British Indian Ocean Territory: Background & Geography

Introduction British Indian Ocean Territory
Established as a territory of the UK in 1965, a number of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) islands were transferred to the Seychelles when it attained independence in 1976. Subsequently, BIOT has consisted only of the six main island groups comprising the Chagos Archipelago. The largest and most southerly of the islands, Diego Garcia, contains a joint UK-US naval support facility. All of the remaining islands are uninhabited. Former agricultural workers, earlier residents in the islands, were relocated primarily to Mauritius but also to the Seychelles, between 1967 and 1973. In 2000, a British High Court ruling invalidated the local immigration order that had excluded them from the archipelago, but upheld the special military status of Diego Garcia.
Geography British Indian Ocean Territory
archipelago in the Indian Ocean, south of India, about one-half the way from Africa to Indonesia
Geographic coordinates:
6 00 S, 71 30 E
Map references:
Political Map of the World
total: 60 sq km
note: includes the entire Chagos Archipelago
water: 0 sq km
land: 60 sq km
Area - comparative:
about 0.3 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries:
0 km
698 km
Maritime claims - as described in UNCLOS 1982 (see Notes and Definitions):
territorial sea: 3 NM
exclusive fishing zone: 200 NM
tropical marine; hot, humid, moderated by trade winds
flat and low (most areas do not exceed four meters in elevation)
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Diego Garcia 15 m
Natural resources:
coconuts, fish, sugarcane
Land use:
arable land: NEGL
permanent crops: 0%
other: 100% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
0 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
Environment - current issues:
Geography - note:
archipelago of 2,300 islands; Diego Garcia, largest and southernmost island, occupies strategic location in central Indian Ocean; island is site of joint US-UK military facility

See Also: