Types of Regions

A region is an area on Earth's surface marked by a degree of formal, functional, or perceptual homogeneity of some phenomenon. The three main types of regions are formal, functional, and vernacular regions. A formal region, also known as a uniform or homogeneous region, is an area in which everyone shares in common one or more distinctive characteristics. This common characteristic could be a cultural value such as language, an economic activity such as production of a certain crop, or an environmental property such as climate and weather patterns. Whatever the common characteristic is, it sis present throughout the selected region. In certain formal regions, the characteristic may be predominant rather than universal, such as the wheat belt in North America, it is an area in which the predominant crop is wheat, but other crops are grown here as well.

functional region, also known as a nodal region, is a region organized around a node or focal point. The characteristic chosen to define a functional region dominates at a central focus or node and diminishes in importance outward. The region is tied to the central point by transportation, communication systems or by economic or functional associations. An example of a functional region is the circulation area of a newspaper. That area is centered around the city in which the newspaper is published in. The farther away from the city of circulation, the less people that read the newspaper (this phenomenon is known as distance decay). A vernacular region, also known as perceptual region, is a place that people exists as part of their cultural identity. Perceptual regions vary from person to person. They emerge from a person' s informal sense of place. An example of a vernacular region would be the South. My idea of the southern states may be different than my friend's idea of southern states. 

Types of Regions on the Basis of Stages of Economic Development

1) Developed / Development Regions

Developed regions are naturally those which are having a high rate of accretion in goods and services i.e., their share in the GDP of the country is relatively higher. This may be with or without rich natural resources by most certainly because of the use of upgraded technology by highly skilled and motivated persons. A developed region may become ‘overdeveloped’ in certain respects e.g., it may suffer from the diseconomies of congestion. Infrastructure costs become very high and people can go into the jitters due to pollution and stresses of various types. A developed region is the counterpart of the backward region: the ‘positive’ side is emphasized in case of the developed region while ‘negative’ aspects are emphasized in case of the backward region.

A developed region is one, which has exploited its potentialities fully, which has removed the bottlenecks and speed breakers of development. Developed regions emerge of their own because of the comparative advantage or may emerge as a result of the diversion of funds by the government. In many cases imbalances emerge between developed and backward regions and these imbalances can be the creation of planners also. Many times disproportionately high amounts of investment are made in the constituencies of the influential politicians and some regions become far more developed than the neighboring regions.

2) Backward Regions

There can be ‘backward or depressed’ regions in the developing as well as the developed economies. Backward economies are thoroughly depressed regions. There is development even in these regions but these regions have not come out of the low level equilibrium trap. There can be region, which may not be at subsistence level but may be relatively backward. Lack of infrastructure facilities, adverse geo-climate conditions, low investment rate, high rate of growth of population and low levels of urbanization and industrialization are causes and consequences of backwardness.

In less developed countries, even the most ancient occupation (agriculture) is backward and unless it is made progressive with massive real and financial input support, the region cannot come out of backwardness. Some vestigial regions (as the regions inhabited by the red Indians in USA/ or tribal in India) can remain backward and may even remain near the subsistence level. The inhibitions may have ancient traditions and may be smug in their surroundings, but the per capita income may be much lower than in the neighboring regions. A region can be backward because of the high population density or even without it.

3) Neutral Regions/ Intermediate Regions

New towns and satellite belts are designated as ‘neutral’ regions and they promise good prospects of further development because here further employment generation and income propagation is possible without congestion. Such regions can be demarcated around urban centers. Intermediate regions are those regions, which are ‘islands of development around a sea of stagnation’.

Types of Regions Based on the Activity Status Analysis

1) Mineral regions

Many mineral regions promise high growth rates for the region as well as for the prosperity of the country. If mineral- based industries can be developed in the region itself, then industrial development will be less costly because much of the load shedding will be done in the region at low cost. The iron ore deposits of Bailadeela (Bastar District of Madhya Pradesh) are exported abroad, a plant could be established near the ore deposits, it would have brought tremendous development for the region. As the mines continue to yield sufficient minerals and the costs are also not prohibitive, not only the mineral producing region develops but it helps other regions also to develop.

After the minerals exhaust, the region will bear degraded look, people will move away to other areas and the erstwhile area will bear a deserted look. Germany took great pains to rehabilitate such areas and vast pits and trenches were suitably reclaimed for various purposes like water storage, eco-forestry and even cultivation after enriching the soil. If new deposits of minerals cannot be discovered, there can be several ways of reclaiming wasteland and developing non-mineral based activities. Regional planning will require a long-term plan for developing such regions after extraction is no longer a profitable activity. The Middle East countries have made adequate planning to diversify their economies so that after the oil wealth exhausts their economies do not relapse to backwardness.

2) Manufacturing Regions and Congested Regions

Some regions become big manufacturing regions not because they have natural resources but because of the infrastructure development, momentum of an early start, continued government support etc. Autonomous, imitative, supplementary, complementary, induced and speculative investments keep in giving strength to the manufacturing regions. It would be prudent not to develop narrow manufacturing base, otherwise territorial specialization can become a problem if the crop supplying the raw materials fails or if the minerals which are base for the industries, exhaust. In such regions the internal and external economies are available in ever greater measure and such regions keep on developing. When all the thresholds are crossed, such regions become too congested and the diseconomies overwhelm the economies of production – high density, increasing pollution, reduction in the quality of life etc.

3) Cultural Regions

A cultural region can also be quite well demarcated. (French Canada and English Canada are such regions). In India various states are demarcated on the basis of language and culture primarily. There are affinities of cultural origin in such region. A rich cultured region should be rich in economic terms also.

Regions in Regional Economics

1) Homogenous Region

They are formal regions and on the basis of homogeneity in topography, rainfall, climate or other geo-physical characteristic. Economic homogeneity is more relevant for planning. The structure of employment, the occupational pattern, the net migration, the density of population, the resource and industrial structure, if similar in a space, the regions become homogeneous in economic sense. The greater the economic similarities, the greater the interest the economists will have in homogeneous regions. Internal differences in a region are unimportant. Sometimes, a clear cut homogeneous region may have, many differences in sub-regions as to make them quite different yet a region may remain ‘homogeneous’.

Scotland or Uttar Pradesh are clear cut homogeneous regions but in topography the hilly districts of Uttar Pradesh have nothing in common with the districts of the plains. Eastern and Western districts are also different but Uttar Pradesh remains a homogeneous region in administrative terms. Thus a homogeneous economic region can have differing physical characteristics. Homogeneous region on economic or political criterion may have a lot of heterogeneity from several other stand points.

Ø Formal Regions

Regions defined formally, often by government or other structures, are called formal regions. Cities, towns, states, and countries are all formal regions, as are things like mountain ranges. Formal regions often nest inside one another, so that when you are standing in the middle of Trivandrum, you are in the city of Trivandrum, which is part of state of Kerala, which rests inside the southern region of India, which is in the country of India, which is on the continent of Asia. All of those are formal regions.

A formal region is homogeneous with reference to some geo-physical characteristic such as topography, climate of vegetation. This is physical formal region. Later on there was a shift from this narrow approach to a broader approach and economic, social and political criteria were also applied. An industrial or agricultural or plantation region is a formal economic region; or a state governed by a particular party is a formal political region.

Ø Functional regions

It consist of a central place and the surrounding areas that are dependent upon that place, such as a metropolitan area. The functional region is concerned with interdependence. This is a geographical area in which there is economic interdependence. The nodal regions are functional regions between which there are flows of men, material and money.

Ø Vernacular regions

A vernacular region is an area that has been identified based on people's perception of culture.

2) Polarized / Nodal / Heterogeneous / Functional Regions

Polarized or nodal regions look to a centre-a large town usually-for service. Its influence extends beyond the area of the city. The villages are dependent upon it for services and marketing. There is little concern for uniformity when a polarized or nodal region is taken. The city region need not correspond to the administrative region because hinterland of several clear cut regions may be served by a city. (For example even the persons of Gwalior may visit Delhi for buying some consumer durables of high value. A capital city may attract customers form several districts around the capital city.)

A nodal region will have heterogeneous economy around it. Regional economists are more concerned with what happens within a nodal region and spatial dimension of the nodal region assumes importance. Population and industries agglomerate and there are core regions with higher per capita income generation through higher production of goods and services. Within regions there are dominant cities or nodes to which flows of inputs, goods, people and traffic gravitate. Within the cities there are nuclei that form business and social centres and which are discernible at a glance from an intra-metropolitan traffic-flow density map.

As the distance increases, the costs of overcoming frictions will rise and the people of different areas will look for a different nodal point. Each region will have one or more dominant nodes and it will be interesting to find and record as to which interior areas form the areas of influence of one or the other node. Nodal regions provide an understanding of the functional relationship between settlements, which fill up the space. These heterogeneous units in rural and urban areas are functionally related because each settlement cannot have all the functions and facilities. All functions require a particular threshold population and other facilities (Each settlement cannot have a college or unless there is electricity, there cannot be cinema hall or a bank branch).

3) Planning Regions

Planning regions depend upon the type of multi-level planning in the country. A very small country will naturally have one level planning. A planning region in a multi-level setup requires regional plan, which is a spatial plan for the systematic location of functions and facilities in relation to human settlements so that people may use them to their maximum advantages. In fact more important than reducing the regional disparities is the task of ensuring that backward region and rural areas have basic minimum needs. Planning region for different activities can be different and a regional plan will be locational in character for that activity/function.

For comprehensive planning, there has to be a national plan and then a state plan and finally district/block plans. Since a planning region is a sub national area demarcated for the purpose of translating national objectives into regional programs and policies, and since plan formulation and implementation need administrative machinery, administrative regions are generally accepted as planning regions.

The hierarchy of planning region would be (i) national level (ii) macro level (iii) state level (iv) meso level (v) and micro level. A planning region must be large enough to take investment decisions of an economic size, must be able to apply its own industry with the necessary labor, should have a homogeneous economic structure, contain at least one growth point and have a common approach to and awareness of its problems. In short, a planning region should be defined according to the purpose of one’s analysis. Ideally a planning region should have adequate resources to establish a satisfactory pattern of savings, capital formation, investment, production, employment, income generation and consumption pattern. It means that the area should be economically viable.

Types of Regions in Multi-Level Planning Perspective

1) Macro Region

Macro region is naturally bigger. Macro region can be a state of even a group of states, if the states of a country are not big enough. For example, in India there are East, West, North, South and Central Zones and ‘Zonal Councils’ of which function is mutual consultation, developing cooperation and mutual counseling. In a sense macro regions are second in hierarchy, next to the national level. It is also possible that a physical macro region may comprise parts of different states of a country for project planning purposes (e.g. big river valley projects, an electric grid of different states and for the purpose of a particular activity planning).

State boundaries are not respected in the sense that the macro region may transcend or cut across administrative boundaries of the states of a country. A macro region may not be uniform or homogeneous in all respects. It may have homogeneity in one respect (physical complementarity) and may have heterogeneity in other respect (administrative boundaries). A macro region should have a common resource base and specialization in that resource base, so that production activities can develop on the principle of comparative advantage based on territorial division of labor (India has been divided into 11 to 20 macro regions, agro-climate or resource regions). The planning Commission of India would have just 5 zonal councils-Eastern, Northern, Central, Western and Southern comprising of certain states but beyond this there is no macro-regionalization in India. These so-called macro regions of India have to have interstate cooperation in the matter of utilization of river water and electricity grids etc.

2) Meso Region

Meso region can be identified with a ‘division’ of a state. Chattisgarh region, Bundelkhand region, Baghelkahand region, Mahakoshal region is usually a sub-division of a state, comprising of several districts. There should be some identifiable affinity in the area which may even facilitate planning. It can be cultural or administrative region and it will be even better if it is a homogeneous physical region (resource) region. A meso region can also become a nodal region provided the combined micro regions or parts thereof can be developed in a complementary manner.

3) Micro Region

In multi-level planning, district is the micro region. It becomes the lowest territorial unit of planning in the hierarchy of planning regions. The most important reason why district is the most viable micro region for planning is the existence of database and compact administration. This is the area, which is viable for plan formulation with administration for plan implementation and monitoring. A metropolitan area can be one micro region and the area of influence can be another micro region. A nodal point is also a micro region, though in many cases micro regions are basically rural areas, which may have a number of minor nodes without any organizational hierarchy influencing the entire area. The basic characteristic of a micro region is its smallness.

4) Micro – Minor Region

This is the region which is associated with, what is called, the grass-root planning. A micro-minor region can be a block for which also data exists now and for which there may be a plan. The block level plan is integrated with the national plan, through the district and state level plans. A block level plan is not surgically cut portion of the district plan, which has its own logic and linkage. At block level, most of the officers will be more concerned with the implementation of the plans than formulating the plans. At block level, the main exercise will be to take into account of the physical and human resources and to find out the prime moving activities which will enable the block people to make best use of the development potential of the block to meet the basic needs of the people.

Minimum needs can be satisfied with the production of basic goods with the help of low entropy local resources. In fact, planning of the development of the transport, communication, banking, education, medical and many service facilities has got to be done at the national level. At the panchayat level, basic goods and services can be arranged through the efforts of the local people. Many activities can be so planned that they improve the socio-economic conditions of the people without being the part of the national plan.

Several activities can be undertaken with the cooperation of the local people, with minimum of financial and real resource support from outside e.g., development of dairying, animal husbandry, pisciculture, poultry, soil conservation measures, optimization of the cropping pattern, production of inputs locally, improving the storage and transport facilities can be done at the micro minor level. Many agro based industries and tiny sector guild-type activities can be developed at the micro-minor level. A good planning can secure ‘ruralization of the industries’ instead of ‘industrialization of rural area’. This will involve production of goods ‘by the masses for the masses and near the masses’.



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