With populations of about 10,000, Nauru and Tuvalu are the smallest Commonwealth member countries. They are also two of the world’s smallest democracies.
Nauru was admitted as the 187th member state of the United Nations in September 1999.
Nauru is a small oval-shaped island in the western Pacific Ocean.
Yaren (pop. 4,800 in 2010), Aiwo, Denigomodu, Uaboe, Anabar, Ijuw and Meneng. Nauru has no capital; government offices are in Yaren district.
A sealed road 19 km long circles the island. Other roads run inland to Buada District and the phosphate areas. A 5 km railway serves the phosphate workings and carries the phosphate to the dryers preparatory to loading on ships.
The airport is in the south-west of the island. The national airline, Our Airline, offers services to Guam, Fiji, and Brisbane and Melbourne in Australia.
Nauru is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Pacific Community, Pacific Islands Forum and United Nations.
Phosphate mining in the central plateau has left a barren terrain of jagged coral pinnacles, up to 15 metres high. A century of mining has stripped four-fifths of the land area. The island is surrounded by a coral reef, exposed at low tide and dotted with pinnacles. The island has a fertile coastal strip 150–300 metres wide. Coral cliffs surround the central plateau. The highest point of the plateau is 65 metres above sea level.
The climate is tropical, with sea breezes. North-east trade winds blow from March to October. Day temperatures range from 24 to 34°C; average humidity is 80 per cent. Rainfall is erratic and often heavy; average annual rainfall is 2,060 mm. The monsoon season is November to February. With the destruction of the forested areas on the plateau land to enable phosphate mining, climate changes have been noted with extensive dry periods. If global warming causes sea level to rise, the habitable low-lying land areas will be at risk from tidal surges and flooding.
The most significant environmental issues are devastation of some 90 per cent of the island by intensive phosphate mining during most of the 20th century, and dependence on an ageing desalination plant and collection of limited rainwater for water supply.
The only presently fertile areas are the narrow coastal belt, where there are coconut palms, pandanus trees and indigenous hardwoods such as the tomano, and the land surrounding Buada lagoon, where bananas, pineapples and some vegetables are grown. Some secondary vegetation grows over the coral pinnacles.
Many indigenous birds have disappeared or become rare, owing to destruction of their habitat, notably the noddy, or black tern. Frigate birds have traditionally been caught and tamed.