Suriname, or Surinam, a country in South America. Formerly, as a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, it was also called Dutch Guiana. It lies at the northern edge of the continent, facing the Atlantic Ocean, and is bordered by Guyana, French Guiana, and Brazil. Suriname extends about 250 miles (400 km) inland and measures about the same east and west. The area is 63,037 square miles (163,265 km 2 ).
Along the coast and extending 10 to 50 miles (16 to 80 km) inland is a low, often swampy plain. Beyond, on somewhat higher land, is a narrow region of savanna that blends gradually into the dense equatorial forest covering the remainder of Suriname. Much of the interior is occupied by the low, rounded mountain ranges of the Guiana Highlands. Here, in the Wilhelmina Mountains, is Suriname's highest elevation, 4,200 feet (1,280 m).
Many rivers flow from the highlands to the Atlantic Ocean. The larger streams—such as the Corantijn, Coppename, and Suriname—have wide, deep estuaries. Inland, where the rivers are swift-flowing and broken by rapids and falls, Suriname's great waterpower potential is beginning to be tapped by such projects as the Afobaka Dam on the Suriname River.
The climate is tropical, with high humidity and temperatures that vary only slightly from daily highs of about 88 F. (31 C.) and lows near 72 F. (22 C.). Rainfall is heaviest from April through July; it totals 70 to 90 inches (1,780 to 2,290 mm) annually.
Most of the people live near the coast, especially in or near Paramaribo, the capital. The two largest population groups are Creoles (persons of mixed African and European ancestry) and East Indians. Other groups are Javanese, Maroons (descendants of escaped slaves who live in the jungle), American Indians, and a small number of Europeans and Chinese. Dutch is the official language; others spoken include English, Hindi, Javanese, Chinese, and a local English dialect called Sranan Tongo. The principal religions are Hinduism, Islam, and Roman Catholicism.
Suriname has extensive deposits of bauxite, and the economy is largely built on the mining and processing of this aluminum ore. Bauxite, alumina, and aluminum make up most of the exports.
Farming is done mostly on the coastal plain, where systems of dikes, canals, and pumps drain the land and supply irrigation water during the dry seasons. There are a few plantations, but most farms are small. Rice occupies most of the cultivated land. Also important are citrus fruits, palm oil, bananas, and sugar. Hardwood timber is cut in the interior.
Except for the aluminum industry, manufacturing is not greatly developed. Lumber, plywood, and paper are produced for export and for local markets. Small factories supply food, beverages, soap, and many other locally consumed items. Much of the interior is inaccessible, but small boats can travel far up many of the rivers, Suriname's chief source of transportation. Small airstrips are scattered throughout the interior. Paramaribo is the chief seaport. The 51 members of Suriname's National Assembly are elected by the people for 5-year terms. The president and vice president are elected by the National Assembly for 4-year terms. The vice president possesses authority over the Council of Ministers, who are appointed by the president.
|Facts in brief about Suriname|
|Official language: Dutch.|
|Area: 63,251 mi2 (163,820 km2). Coastline—226 mi (364 km). Greatest distances—north-south, 285 mi (459 km); east-west, 280 mi (451 km).|
|Elevation: Highest—Mount Juliana Top, 4,200 ft (1,280 m). Lowest—sea level.|
|Population: Current estimate—458,000; density, 7 per mi2 (3 per km2); distribution, 74 percent urban, 26 percent rural. 2004 census—492,829.|
|Chief products: Aluminum, bananas, bauxite, rice.|
|National anthem: "Opo Kondre Man Oen Opo" ("Arise People, Arise").|
|Flag: Suriname's flag has five horizontal stripes of green, white, red, white, and green (top to bottom). A yellow star lies in the center of the middle red stripe.|
|Money: Basic unit—Suriname dollar. One hundred cents equal one dollar.|