Land and Resources, Natural Resources
Deccan Plateau, tropical evergreen, Gangetic Plain, alluvial deposits, red soils
India’s most important natural resources are land and water. About 54.4 percent of the land area is arable, and groundwater resources are considerable. The Gangetic Plain is one of India’s most fertile regions. The soils of this region were formed by the alluvial deposits of the Ganges and its tributaries. In this area, as well as in the peninsular deltas, groundwater is plentiful and close to the surface, making year-round irrigation possible. These regions may produce two or three harvests a year. Most of India’s wheat and rice are grown here.
The black and red soils of the Deccan Plateau, although not as thick as the Gangetic Plain alluvium, are also fertile. The groundwater resources of the Deccan are significant but more difficult to reach, so most farmers rely on the monsoons for water. Farmers typically grow a single crop, including coarse grains such as sorghum, maize (corn), millet, and cotton.
Forests constitute another natural resource for India, with woodlands covering 21.6 percent of its land area. India’s highly varied climate and land produce diverse forests. The majority are deciduous, both tropical-dry, experiencing a significant dry season, and tropical-moist, receiving relatively uniform rainfall year-round. The remainder of forests range in type from tropical evergreen to Himalayan temperate and alpine. Major commercial tree species include teak, rosewood, and sal. Bamboo is a widely used construction material. Despite significant overuse of forest resources in the past, government and private efforts have reduced the rate of deforestation in natural forests and increased new plantations of trees, creating a modest net gain in forest cover since 1990.
The mineral resources of India include a vast belt of coal reserves stretching from the eastern part of Maharashtra state through Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand to West Bengal state. The same geographical area, with the addition of Orissa state, contains major deposits of bauxite. Iron ore is also found here, as well as in the Western Ghats in and around Goa. Other mineral deposits include manganese (found mainly in central India), copper, and chromite. There are significant oil and natural gas reserves in Assam and Gujarat states, and on the continental shelf off Maharashtra and Gujarat. India also has ample reserves of phosphate rock apatite, gypsum, limestone, and mica.
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