Draft:Groundwater in Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the largest country in sub-Saharan Africa. Between the 14th and 19th centuries, the kingdom of Kongo included much of the western part of present-day DRC, while in the centre and east the kingdoms of Luba and Lunda ruled from the 16th and 17th to the 19th centuries. The region was made a personal colony of the Belgian King Leopold II in 1885, called the Congo Free State, and exploited for its natural resources, particularly rubber, through plantation agriculture using forced labour. During this time a large proportion of the Congolese population died as a result of exploitation and disease. Belgium annexed the territory as the Belgian Congo in 1908. Independence was gained in 1960 as the Republic of Congo, also known as Congo-Leopoldville; this was later changed to Zaire in 1971 and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997.
Since independence, the DRC has experienced extensive political, civil and military conflict, including civil wars, involvement in conflict in neighbouring countries, coup d’etats, and widespread internal unrest. The Second Congo War, from 1998 to 2003, has been called the deadliest global conflict since the Second World War, killing between 2.5 and 5.5 million people and involving nine countries. The official end to this conflict did not end unrest or instability. Human rights organisations warn that political unrest in 2016 and 2017 has sparked a new rise in conflict that risks spreading across the country again.
The DRC has one of the lowest GDPs per capita in the world. It has vast mineral resources, including cobalt, diamonds, copper, gold, uranium and oil, which generated up to 70% of export revenue in the 1970s and 80s. However, revenues are vulnerable to price fluctuations in global markets, and foreign investment in the mining industry is hard to attract in the climate of instability and poor infrastructure. Control over natural, especially mineral, resources has played a part in conflict, and a large proportion of DRC’s mineral exports is thought to be illegally traded. Small scale artisanal mining is also important to the informal economy. The dense forest that covers much of the country is a rich timber resource, but, along with very poor infrastructure, also impedes transportation. The DRC obtains electricity from hydroelectric stations on the Congo River, as well as some coal and oil. Subsistence agriculture supports most of the population; commercial plantation is beginning to expand again after declining during the Congo wars, and supports key the export crops of coffee and rubber.
With high rainfall and major perennial rivers, the DRC is a water-rich country, but water supply infrastructure is poor. Despite the abundance of surface waters, the vast majority of the population is dependent on groundwater for water supplies, especially from springs, which provide the main source of drinking water for up to 90% of the rural population.