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Geography, climate and population
Qatar is a small peninsula in the Persian Gulf covering an area of approximately 11 000 km2 including a number of small offshore islands. Its maximum length is about 180 km along the north-south axis, while the east-west width is 85 km at its widest point. It is bounded by the Persian Gulf on all sides except in the south where it touches the eastern province of Saudi Arabia.
The elevation of the country decreases from 100 m above sea level in the south to less than 50 m in the north. Qatar is a rocky desert area with scattered oases formed by 850 separate depressions. In these depressions colluvial soils made up of calcareous loam, sandy loam and sandy clay loam have accumulated to depths ranging from 30 to 150 cm, overlying limestone debris and bedrock. These depression soils are locally known as rodat and constitute the main agricultural soils of the country. Highly saline depression soils, locally known as sabkha, occur mainly along the coasts of Umm Said, Dukhan and the southern boundary of Qatar. In southern Qatar the depressions are often more crater-like in appearance, with the bottoms usually covered by aeolian sands.
The total cultivated area is 6 322 ha, including 67 ha of greenhouses (Table 1). The total area of arable land is 2 651 ha, which includes 1 190 ha of vegetable crops and 1 461 ha of field crops. The area under permanent crops amounts to 3 412 ha and comprises 1 478 ha of perennials and forage crops and 1 934 ha of fruit trees (DAWR, 2002). The land suitable for irrigation is 52 128 ha and most of it is classified as having marginal suitability for irrigation (Awiplan Qatar & Jena-Geos, 2005). All cultivated areas are irrigated thus representing 12.1 percent of the land suitable for irrigation.
Qatar lies in the northern hemisphere desert. The country has an extensive hydrological and meteorological data collection network which has been operative since 1972. The data are monitored by 25 manual and 25 automatic rain gauges and 3 manual and 3 automatic agrometeorological stations, spread over a wide geographical area. The arid desert climate is characterized by scanty rainfall with an annual average of about 80 mm over the period 1972–2005. Rainfall is extremely unpredictable and highly erratic, both in time and space. Because of its low intensity and variability, it is not considered reliable for supplementing irrigation and maintaining agriculture, yet it represents the main source of irrigation water in the form of recharge to groundwater. Other climatic characteristics are high temperatures during summer (> 40 °C), high evaporation rates with an annual average of 2 200 mm, very strong winds and high relative humidity (Abu Sukar et al, 2007). Evapotranspiration ranges from less than 2 mm/day in December to a maximum of 10 mm/day in June.
In 2005, the population was estimated at 813 000 inhabitants with an average population density of 74 inhabitants/km2 (Table 1). The annual population growth rate, based on the last two censuses of 1997 and 2004, is approximately 5.2 percent. The male population is around double the female population. The preponderance of a male population during the last three decades is because of Qatar’s vast economic growth and its heavy dependence on a non-Qatari labour force. Over 82 percent of the population lives in the Greater Doha (Doha and Ar-Rayyan cities) (The Planning Council, 2005). All the population has access to clean drinking water. The existing sewage network covers about 68 percent of all buildings and 95 percent of the buildings of the capital Doha are covered by the sewage networks (Public Works Authority, 2005).