The vast continent of Asia is blessed with rich natural resources, such as, soil, water, forest and mineral wealth. These rich resources have been utilized by countries in different parts of the continent in a variety of ways. Of all the resources, soil is perhaps the most important resource of Asia and therefore, agriculture is the chief means of livelihood for about 75% of the Asian population. Besides agriculture, animal rearing, fisheries, forests and mining are some of the important occupations. And, in recent years, due to advancement of science and technology, mineral resources are being utilized to develop manufacturing industries.
A vast area of Asia is covered by hills, mountains, plateaus, deserts and snow. Only one-sixth of the total land of Asia is cultivable. So, agriculture is mainly carried out in the river valleys which have fertile plains and rich deposits brought down by perennial river. Some of the major river valleys of Asia used for agriculture includes Tigris and Euphrates, Ganges, Brahmaputtra, Hwang-Ho and Si Kiang. Irrawaddy, Menam and Mekong, etc.
Despite the scarcity of cultivable land, different types of agriculture are still practiced in different parts of Asia. The oldest and most primitive method of agriculture is practiced by the tribes of North-Eastern India, Malaysia and Indonesia. The other common type of agriculture is intensive agriculture. In this type of agriculture, farmers try to increase output from their small fields by using irrigation, high yielding varieties of seeds, fertilizers and insecticides. This type of agriculture is practiced by farmers of India, Nepal, Bangladesh and China. Commercial agriculture is practiced in the grassy plains of Central and West Siberia. Wheat is grown in large farms as commercial crops with the help of agricultural machines. Plantation agriculture is practiced in parts of India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Philippines. It is a highly specialized form of commercial agriculture where only cash crops are grown for national and international markets. Tea, coffee, rubber, bananas and oil palm are some of the main crops grown in plantation agriculture.
Animal rearing has been practiced in Asia for centuries. The nomadic tribes of Saudi Arabia and Kirghiz of Central Asia still practice animal rearing as an important occupation. They move with their animals from place to place in search of food and water. Camels, goats, sheep and cattle are reared and are also used as beasts of burden for transportation.
With the development and growth in agricultural practice in most parts of Asia, domesticating and rearing of animal grew along side. Animals such as cows, buffaloes, pigs, donkeys, etc are reared for milk, food, as a beast of burden and even for agricultural purposes. Beef cattle rearing and dairying are also carried out with the help of modern technology in some parts of Asia.
Fishing is an important means of livelihood for people living in coastal regions of Asia. The long coastline of Asia has helped in development of fishing as an industry in countries like Japan and Russia. Other countries where fishing is an important occupation are China, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Besides catching fish in seas and oceans, fish-farming in lakes, reservoirs and tanks, known as aquaculture, is also done in China and Japan.
Forest is also an important resource of Asia. About one bird of the total land area of Asia is covered by forest. The tropical evergreen forests of Asia produce hardwood, bamboo and sandalwood used for different purposes. They also provide other valuable forests products, such as, resin, turpentine, medicinal plants and herbs. The evergreen coniferous forests of Siberia also produce softwood from trees such as pine, birch, cedar, fir, etc. These soft woods are used for making paper, newsprint, matchsticks and synthetic fibres.
MINERALS AND POWER RESOURCES
Asia is known for its large deposits of mineral and power resources. Vast deposits of iron ore is found China, Russia, India, Malaysia, Japan and North Korea. Coal is found in large quantities in Asia. China, India, Kazakhstan and Siberia of Russia are known for large deposits of coal. Manganese and bauxite (an ore of aluminium) is found in Russia, China, India, Kazakhstan and Indonesia. India is the world’s largest producer of mica. Large amount of gold, silver and copper is also found in Asia. Petroleum is an important power resource of Asia. Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq and Russia are major oil producing countries in Asia. Hydroelectricity is also another important power resource of Asia. Countries such as Russia, Japan, China and India are using hydroelectricity significantly. Nepal and Pakistan have a high potential of developing hydroelectricity.
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DIVISION OF ASIA ON THE BASIS OF ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES AND SOCIAL LIFE
a) The Northern Region: This region consists of countries separated from USSR and Western China. The climate is very cold in winter with heavy snowfall. It is a vast lowland plain but still not very developed. To the South of the lowland, there is grassy plain called steppe. Rain deer rearing is done in some parts. Coniferous forest called Taiga is the main source of income. The lifestyle is medium level. Coal, gold, petroleum mines are there in large amount.
b) The South-West Region (Middle East): This region consists of Arabian Peninsula, fertile plains of Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and Iran and Afghanistan. The climate is dry with poor vegetation, except the fertile banks of Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The density of population is very low. The life in the desert region is very difficult. Here the people depend upon the camel for their economy and living. Camel is also called “Ship of the desert”. Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s leading exporters of oil and oil products and has large density of population. Most of the people are Muslim.
c) The Southern Region: Countries like Nepal, Bhutan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan are included in this region. The main occupation of the people is agriculture. It is gradually developing in the field of trade and business. The density of population is very high in this region. It is rich in culture as this region is the center of ancient civilization. As this region is the origin place of Hinduism and Buddhism and culture, it is considered as the origin place of Eastern Civilization.
d) The South-East region: There are ten countries in this region. They are; Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Some of these countries are large groups of islands. This region is developing fast in agriculture, trade and business. The density of population very high. Countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines are developing very fast in their economy.
e) The Eastern Region: China, Korea and Japan are the important countries of this region. They are very advanced in industries, trade and business. This region is popular for modern fishery occupation. There are iron, copper, petrol mines also. The population density is very high. Most of the people are Buddhists. This region is rich in culture being the center of ancient civilization
f) Middle West Asia: The economic status and lifestyle in this region is not satisfactory due to extreme climate. Agriculture and industries are not developed in the countries of this region like Western China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, etc. Animal husbandry is the main occupation. Food crop is produced in little amount. The lifestyle is nomadic type.
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