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Mali - Enviornment

Mali Environment

At nearly twice the size of France the landlocked republic of Mali is one of the largest West African countries but has fewer people per square mile than any other. It's shaped like a bow tie after a long night - twisted to a 45° angle and with the left side smaller than the right. It's hemmed in by Niger, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia on its eastern edge; Guinea and Senegal to the south; Mauritania to the west; and Algeria to the north. The northern region of Mali is nearly all Saharan desert and a whopping chunk of the middle is a belt of arid semi-desert, the Sahel. Mali's major geographical feature is the Niger River, which runs right up to the edge of the Sahara before turning right and heading back to the ocean. In the upper southern region the Niger and Bani rivers join to form a rich inland delta but it is only in the lower southern regions where rainfall is reliable that the dryness gives way to small pockets of natural forest.

Climate and environment are working overtime to bury Mali under a tonne of sand and 65% of the country is now desert or semi-desert. The rapid desertification of Mali is due to on-going droughts, over-grazing, topsoil erosion, harsh desert winds, and the scavenging of trees for firewood. It's hardly surprising, therefore, that Mali is almost totally without lush forests or abundant wildlife. In fact, Baoule National Park, 130km (80mi) northwest of Bamako, is about the only bit of green you'll see in the country, and the few lions, giraffes, buffalo and hippo that are there are all a bit lonely.

Although it cools down a little toward the end of the year the temperature in Mali, particularly in the north, is either hot or hotter than hell, often reaching temperatures above 40°C (104°F). The humid rainy season is June to September although this really only applies to the south. In the Sahel rain can be variable, and in the north it's scarcer than hens' teeth. Dusty Harmattan winds blowing off the desert between December and February covers the sandy cities with a fine layer of dust.

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