People have inhabited the earth for several thousands of years, but for a long period of time, their numbers remained limited. It is only during last few hundred years that human population has increased at an alarming rate. Population is spread unevenly across the continents. Only a few areas support large concentration of people while vast areas support few people. A large number of factors influence the distribution and growth of population over the earth’s surface.
T he factors influencing the distribution of population
Rugged mountains pose various obstacles such as unsuitable conditions for the construction of rail-roads and highways, unfavourable conditions for agricultural crops because of short growing season, lack of cultivable land and snowy winters do not encourage large settlement areas. Hence, the mountainous areas support a few people. On the other hand, a large concentration of population is found in the fertile lowlands such as the Ganges and Brahmaputra in India, Hwang-Ho in China and plains of North-Western Europe and the USA. This is mainly due to flat level land which is fertile, favourable conditions for agriculture, long growing seasons and suitable condition for the settlement.
Areas with well developed transport infrastructure and links through road, rail, shipping, canals and air are likely to be more densely populated than areas which are poorly connected with transport network. In earlier times, in the absence of water transport, all islands remained virtually uninhabited. One of the reasons why mountains are not inhabited by people is lack of accessibility.
3. Adequate water supply
Population distribution is affected very much by the presence or absence of water in any region. Water supply is essential for human survival and development. Areas which have sufficient water tend to have denser population than areas which are dry or suffer from regular drought. Well watered regions of the Great Northern plains of India are densely populated whereas drought prone areas of Sahara are sparsely populated.
Fertile alluvial soils of river valleys throughout the world have encouraged dense settlement of population because they support agricultural activities. The high density of population in parts of East and South-East Asia is dependent mainly on fertile soil. For example, dense population is found in the Ganges valley of India, in Indus valley of Pakistan and Hwang-Ho valley of China. On the other hand, desert soil of Sahara region is sparsely populated.
5. Economic and political factors
Unfavourable economic condition, unemployment, religious intolerance, conflicts and wars do not favour more population.