Five Fun Facts About International Borders

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Many of us probably think of checkpoints and barriers when we think about borders between international countries, particularly border crossings.  Borders can demark more than just the transition from one country to another.  Borders can highlight the effects of different policies (or lack thereof) can have on the environment from one country to the next.  Borders can also be almost unnoticeable, with residents of separate countries living right next to each other.

Longest Border

The longest continuous international border is the United States/Canadian border and is 5,525 miles long.  The entire length of the border has a stripped of deforested land measuring 20 feet across. Robert Krulwich of NPR dives deeper into the oddities of this border in his piece ‘Don’t touch me,’ said Canada. ‘I won’t,’ said the US. So, they moved 20 feet apart.  Included is a short video by C. Grey which provides a comedic look at the history of the border between the US and Canada:

Highest Border

The international border between China and Nepal crosses the precise summit point of Mount Everest which peaks at 8,848 metres (29,029 ft) above sea level, making it the highest border in the world.  

Mount Everest from Kalapatthar.  Photo: Pavel Novak, CC BY-SA 2.5, MediaWiki Commons.
Mount Everest from Kalapatthar. Photo: Pavel Novak, CC BY-SA 2.5, MediaWiki Commons.

Most Guarded Border

The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a strip of land 250 kilometres (160 miles) long, approximately 4 km (2.5 mi) wide that separates North and South Korea.  Created in 1953, it is considered the most heavily guarded border in the world.  The area of land within this zone is almost exclusively uninhabited by humans and has become the world’s most well-preserved region of temperate habitat.  A number of endangered species such two of the world’s most endangered bird species, the red-crowned crane, and the white-naped crane safely occupy the area despite the number land mines (CNN, 2003).  There have also been possible sightings of the very rare Korean tiger, Amur leopard, and Asiatic black bear. Ecologists have identified some 2,900 plant species, 70 types of mammals and 320 kinds of birds within the narrow buffer zone.

"Bridge of no return" in Panmunjeom (border between South Korea and North Korea). Photo: Filzstift, CC BY-SA 3.0, MediaWiki Commons
“Bridge of no return” in Panmunjeom (border between South Korea and North Korea). Photo: Filzstift, CC BY-SA 3.0, MediaWiki Commons

Most Divided Border Town

The Belgium town of Baarle-Hertog is complicatedly intertwined with the town of Baarle-Nassau in south Netherlands.  There are 26 enclaves of Baarle-Hertog, the smallest of which (H22 on the map) is only 2,632 square metres (about 28,330 square feet) in area.  The puzzles pieces of Baarle-Hertog date back to medieval treaties, agreements, land-swaps and sales between the Lords of Breda and the Dukes of Brabant.

Map showing the border between Belgium and the Netherlands at Baarle-Nassau. Map: Tos, Public Domain, MediaWiki Commons
Map showing the border between Belgium and the Netherlands at Baarle-Nassau. Map: Tos, Public Domain

The intricate border pattern is marked by iron cross pins that indicate with a tiled B for Belgium on one side and a tiled NL on the other which country is which.

Café in Baarle-Nassau (Netherlands), on the border with Belgium. The border is marked on the ground. Photo: Jérôme, CC BY-SA 3.0, MediaWiki Commons
Café in Baarle-Nassau (Netherlands), on the border with Belgium. The border is marked on the ground. Photo: Jérôme, CC BY-SA 3.0, MediaWiki Commons

Most Lit Up Border

Most borders, being a political line that doesn’t necessarily follow natural structures, are pretty invisible lines.  NASA posted a striking photo taken on August 21, 2011 from the International Space Station showing the clearly visible lit up border between India and Pakistan.  The orange lights and fencing were installed by the Indian government along parts of its border with Pakistan to thwart smuggling and arms trafficking.

Photo of the Indo-Gangetic Plain taken from the International Space Station showing the orange lit border between India and Pakistan.  Source: NASA, August 2011.
Photo of the Indo-Gangetic Plain taken from the International Space Station showing the orange lit border between India and Pakistan. Source: NASA, August 2011, public domain.

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