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Geography, climate and population
Viet Nam is located in the eastern part of the Indochina peninsula, bordered by China in the north, the South China Sea in the east and south, the Gulf of Thailand in the southwest, and Cambodia and Lao People’s Democratic Republic in the west. The total area of the country is 331 052 km2 (Table 1). The country is divided into 64 provinces including the capital Hanoi. Based on topographic, climatic and socio-economic conditions, these provinces are grouped into eight regions from north to south: North West, North East, Red river delta, North Central Coast, South Central Coast, Central Highland, South East and Mekong river delta.
Mountains and hills cover more than three-quarters of the territory, although over 70 percent of the country lies below 500 m above sea level. Viet Nam has a dense hydrographic network. About 25 percent of the total land area is covered by plains, the most important being the Bac Bo in the north and Nam Bo in the south, corresponding to the courses of the Red river and Mekong river respectively.
In 2009, the total cultivated area was 9.63 million ha, of which 6.28 million ha was arable land and 3.35 million ha under permanent crops. Rice is by far the largest crop, followed by amongst others maize, coffee, rubber, tubers, vegetables and coconut.
Viet Nam is located in a complicated climatic zone: hot, humid and rainy. It is characterized by a subtropical climate with four separate seasons – spring, summer, autumn and winter – in the north and a tropical climate with only two seasons – dry and wet – in the south. Average annual precipitation is around 1 820 mm. It varies from an average 1 600 to 2 200 mm in the midlands and plains and 2 000 to 2 500 mm in the mountainous areas. A minimum of 650 mm can be found in Phan Rang in the South Central region and a maximum of 4 760 mm in Bac Quang in the North East region. The rainy season lasts from April-May to October-November.
The driest periods are either from December to February or from January to March depending on specific location. Central Viet Nam is often affected by hurricanes and storms and very large waves from the South China Sea. Annual average evaporation is 953 mm. Average temperature varies from 15 °C in winter to 25 °C in summer. Temperature during the hottest days is 38-40 °C and, during the coldest days, 11-14 °C in the north.
The total population in 2009 was around 86.9 million, of which 70 percent lived in rural areas (Table 1). The estimated average annual population growth rate for 1999-2009 was an estimated 1. 1 percent. Population density in 2009 was about 263 inhabitants/km2.
In 2008, the rate of urban population with access to improved water supply was 99 percent whereas that of the rural population was 92 percent.