• Unit 8: South Asia

    South Asia is the birthplace of two of the world's largest religions: Hinduism and Buddhism. Today, South Asia also includes a large Muslim population and many followers of other religions. South Asia is an active region tectonically and home to Earth's highest mountains. It is also known for its monsoon winds. Like the other regions we have explored, South Asia has its own history of colonization that is still evident today. Religious and ethnic conflicts also characterize this region.

    In this unit, we explore and analyze the diverse physical, cultural, political, and economic characteristics of South Asia. First, we look at the physical geography of the region, paying special attention to its climate and the monsoon weather pattern. Then, we explore the region's population growth, including the pattern of urbanization and the impact of megacities.

    Balancing natural capital and population growth remains a major issue in the region. South Asia is highly populated, with about 1.8 billion people across a wide range of ethnic and cultural groups. We close out this unit by analyzing its globalizing forces.

    Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

    • 8.1: Maps of South Asia

      Let's begin our examination of South Asia by studying a map of the region.

    • 8.2: South Asia's Physical Geography

      Let's look at the physical geography of South Asia, including the dynamic forces behind the monsoon weather pattern and the Himalayas mountains. The topographic relief of the region ranges from Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth with an elevation of 8,848 m, to the Maldives, the country with the lowest elevation on Earth at less than one meter high.

      The variation in precipitation is also dramatic, with deserts in India and Pakistan and monsoon conditions in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. The two rainiest places on Earth are in India along the northeast border of Bangladesh, the country with the tenth-highest average annual precipitation.

    • 8.3: Human Settlement and Culture in South Asia

      How have the residents of South Asia adapted to the changes in their physical environment during the past tens of thousands of years? Climate change in the form of unpredictable monsoon winds, rising sea levels, higher temperatures, and other effects have challenged their existing settlement patterns.

    • 8.4: South Asia's Modern Landscape and Future Challenges

      It is appropriate to take a moment to discuss population geography since South Asia has such a high rate of population growth. Population geography is a specialization within the subdiscipline of human geography. Population geographers study the spatial distribution and characteristics of communities and the density of their settlements. In addition to GIS and the other geospatial technologies we described in Unit 1, population geographers use a variety of characteristics, measures, and tools to learn about the spatial variations of populations. Let's consider just a few of them as we learn how high population growth is straining the resources of South Asia.

      The population density, or number of people who live per square mile, in the countries in South Asia is staggering. Many people live in overcrowded conditions. The physiologic density, or number of people who live per square mile of arable land, is even higher. As we saw in North Africa and Southwest Asia, deserts and mountainous terrain dominate the physical landscapes of many South Asian countries. Consequently, the arable land is limited to river valleys and lowlands. In addition to physical geography, other countries, such as Bhutan and Maldives, are limited by geographic area.

      South Asia's countries continue to grow to the point that the region's population will double in approximately 50 years. Remember the stages of economic development we studied in Section 4.3 of this course. It is more difficult for countries that have a lower doubling time to transition through the stages of economic development.

      Make sure you can respond to these questions after you complete the next reading and video.

      • Why is South Asia's population so ethnically and linguistically diverse?
      • Why is South Asia overpopulated, and why is this their biggest challenge?
      • What specific challenges does South Asia face?
      • What is the difference between arithmetic density and physiologic density?
      • What is agricultural density?
    • Unit 8 Assessment

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