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Posts tagged Lesotho

Environmental Issues Affecting Orange River, South Africa

28.6S 16.4E

February 16th, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Rivers

South Africa – January 27th, 2013

Draining an area of just under 1million km2 or 77% of the land area of South Africa, the Orange River has its source in the Drakensberg mountains, but starts as the Senqu River in Lesotho. From here it flows westwards to the Atlantic Ocean. Here, it can be seen flowing more or less horizontally across the upper left quadrant of the image.

The headwaters are located at an altitude of 3300 m and consequently parts freeze in the winter months. After the town of Kimberly the river is joined by the Vaal river, its main tributary and from here it enters the arid region of the southern Kalahari and Namib desert. Dams along the river provide water for irrigation and hydropower, however because of the unpredictable flow and sand bar at the river mouth navigation is limited.

Given the length of the Orange River, combined with its range of altitude and climacteric zones, the basin covers a wide range of ecological systems, and can be regarded as being a linear oasis. Its bio-geographical isolation means that potential for re-colonisation from adjacent rivers and wetlands is very low. The river biota is therefore unusually susceptible to the permanent loss of species.

Its biomes contain a vast array of faunal and floral species variety with several endemic species. However, they also comprise areas facing environmental threats, such as the extinction of species and changes brought about by desertification. The economic utilisation of the Orange River’s water as well as the land use patterns in the basin strongly influences the environmental state of the river basin.

In this context four issues are of particular significance, namely the problem of soil erosion and wetland losses in Lesotho (the most severe problem), the impact of industrial and municipal effluent in the Vaal River system, agricultural pollution in the Vaal and Orange River and the environmental threats to the Orange River Estuary Ramsar site at the mouth (click here for more information).

Mountainous Terrain of Landlocked Lesotho – January 12th, 2012

29.5S 28.2E

January 12th, 2012 Category: Image of the day, Mountains

Lesotho and South Africa - January 11th, 2012

The mountainous area in the upper left quadrant of this orthorectified wide-swath ASAR image is part of Lesotho, a landlocked country and enclave, completely surrounded by its only neighboring country, South Africa. Lesotho covers 30,355 km2 (11,720 sq mi).

It is the only independent state in the world that lies entirely above 1,000 metres (3,281 ft) in elevation. Its lowest point of 1,400 metres (4,593 ft) is thus the highest in the world. Over 80% of the country lies above 1,800 metres (5,906 ft). Lesotho is also the southernmost landlocked country in the world.

Vegetation Index of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa – January 7th, 2010

28.8S 30.4E

January 7th, 2010 Category: Climate Change, Image of the day

South Africa - December 17th, 2009

South Africa - December 17th, 2009

While South Africa has a great wealth of flowering plants, only 1% of South Africa is forest, almost exclusively in the humid coastal plain of KwaZulu-Natal, where there are also areas of Southern Africa mangroves in river mouths.

This fact is reflected in the vegetation index show in this FAPAR image, as the red and dark green areas indicative of high photosynthetic activity are mostly located in the KwaZulu-Natal Province.

There are even smaller reserves of forests that are out of the reach of fire, known as montane forests. Plantations of imported tree species are predominant, particularly the non-native eucalyptus and pine.

South Africa has lost a large area of natural habitat in the last four decades, primarily due to overpopulation, sprawling development patterns and deforestation during the nineteenth century. The original temperate forest found by the first European settlers was exploited ruthlessly until only small patches remained.

South Africa is also one of the worst affected countries in the world when it comes to invasion by alien species with many posing a significant threat to the native biodiversity and the already scarce water resources.

Mountains and Hills of KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa

29.7S 30.7E

December 15th, 2009 Category: Lakes, Rivers

South Africa - November 30th, 2009

South Africa - November 30th, 2009

This orthorectified image shows the three different geographic areas of the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. The lowland region along the Indian Ocean coast is extremely narrow in the south, widening in the northern part of the province. The central region is the Natal Midlands and is an undulating hilly plateau rising towards the west. There are also two mountainous areas, the Drakensberg Mountains in the west and the Lebombo Mountains in the north.

The Drakensberg is a solid wall of basalt rising over 3,000 m (9,800 ft) skyward near the Lesotho border, whilst the Lebombo Mountains are ancient granite mountains forming low parallel ranges running southward from Swaziland. The Tugela River flows west to east across the center of the province and is the region’s largest river.

Visible near the right edge is the reservoir created by the Inanda Dam on the Umgeni River, in the Valley of a Thousand Hills below Hillcrest. The Umgeni River, occasionally called the Mgeni River, rises in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands and meets the sea at Durban. The river is approximately 232 km long with a catchment area of 4,432 km².

The Orange River, Delineating the Border between South Africa and Namibia

March 1st, 2009 Category: Rivers

Orange River, border  of South Africa and Namibia - February 22nd, 2009

Orange River, border of South Africa and Namibia - February 22nd, 2009

The Orange River, the dark line through the center, is the longest river in South Africa, with a total length of 2200 km (1367 mi).

It rises in the Drakensberg mountains in Lesotho (where it is known as the Senqu River), and flows westwards through South Africa to the Atlantic Ocean.

The river forms part of the international borders between South Africa (below) and Namibia (above) and between South Africa and Lesotho (not visible here), as well as several provincial borders within South Africa.

Although the river does not pass through any major cities, it plays an important role in the South African economy by providing water for irrigation, as well as hydroelectric power.

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