of the total land area. In 2009, about 7.6 million ha of the cultivable area, or 53 percent was cultivated. Permanent crops represented 76 percent of this cultivated area (5.8 million ha), while the remaining 24 percent (1.8 million ha) was under annual crops, mainly rice.


Malaysia lies entirely in the equatorial zone. The climate is governed by the northeast and southwest monsoons. The northeast monsoon from October to March is responsible for the heavy rains that hit the east coast of the peninsula and frequently cause widespread floods. It also causes the wettest season in Sabah and Sarawak. The southwest monsoon period occurs between May and September, and is a drier period for the whole country. The period between these two monsoons, April, is marked by heavy rainfall.

The average temperature throughout the year is very stable, 26 ░C, and mean annual rainfall is 2 875 mm. Regional variations of temperature and rainfall are linked to altitude. For example the Cameron Highlands have a mean temperature of 18 ░C and an annual rainfall of over 2 500 mm, compared to the mean temperature in Kuala Lumpur, which is 27 ░C and 2 400 mm of annual rainfall. In general, Sabah and Sarawak experience more rainfall (3 000-4 000 mm/year) than the peninsula. The humidity is high (80 percent) as a result of the high evaporation rate. About 60 percent of the rain falls in the months of November and January.


The population in 2009 was an estimated 28 million, 29 percent lived in rural areas (Table 1). The population is concentrated along the west coast of peninsular Malaysia and in the capital Kuala Lumpur. Average population density is 84 inhabitants/km2. The annual demographic growth for 1999-2009 was around 2.0 percent.

In 2008, there was almost 100 percent access to improved drinking water sources; 100 and 99 percent for the urban and rural population respectively.


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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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