Congo

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Fishermen rowing on a wooden boat. Dzanga river, Central African Republic
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY

In the heart of Africa

The Congo is the largest river in Western Central Africa and the second longest in Africa (after the Nile). The river and its tributaries flow through the second largest rain forest area in the world, second only to the Amazon in South America.

The river also has the second-largest flow in the world, behind the Amazon, and the second-largest watershed of any river, again trailing the Amazon; its watershed is slightly larger than that of the Mississippi River. Because large sections of the river basin lie above and below the equator, its flow is stable, as there is always at least one river experiencing a rainy season.

The sources of the Congo are in the highlands and mountains of the East African Rift, as well as Lake Tanganyika (which divides 4 countries – Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Tanzania and Zambia) and Lake Mweru (on the border between Zambia and Democratic Republic of the Congo), which feed the Lualaba River, which then becomes the Congo River below Boyoma Falls.

Although the Livingstone Falls prevent access from the sea, nearly the entire Congo is readily navigable in sections, especially between Kinshasa and Kisangani in the Republic of the Congo.

Current threats
Loss and degradation of habitat, loss of vegetative cover, decline in the population of key species, decline of fish populations, land degradation and desertification, land erosion and land slides, sedimentation of rivers and river pollution

There is a proposal to increase the capacity of the Inga Dams through improvements and the construction of a new hydroelectric dam, termed the Grand Inga. The project would bring the maximum output of the facility to 40 GW, twice that of China's Three Gorges Dam.
Countries
Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo

Basin population
> 60 million

Size
3,680,000 km2

Length
4,667 km

Key species
Gorillas. The forests of the Congo Basin contain the greatest number of mammals, primates, birds, amphibians, fish and swallowtail butterflies in Africa. More than a 1,000 species of bird can be found here.

Livelihood facts
Agriculture

Related links
Sources

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