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Location and size of the country
With an area of 3,287,263 km², India is the seventh largest country in the world and by far the largest and most populous country in South Asia. The country extends in a west-east direction from the 68th to the 97th degree of longitude to the east for around 3,000 kilometers. From north to south, between the 8th and 37th degrees north, the extension is around 3,200 kilometers. That corresponds to the distance from Sicily to central Norway. India shares borders with six countries: Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh with a total length of 14,103 kilometers.
A land of contrasting diversity
India is seen as one of the coming global economic powers. In terms of its economic power, measured on the basis of purchasing power parity, India ranks fourth in the world. India is associated with high technology, a fast growing film industry (Bollywood) and extreme wealth. At the same time, there is also widespread poverty, child labor, indigenous people (Adivasi) who have lost their livelihood and Dalits (casteless / untouchable) who are discriminated against on a daily basis. Modern cities and over half a million villages, some without electricity and water, coexist.
Will India soon become the most populous country in the world?
With around 1.34 billion inhabitants, India is the second most populous country in the world after China and will overtake it in the near future due to its higher population growth. The current annual population growth of around 1.19% ensures an absolute population growth in the order of magnitude of the population of North Rhine-Westphalia every year.
The country's population is distributed very unevenly. There is a high population density in fertile areas such as the Ganges plain, West Bengal and Kerala, in stark contrast to the foothills of the Himalayas, the northeast and arid regions such as Rajasthan. More than 50 million people currently live in the metropolitan areas of Mumbai (formerly Bombay), New Delhi and Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). There are a total of 34 cities with more than 1 million inhabitants.
The geography of India is characterized by a great diversity. High mountains and flat plains, forests and barren areas as well as fertile river plains and deltas alternate. The natural border in the north and northeast forms the Himalayas, the highest mountain range in the world, which is separated from the Karakoram in the extreme northwest by the high valley of the Indus. South of the Himalayas are the wide, fertile river plains of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra. Northeast India, including the Brahmaputra plain, is only connected by a narrow corridor between Bangladesh and Nepal or Bhutan with the rest of the country. The northeast region is shielded by the Patkai or Purvachal Mountains of Myanmar, which are up to 3,800 meters high, and the Khasi Mountains of Bangladesh, which are almost 2,000 meters high.
The highlands of Dekkan occupy most of the Indian peninsula, which protrudes into the Indian Ocean in a wedge shape. The Vindhya and Satpura mountains shield the Deccan from the Ganges plain in the north. In the west it is bordered by the Western Ghats, which are up to 2,700 meters high, and in the east by the flatter Eastern Ghats. Both mountain ranges meet in the south, where the peninsula tapers to Cape Komorin. The Western Ghats drop steeply to the Konkan and Malabar coasts along the Arabian Sea. The Eastern Ghats merge into the wider eastern coastal plains on the Bay of Bengal.
India has both a subtropical continental climate (especially in north and central India) and a tropical climate (in the south and in the coastal areas). While temperatures in the north fall below 5 degrees in January and can rise to over 45 degrees in May, it is warm to hot all year round in the south of the country.
Flora and fauna also benefit from the different climates and the diversity of natural landscapes. The different vegetation is home to a multitude of elephants, monkeys, (Bengali) tigers, camels or snakes, more than 1,200 native bird species etc. India is also home to a huge number of cattle. But people, in their hunger for land, are penetrating more and more into the habitat of plants and animals and forcing them into ever smaller retreat areas.
Diversity at risk
Industrialization, population growth and increasing urbanization / metropolitanization are important factors in a number of serious environmental problems, such as air pollution, inadequate waste disposal, forest decline, the spread of deserts and, most importantly, water shortages. Although environmental protection, including the protection of forest areas and their inhabitants, was anchored in the Indian constitution as a goal as early as 1976, the existing environmental laws are not consistently implemented and monitored.
Water has become a scarce commodity, as India only has 4% of the world's water resources, but it is home to around 18% of the world's population and groundwater reserves are threatened by the irrigation of agricultural land and private and industrial water requirements. Many millions of Indians are already feeling the water shortage. There are more and more internal Indian disputes over water.
The country's environmental policy has to face the dual task of "reducing industrial pollution", especially in the country's cities, and "sustainable management of natural resources". The country is supported by GIZ, among others.
The southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh is currently a pioneer in converting conventional to sustainable agriculture. By 2027, with the support of the state government, all around six million farm households are to be cultivating their fields without the use of synthetic agents. The aim is to put a stop to the advancing soil degradation, declining yields and the threatened shortage of food - all the consequences of a one-sided Green Revolution of the last fifty years, which has been accompanied by the growing indebtedness of the approximately five million smallholder households.
India is one of the countries that will be severely affected by climate change. Temperatures and sea levels are expected to rise, which will particularly affect the coastal regions. There are also said to be more irregularities in the monsoons, which would result in serious crop failures. The prognosis that floods and other natural disasters (such as earthquakes or storms) will occur more frequently shows the great dangers that threaten the country and its people in the near future.
India's infrastructure urgently needs to be modernized. According to a report by the World Bank, investments in infrastructure amounting to around 750 billion dollars are necessary in order to be able to compete with China in the long term. Economic growth could then be around 2 percentage points higher every year. The current government plans to invest heavily in infrastructure. The Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation provides current information on the infrastructure (as of 2018). There you will also find very detailed information (status: 2014) on all federal states.
About 65% of goods and 80% of people are transported on the streets of India. About 40% are accounted for by the "national highways" and "state highways", which, however, only make up a fraction (5%) of the entire road network, the condition of which is often poor and cannot cope with the increasing traffic. Many rural communities are still only accessible via unpaved roads. This will not change in the foreseeable future either, as the road network is being expanded far too slowly. However, the quality of even new roads leaves a lot to be desired. Approval difficulties, mismanagement, and corruption are all factors that compound the problem.
India has a long, but not dense, railway network, most of which dates back to the British colonial era. Its maintenance has been neglected in independent India, the technology is out of date and only about a third of the route network is electrified. There is also no uniform gauge, rather there are broad gauge (90%) or meter gauge (8%), and even smaller ones. The route network has barely grown since independence, which shows the lack of investment in the railway infrastructure. One consequence is the numerous accidents with fatalities - around 20,000 per year.
With around 1.3 million employees, the Indian railway is one of the largest employers in the world. Due to the high personnel costs and social benefits as well as the subsidized fares, Indian Railways is operating in a very deficit. The scope for maintenance and new construction is correspondingly small.
The Modi government plans to make India's railways faster, more efficient and safer. Among other things, the establishment of freight corridors and high-speed routes (e.g. between Ahmedabad and Mumbai) is planned. Although the current budget includes investments in the rail network, India will need foreign investment to meet its lofty goals. As with many infrastructure projects, the implementation of the plans is often tedious.
Ports and airports
Due to its geographical location and the low volume of trade with its neighboring countries (Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Bhutan), India's export goods are mainly transported by ship. Foreign trade is mainly carried out via 13 larger seaports, which have a high utilization rate and are already operating at the limit of their capacity. The ports suffer from a lack of efficiency in the handling of goods, the associated long lay times and correspondingly high fees. A modernization of the ports is urgently needed, especially with regard to the deep-sea ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka that are being financed by the Chinese.
India's airports are becoming increasingly important. Due to the fierce competition, ticket prices are relatively cheap. However, the many smaller airports are increasingly overloaded and urgently need modernization. In addition, many of the airports are not connected to the public transport network. The five largest airports in the country (from April 2019 to May 2020) are located in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Kolkata.
The Bengal tiger is the national animal of India, the mango the national fruit. The national anthem is based on a poem by the poet and Nobel Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore (national anthem). There is also a national bird (peacock) and a national flower (lotus flower).
The national flag consists of three horizontal stripes of different colors: the top stripe is saffron, the middle stripe white and the bottom green. In the center there is a navy blue wheel with 24 spokes. It represents the "wheel of the law" (Sanskrit: dharmacakra) and is a symbol of righteous rule. The national coat of arms, like the dharmacakra, is taken from the capital of a column of the ancient Indian ruler Ashoka (272-232 BC). It is located in the museum of Sarnath, the place of the first discourse of the Buddha, very close to Varanasi / Benares.
The country information portal
The contributions in the country information portal (LIPortal) were supervised by proven country experts until December 2020 in order to give an introduction to one of approx. 80 different countries. The LIPortal thus offered orientation to country information in the WorldWideWeb - many references are still up-to-date.
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