DRC has a land area of 234 million hectares and a population of 57 million people. It lies entirely within the Congo Basin with 42 km of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. The climate is tropical, hot and humid in the equatorial belt; cooler and drier in the southern highlands; cooler and wetter in the eastern highlands.
With a total forest cover estimated between 128 and 135 million hectares, DRC has the greatest extent of tropical rainforests in Africa. Most of these are moist evergreen forests which account for more than a third of the country’s forests. Other forest types in DRC include semi-deciduous forests, and submontane and montane closed forests. Swamp forests are also extensive in DRC covering about 20 million hectares, primarily in the central basin. Overall, the country is known to have more than 11,000 species of plants, 450 mammals, 1,150 birds, 300 reptiles, and 200 amphibians some of which are extinct elsewhere in Africa.
Annual deforestation between 1990 and 2000 was estimated at 532,000 ha (0.4%) mainly from uncontrolled fires, mining and hydroelectric projects. For a country with vast forests, exceedingly high biodiversity, extraordinary hydroelectric potential, about 25% of the word’s supply in cobalt, 6% of copper, 18% of industrial diamonds, and much more, the GDP per capita in DRC was only US$300 in 2008. Perhaps this might change in the future as the government tries to balance the needs to conserve forests with the needs of its increasingly destitute population.
A new and comprehensive forest code (Law 11/2002) promulgated in 2002 describes the institutions and responsibilities in relation to forest management and lays down prescriptions for national forest planning and forest management. A number of ministerial decrees to implement the code and to manage the country’s biodiversity are being promulgated. RDC is also signatories to several international agreements on environmental practices and policies.