What is a Region and Its Types

Definition of Region

A student often wonders, what is a region! In simple words, a region is a homogenous and sustainable spatial unit having distinguished characteristics differentiating it from the other spatial unit. In addition, a planning region is a portion of territory over which economic decisions, made by government, can be applied for economic growth and development. Let’s disaggregate this definition. There are four important keywords in this definition as discussed below.

1. Homogenous Parameters

Homogenous means similar or comparable. So, the region must have a binding parameter which makes it a single unit and also differentiates it from other regions. For example, if temperature and humidity are parameters then an area having high average annual temperature with low humidity can be described as a Desert Region. Similarly, language is also a parameter and we can describe an area with same language, say Tamil, as Tamil region. A student should note that one can delineate a region based on single or multiple factors depending on the purpose of regional delineation.

2. Distinguished Characteristics

The selected parameter or characteristics of the region should be distinguishing. A scholar should not choose a parameter for regionalization purposes which is common at very large scale and does not differentiates one region from another. For example, if we use Hindu religion as a parameter for defining region, whole India will become one region and it does not serve the purpose of planning. The distinguishing characteristics for regionalization in India can be Agro-Ecological Characteristics i.e. regionalization of India based on type of cultivation, irrigation availability, rainfall and soil type. In short, distinguishing characteristic may be of cultural, natural and artificial nature.

3. Spatial Unit

Spatial unit is different from area and location. Location has no dimensions. For instance, location of iron and steel industries in relation to coal and iron ore is a singular concept. Location is a singular point. Area is a two dimensional feature, a person can move forward, backward, sideways and diagonally over an area. Space is a three dimensional feature. A person can move  forward, backward, sideways, diagonally and vertically in a spatial unit. There are infinite locations and areas within a spatial unit. The size of spatial unit is based on the purpose of planning. For instance, the management of mineral resources need smaller size of spatial units whereas the climatic regions are of large size.

4. Sustainable Unit

The region must be sustainable spatial unit. It means that region should not be so small that it has to depend on other regions for most of their needs. It should have certain resource base which can, sustainably, support the nutritional, cultural and economic needs of its population.

Types of Regions

Although, there might be various types of regions such a natural, climatic, botanic, cultural, demographic, economic etc. but regional planners divide them into three broad categories.

1. Formal Regions

  • They are also known as Uniform Regions.
  • Formal region is separating in nature and signify independence as a region.
  • Formal region is a segment of territory having a definite boundary.
  • There are two types of boundaries i.e. natural and artificial.
  • Certain natural features such as rivers, mountain range, climate, vegetation etc. constitute the natural boundaries of geographic regions.
  • Similarly, the artificial boundaries are purely based on administrative considerations such as district boundary, state boundary, international border etc.

2. Functional Regions

  • They are also called Nodal Regions.
  • Functional regions are of integrative nature and signify inter-dependence of different units of region. For example, dependence of city on hinterland for milk and vegetables and dependence of hinterland on city for education, hospitals, market etc.
  • Their boundaries are often formed by railways and bus routes.
  • Hierarchy of Nodal Points: Functional regions have various nodal points arranged in hierarchy i.e. metro city, smaller cities around metro, towns around smaller city etc. In short, there is organization of functions between different nodal point within a functional region.
  • Flow of Goods and Services: There is flow of people, goods and services between various nodal points. The flow may be diurnal (daily), monthly, seasonally or annually.
  • The boundaries of functional regions are changing with the development of modes of transport and communication because they change the range of interaction between different cities (nodes).
  • A planning region is a functional or nodal region e.g. NCR region of Delhi.

3. Naive or Vernacular Regions

  • Vernacular regions are informal regions which are not recognized by either government or planners but they are recognized by people.
  • These are territories which form a single large region in the perception of people. There is no scientific method for delineation of such regions.
  • For instance, the people of Punjab perceive Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand as one single region because most of migrant laborers come from these states. Contrarily, there are significant cultural, linguistic, behavioural differences between the people of these two states. Their perception is not true.

In short, we can delineate regions based on cultural, social, economic, climatic, physical and political factors. The choice of parameter for regionalization is based on our purpose of study. One may use the combination of natural, cultural and economic parameters to draw boundary of a region. Such regions can be delineated through Principal Component Analysis.