|India and neighbours Development |
Almost nowhere else in the world are social and economic disparities in the era of globalization as stark as in Southern Asia, where extremes of wealth and poverty coexist in close proximity to each other. India, the second-largest country in the world in terms of population, has experienced an enormous economic boom since the beginning of the 1990s, and in growth sectors such as information technology it has achieved a leading international position, but it nevertheless remains a developing country.
Social and Economic Disparities
Although India has recorded enormous growth rates in imports and exports in the last few years, millions of Indians live in oppressive poverty. Well over one-third of the Indian population have less than 1 US dollar per day available for all the necessities of life. These people count as living in absolute poverty, and as a rule they are chronically undernourished. The Human Development Index (HDI), compiled from a variety of components, gives an indication of those Indian states where living standards, life expectancy and levels of education are significantly below the national average. The country"s poorest inhabitants either live in the overflowing slums of India"s many megacities or in particularly rural regions. On the other hand, especially in the western half of the subcontinent, there are numerous states where average per capita income has increased disproportionately. Responsible for this development have been in particular the establishment of new sectors of industry and large international companies, the expansion of the entire service sector, natural advantages, and also targeted agrarian reforms and job creation measures.
Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal are among the poorest developing countries in the world. As in the poorest regions of India, in all three of these countries there is a lack not only of employment possibilities outside agriculture but also of the transport prerequisites for an economic upswing in the inaccessible high mountain valleys. This lack of infrastructure is reinforced by disadvantages such as their peripheral location. Bangladesh is affected by heavy flooding with disproportionate frequency. Further obstacles to an economic upswing are constant internal political disputes and rampant corruption.
Despite the armed conflict verging on civil war between the army and separatist Tamil rebels, Sri Lanka has experienced a strong economic upswing since the 1990s, which is also expressed in its relatively high state of development.
New Spatial Patterns: Bangalore
The South Indian metropolis of Bangalore (Bengaluru) with its 6.5 million inhabitants has developed in just a few years into a globally networked location for information and communication technologies of worldwide significance. Within India the city is still in the top position despite numerous new competitors such as Hyderabad or Madras (Chennai). Large state enterprises in mechanical engineering as well as in aerospace and armaments were already established there in the 1950s and 1960s. At the same time the development of renowned educational and research institutions was promoted. Thanks to these locational advantages, as well as the large number of well-educated, English-speaking and low-cost workers, an international computer boom started from the mid-1980s. In 2007 Bangalore had more than 1,300 computer companies with a total of some 170,000 employees. Areas of concentration of these technological sectors have emerged in high-rise office blocks in the inner city, in state-owned business parks, and more recently also in the form of private technology and business parks. Some distance away from the modern city centre there are slum settlements where some 1.5 million people live.
Climate and Agriculture
Rainfall in India occurs mainly as a consequence of the summer south-western monsoon. Artificial irrigation is therefore important in order to make the long dry period usable for cultivation and to compensate for the lack of rainfall. Irrigated land is especially important for cereal cultivation e.g. in the lowland plains of North India. On the Indus, its tributaries in the Punjab, and the Ganges, a wide belt of irrigation canals permits the cultivation of wet rice, maize, wheat and sugar cane. Cotton is also grown for export and for the local textile industry.
The storage of water for the dry period and its distribution via canals increases the area of production. In addition there is the possibility of achieving up to three harvests per year. When, as propagated in the "Green Revolution", fertilizers and the use of machinery contribute to more intensive cultivation and resource protection is not neglected, this can help to increase yields. A problem with this kind of intensification is shown by a comparison: for many small farmers the cost of the necessary investments exceeds their potential earnings. Thus, contrary to the original intentions, the main beneficiaries of the "Green Revolution" are only the larger, more efficient operations.
In the dry highland regions of the Dekkan, which are sheltered from the monsoon, only sorghum and peanut cultivation is possible outside of the valleys and the water-rich river delta. There is also cotton. Water is stored in these regions too, in so-called tanks (artificially-created reservoirs in natural basins). Wherever the possibility offers itself, the Indian government tries to construct new dams in order to produce electricity and irrigate new areas of land. This often happens without sufficient consideration of the human and ecological consequences. Well irrigation is also widespread. These wells are often operated with engine-driven pumps.
The coastal strip of the Dekkan, which receives plenty of rain from the monsoon, allows a manifold cultivation throughout the year without additional irrigation, including tropical fruits, coconut palms, wet rice and citrus fruits.
Drought and Soil Degradation
Despite a variety of irrigation measures, catastrophic droughts reoccur periodically. The areas that are particularly under threat are the dry regions, especially the Dekkan, the north-west of India and the major part of Pakistan. Large parts of the subcontinent are also affected by soil degradation. In irrigated areas, the greatest problem is soil salinization and the associated reduction in soil fertility. In dry regions this can be made worse by wind erosion. In mountainous parts of the country, soil erosion occurs as the result of rainfall; in the worst cases the upper soil horizons are completely lost, so that continued cultivation is impossible.
Conversion into irrigated land is a severe incursion into the water balance. Irrigation raises the groundwater level. This leads to extensive areas becoming waterlogged and also, due to climatic conditions, to widespread salinization. This changes the structure of the soils. If they are wet, they swell out and turn into a tough, sticky and impermeable mass. If dry, the ground becomes as hard as rock and starts to crack. Its use for agriculture is made more difficult and ultimately impossible. Even into the 1960s, in some places more land was lost to cultivation per year than was gained by the installation of new irrigation systems. An effective re-cultivation measure has proved to be vertical drainage, which is expensive and therefore limited to relatively small areas. The construction of deep electrically-operated wells can lower the level of the groundwater, and the water that is pumped out can also be used for irrigation.
K. Lückemeier, C. Dittrich, P. Gaffga, W. Storkebaum, E. Astor; Ü: J. Attfield
Keywords: Afghanistan airport aridity Bangalore Bangladesh Bhutan Burma communication degradation drought Human Development Index (HDI) India Information technology irrigation land use melioration monsoon Myanmar Nepal Pakistan per capita income port Southern Asia Sri Lanka transport access
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