Population distribution and density in India – UPSC

In this article, You will read Population distribution and density in India – for UPSC (Population and Settlement Geography).

Population distribution and density in India

  • The population of the world or of any country is not uniformly distributed. The same is true about India also. Some parts of the country are densely populated, some parts moderately populated and some parts are sparsely populated.
  • At a regional level, India is characterized by the unevenness of distribution of population.
  • The density of population is expressed as the number of persons per square kilometer.
  • The average density of population in India is 382 persons/ square km. (Census 2011)
  • The unevenness is due to the varying size of states and wide variations in the resource base.
  • Population wise top 5 states which include Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana accounts for half of the country’s population.
  • On the other hand, Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, NE States account for less population.
  • According to the 2011 census, the density of population in India is 382 persons per square kilometre. Over the last 100 years density has increased more than four times. It has increased from 77 in 1901 to 382 in 2011. When we say that the density of the population of India is 382 persons per square kilometre, this does not mean that the population is exactly 382 persons in each and every square kilometre.
  • In reality, the distribution of population in India is highly uneven. The uneven density of population in India is clear from the fact that in Arunachal Pradesh the average number of population is only 17 persons per square kilometre, whereas it is 11,297 persons per square kilometre in Delhi as per the 2011 census.
density of population in india year-wise
density of population in india 2011
Population share of states and Union Territories

Temporal Analysis

  • Density of India decreased during 1911-21. Year 1921 is known as the year of the great divide.
Temporal analysis density

Spatial distribution of population

  • Spatial distribution of population density is classified into the following categories:
    • Areas of Extremely Low Density
    • Areas of Low Density
    • Areas of moderate Density
    • Areas of high Density
    • Areas of very high Density
  • Areas of Extremely Low Density:
    • Areas having 100 person per sq km and less than that at Included in this class.
    • They include Arunachal Pradesh (17), Mizoram (52), Andaman and Nicobar Islands (46), and Sikkim (86). Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram are located in remote and inaccessible parts of northeast India.
    • Sikkim is also a mountainous area with a low density of population. Andaman and Nicobar Islands is situated far away from the Indian mainland. The hot and humid climate of these islands is injurious to health and very little economic development has taken place here.
  • Areas of Low Density:
    • Areas having a population density of 101 to 250 persons per sq km are included in this class.
    • These states are Nagaland (119), Manipur (122), Himachal Pradesh (123), Jammu and Kashmir (124), Meghalaya (132), Chhattisgarh (189), Uttarakhand (1891), Rajasthan (201), and Madhya Pradesh (236). Meghalaya, Manipur, and Nagaland are hilly, forested, and dissected areas of northeast India.
    • These areas suffer from almost the same problems as those of Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram, although to a lesser extent. Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are parts of the north-western Himalayan region and have very little level land to support high population density.
    • Jammu and Kashmir have vast areas devoid of population. Only some parts of the Jammu region and Kashmir valley are thickly populated. Large stretches of Leh (Ladakh) and Kargil have a population density of less than ten persons per sq km. On the whole, Kargil has a population density of 10 persons/sq km while Leh (Ladakh) has only 3 persons per sq km. These are dry and cold areas and badly lack the basic amenities of life.
    • Rajasthan is the largest state of India. There are obviously large variations in the density of population in different parts of the state depending upon the local conditions. Most of Rajasthan is a sandy desert lacking in water resources and does not support high population density. Western parts of the state is having even less than 50 persons per sq km whereas eastern and northeastern parts of this state have sufficient resources and have a comparatively high density of population.
    • Madhya Pradesh is a part of the Deccan Plateau and is having rugged topography of hard rocks. Like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh has rigged topography, is thickly forested, and is largely inhabited by the tribal people. As such, the population density in this state also is low
  • Areas of Moderate Density
    • This class includes those areas which are having 251 to 500 persons per sq km. The average for the whole of India (382 persons per sq km) also falls in this class.
    • Odisha (269), Gujarat (308), Andhra Pradesh including Telangana (308), Karnataka (319), Tripura (350), Maharashtra (345), Goa (394), Assam (397), and Jharkhand (414) are included in this category.
    • These areas are wide apart from one another and there are different reasons for moderate density of population in different areas. For example. Assam has tea estates whereas Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Karnataka, and Jharkhand have agricultural and mineral resources.
    • Maharashtra is a highly urbanized and industrialized state. The neighboring state of Gujarat also has urban and industrial growth, although at a scale smaller than that of Maharashtra.
    • Among North Eastern states Tripura has sufficient level land which supports moderate population density.
  • Areas of High Density:
    • These are areas having a population density of 501 to 1000 per sq km. States and union territories included in this category are Punjab (550), Tamil Nadu (555), Haryana (573), Dadra & Nagar Haven (698), Uttar Pradesh (828), and Kerala (859).
    • Punjab and Haryana have highly developed agriculture based on heavy inputs in the form of high-yielding varieties of seeds, chemical fertilizers, and canal and tube-well irrigation.
    • Similarly, Tamil Nadu’s population is based on agriculture and industries. The coastal plain of Kerala is also very fertile. However, Kerala has started showing a decline in the growth rate of the population.
    • Uttar Pradesh is located in the fertile Ganga Plain and supports high population density.
  • Areas of Very High Density:
    • Areas having more than 1000 persons per sq km are termed as areas of very high population density.
    • West Bengal (1029), Bihar (1102), Lakshadweep (2013), Daman & Diu (2169) Pondicherry (2548). Chandigarh (9252) and Delhi (11,297) have a very high density of population due to different factors operating in different areas.
    • Like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar is located in the fertile plain of Ganga and supports a very high population density.
    • It seems that measures to control for population growth have not given the desired results and Bihar has now surpassed West Bengal as the state with the highest density of population among the major states.
    • West Bengal is located in the Ganga delta which is one of the most fertile areas of the world, producing 3-4 crops of rice in a year.
    • In addition, India’s biggest industrial cluster is located in the Hugli basin. These factors combine together to make West Bengal the second most densely populated state of India.
    • Among the union territories, Delhi has experienced one of the fastest population growths as a result of which its population density has increased considerably. This growth is primarily due to large-scale migration of people from the surrounding areas. People migrate to Delhi in large numbers in search of livelihood, and better amenities of life.
Spatial distribution of population

Causes of uneven distribution of population

  • Physical:
    • It is clear that climate along with terrain and availability of water largely determines the pattern of the population distribution.
    • Consequently, we observe that the North Indian Plains, deltas and Coastal Plains have higher proportion of population than the interior districts of southern and central Indian States, Himalayas, some of the north eastern and the western states.
    • However, development of irrigation (Rajasthan), availability of mineral and energy resources (Jharkhand) and development of transport network (Peninsular States) have resulted in moderate to high concentration of population in areas which were previously very thinly populated.
  • Socio-economic and historical factors:
    • Among the socio-economic and historical factors of distribution of population, important ones are evolution of settled agriculture and agricultural development; pattern of human settlement; development of transport network, industrialization and urbanization.
    • It is observed that the regions falling in the river plains and coastal areas of India have remained the regions of larger population concentration.
    • Even though the uses of natural resources like land and water in these regions have shown the sign of degradation, the concentration of population remains high because of an early history of human settlement and development of transport network.
    • On the other hand, the urban regions of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune, Ahmadabad, Chennai and Jaipur have high concentration of population due to industrial development and urbanization drawing a large numbers of rural-urban migrants.
Causes of uneven distribution of population

Factors influencing distribution and density of population

Factors influencing distribution and density of population

While some scholars attach more importance to natural factors Clarke and Zelenskey are of the view that cultural factors are more prominent in determining the concentration of population in an area.

According to Clarke the economic conditions, technological developments, social organization, government policy play a vital role in the distribution of the population.

Major factors influencing the distribution and density of population are described as under:

  • Terrain:
    • Terrain of land is a potent factor that influences the concentration and growth of the population. Normally speaking, plain areas encourage a higher density of population as compared to mountain regions. The steep slopes in mountain areas restrict the availability of land for agriculture, development of transport, industries, and other economic activities which may tend to discourage the concentration of population and its proper growth.
    • It is because of these adverse circumstances that the Himalayan region, though occupies about 13 percent of India’s land area, supports only 1-2 percent of the country’s population, in contrast to this, the Great Plain of North India is a land of extremely gentle slope and offers great opportunities for the growth of agriculture, transport, and industries. This results in a higher concentration of population.
    • Although the Great Plain of North India has less than 1/4th of the area but has more than 50% of the population.
  • Climate:
    • Climate is as important as the terrain in influencing a population. Of all the climatic factors, twin elements of rainfall and temperature play the most important role in determining the population of an area.
    • Man cannot go beyond the limits set by climate. Extremes of climate discourage the concentration of population. Such climates include the too cold climate of the Himalayas and the too hot and dry climate of the That Desert.
    • A moderate climate, on the other hand, is favorable for the population.
    • Of the twin factors of rainfall and temperature, rainfall is more effective in determining the distribution of population. It is generally said that the population map of India follows its rainfall map. Rainfall supplies sufficient water for agriculture which is the main occupation of Indian masses. As we .move from the Ganga-Brahmaputra Delta in the east towards the Thar Desert in the west, the amount of rainfall and consequently the density of population decreases.
    • However, there are a few exceptions to this general observation. The Assam valley in the northeast and the Circars coast on the Bay of Bengal has a moderate density of population although these areas receive heavy rainfall.
    • Similarly, the southern face of the Himalayas is scarcely populated though this area receives sufficiently high rainfall. Some of the adverse factors such as steep slopes, frequent floods, infertile soils, and dense forests counterbalance the positive effect of rainfall. Increased use of irrigation facilities in north-west India comprising
    • Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh have resulted in a higher concentration of population than normally expected considering the amount of rainfall received y this region.
  • Soil:
    • Soil plays an important factor for the agrarian economy.
    • The fertile soil of North India plains, the coastal plains and the black soil region of the Deccan plateau are densely populated.
  • Water bodies:
    • Population is generally concentrated in river valleys.
    • Water is needed for agriculture, irrigation, industries, and domestic purpose.
  • Mineral resources:
    • The availability of mineral resources also determine the population density of an area
    • For e.g. Chotanagpur region is rich in minerals comprised of high population density.
  • Industries:
    • One hectare of industrial land is capable of supporting several 1000 persons.
    • E.g. West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, etc.
  • Transport:
    • Transport and communication also determine the density of the population of an area.
    • E.g. Northern plains have a high network of roads and other modes of transportation comprise of higher population density in contrast to the peninsular plateau with a low network of transportation channels and thus having lower population density.
  • Urbanization:
    • Urbanization and population concentration go hand-in-hand and are closely related to each other. All the urban centers are marked by a high density of population.
    • The minimum density that an area should have to be designated as urban is 400 persons per sq km.
    • The highly urbanized districts of Kolkata, Chennai, Greater Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi, and Chandigarh have population densities of over 6,000 persons per sq km.
    • Delhi has the highest population density of 11297 persons per sq km as per 2011 census figures.
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