Economic Geography: Resource distribution
One of the reasons for disparities in development among nations of the world is the spatial variation in the types of resources available. Besides the contrasts in physical environment such as climate soils, vegetation, and animal life, mineral and power resources are distributed unevenly. Besides uneven distribution of resources, there is also disparity in the development of resources. Development of a resource like water power needs technical know-how and other infra structural facilities. Though the continent of Africa has abundance of potential for water power development, the developed water power is small. Let us examine the resources and their availability.
Resources may be defined as materials, which occur in the environment, and which satisfy human wants. Apart from the land and soils, oceans, vegetation, animal life and minerals, people are also valuable resources as they provide manpower for development. All things, which occur in the environment, are potential resources. Coal and oil acquired resource value only when their use came to be known. Rubber trees acquired resource value when the demand for rubber increased. Air and water are basic resources needed for-sustaining living organisms on the earth. Natural endowments thus become resources when man finds a use for them.
Resources may be classified according to the source from which they are derived. Thus we have agricultural resources, animal resources, forest resources, fishing resources, mineral resources etc. These are grouped into biotic resources and abiotic resources. A more useful grouping is to classify them as renewable and non-renewable resources. Renewable resources are those, which are not likely to be exhausted. They can be used over and over again. Biotic resources obtained from the living environment are generally renewable. Crops may be cultivated every year from the same field. Animals rearing can be carried on year after year. Non-renewable resources are minerals and power resources, which can be exhausted in course of time.
With increasing population and increasing per capita consumption even renewable resources arc getting exhausted. The forest resources of the world are rapidly getting depleted especially in the developing countries where wood is the main source of domestic fuel. The rate of destruction of forest is much in excess of rate of growth of trees. Hill slopes have become barren resulting in soil erosion. This leads to land degradation resulting in land becoming unsuited for cultivation. Similarly fishing resources is getting depleted owing to over fishing in some of the major fishing grounds. Even underground water resources have got exhausted as drawal of water is in excess of the rate of seepage of water. Thus some of the renewable resources are getting depleted in recent years.
In the case of power resources, the search for renewable sources of energy has become significant. The known reserves of oil are likely to last for a few decades only. Solar power, geothermal power, tidal power, power from waves, biogas, etc., are being developed. Mini hydroelectric power plants have been set up. The use of non-conventional and renewable sources of energy is being gradually stepped up in order to conserve the reserves of fossil fuel such as coal, oil and natural gas.
The development of natural resources depends on the needs and aspirations of people and the level of technological developments. Therefore the development of human resources is pre-requisite for resource development. The vast resources of North America had no value for the Red Indians as their needs are limited and they lacked technical skill. The resources acquired value when people from Europe settled there. After independence we had greater freedom to develop our resources according to our aspirations. We started new steel plants, developed irrigation facilities, set up hydro-electrical and thermal power station and increased the production of food grains and consumer goods.
Next: Economic Geography: Resource pattern