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FACTORS INFLUENCING POPULATION DISTRIBUTION AND DENSITY
Several factors inﬂuence population distribution and density in the world and these can be divided into physical and human factors.
1. Relief (Topography): Where the slope is steep there is low or no population due to poor soils and the nature of the land, but where there are gentle slopes or ﬂat surfaces there is high population since the soils are good and mechanization can take place easily.
Highlands normally attract population due to good soils, rainfall, cool climates and being free from ﬂoods.
But some lowlands, which tend to ﬂood, have low population since people avoid settling in those areas.
2. Climate: Areas with reliable rainfall like North - West Europe have attracted high population, but where there is poor rainfall like in the deserts there is low population.
Also areas with very high or very low temperatures do not attract population, while areas with moderate temperatures attract high population.
3. Vegetation: In areas where dense vegetation is difficult to clear like in the tropical rainforest of the Amazon and Congo basins as well as the Ruﬁji valley and mangrove forest along the coastal areas people are discouraged to live leading to sparse population or no population at all. Dense vegetation hinders penetration or communication and development. Conversely, people are attracted to areas in which vegetation has led to the development of fertile soils, since they can grow crops after clearing for cultivation especially in the temperate deciduous forest and temperate grassland areas like the Paris basin.
4. Soils (Edaphic Factors): Thin, infertile or badly leached soils discourage settlement since they cannot support agriculture. Examples are the Lake District and Scottish Highlands where there has been severe leaching. Equatorial areas also discourage settlement due to soil leaching which causes a decline in fertility.
Good soils attract population; for example in the Nile Basin and the Southern slopes of Kilimanjaro.
5. Mineral and Energy Resources: The areas with mineral and energy resources attract population, for example, the rand of South Africa, iron and coalfields in Western Europe like the Rhur region in West Germany, and Southern parts of West Africa where there are rich mineral deposits like Diamond, Oil, etc.
6. Natural Hazards: Areas that are prone to natural hazards like ﬂoods in lowlands, earthquakes, and tornadoes are avoided by people. But this is not always so since some areas which experience frequent ﬂoods like the fertile plains of Bangladesh and volcanic areas of Java and Indonesia are densely populated.
7. Biological Factors Like Diseases and Pests: People like settling in areas which are free of diseases and pests. These will have high population like the highlands of Tanzania which have a healthy climate like Arusha. But areas with a high incidence of diseases and pest infestation like mosquitoes that cause malaria, Tse—tse ﬂies and locusts discourage population settlement like the central parts of East Africa. In Tanzania the worst affected areas are the western and southern districts like Mpanda and Liwale respectively.
8. Human (Anthropogenic Factors): These include culture (tradition, religion) economic structure, transport and communication and politics.
9. Socio Cultural Aspects: Some tribes have a tradition of going to live in areas which to reproduce in the same have been left by their ancestors as heritage and continue area to create clans. In time, these areas become overpopulated and hence highly fragmented like Kilimanjaro among the Chagga people.
Traditional beliefs like superstitions can make people avoid areas due to the fear of risking their lives. A150, areas where social services are readily available like in towns there is high population unlike the rural areas where social services are far less available.
10. Economic Structure: People tend to settle in areas where there are economic opportunities like in towns due to the presence of trade and industries. Urban industrial areas like the rand in South Africa are densely populated. But the areas with a poor economic base have low population since people avoid settling in those areas.
11. Political Factors: Areas with political stability and peace attract population but where there is political instability people tend to avoid living there. These areas face depopulation due to conﬂicts like in Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda and Burundi.
Also the policies especially with regard to resettlement schemes so as to solve the problem of overpopulation inﬂuence population distribution in the country. For example, the government can decide to establish new settlement areas and force people from the overpopulated areas to come and settle.
Also the establishment of colonial rule like in Tanzania led to concentration of people in the most productive areas, leading to low population in other areas. The creation of national parks as well as the forest and game reserves by the government has prevented people from settling in such areas.
12. Transport and Communication: Areas which are served by transport and communication attract a lot of people since they can transport their goods to the market areas. But areas which are poorly served by transport and communication like the Western parts of South Africa and China have low populations. These areas are remote and hence are not accessible.
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