What are Natural Resources?
Natural resources are the components of atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere, that are necessary for life. These include energy, air, water, soil, minerals, plants and animals.
For man, natural resources are those substances that are required for his survival, comfort and prosperity. These are obtained directly from the environment.
The nature of resources required by man varies from society to society. It depends on factors like culture, the level of development and the nature of work in that particular society. For example, silver, gold or uranium have no use for the Onge tribe living in the Andaman Islands. With the development of nuclear energy, uranium has become an important resource these days, though it was of no importance in the 18th century.
Types of Natural Resources:
Natural resources can be classified as follows-
(1) Depending on their Nature- Depending on their nature, natural resources are of two types-
- Inorganic, including air, water and minerals.
- Organic, including plants, animals, microbes and fossil fuels.
Soil is an inorganic as well as organic resource.
(2) Depending on their Abundance- Depending on their abundance and availability, natural resources are of the following two types-
- Inexhaustible- Wind, tidal energy, clay and sand are inexhaustible natural resources. Though the air is available in plenty, it may become a limiting factor qualitatively if its pollution is not checked.
- Exhaustible resources- Resources that are limited and can be diminished or degraded, if not properly used, are called exhaustible resources. Example- fossil fuels.
Exhaustible resources are of two types- renewable and non-renewable.
- Exhaustible renewable resources- These include water, soil, plants and animals. These resources have a short recycling time or reproductive cycle so that they appear very soon and can be used again. However, their rate of renewal varies. When indiscriminately used, these become exhaustible. For example, once “cheetah” was very common in Indian forests. It’s indiscriminate killing by man caused its almost extinction. Similarly, deforestation results in the depletion of topsoil by wind and water. Lower layers of soil are not fertile. In this way, there is a loss of soil as well as of plants. The development of soil takes hundreds of years.
- Exhaustible non-renewable resources- Resources that lack the ability for recycling and replacement or have a very long recycling time are called non-renewable resources. Coal, petroleum (fossil fuels) and minerals are exhaustible non-renewable resources. The formation of fossil fuels is a very slow process. Resources like underground water, forests and wildlife are renewable resources but can become non-renewable if used indiscriminately and by improper management.