Natural Resources

A resource is that natural and human wealth which can be used to satisfy human needs. Nothing can be termed as resource unless and until it has attained the capability to serve man. In other words, resources are those aspects of man’s environment which facilitate the satisfaction of human wants and attainment of social objectives. According to Dr. Zimmermann, Resource is a means of attaining given ends, the ends being satisfaction of individual and all attainment of social objectives”.

Although resources existed over the surface of the earth even during pre-historic time, man had neither the tools nor the technology to use them. With the passage of time, man acquired sufficient proficiency in technology and skill to use natural wealth as resources. For example, fertile soil was useless for him till he learnt agriculture. Several minerals were lying buried in the earth in the ancient times also. But they were not turned into resources because man did not have the technological skills to exploit those minerals. Wind could not acquire any importance as a source till the invention of windmill. Coal and mineral oil were present below the earth’s surface but they became important sources of energy only after the development of steam engine and internal combustion engine respectively.

Aluminium became an important resource after the advent of aeroplanes. Waterfalls across the rivers were useless till man acquired technology to generate hydro-electricity. In recent years, uranium has become a very important resource because it is used for nuclear energy. In short, any natural wealth can take the shape of a resource only when man acquires requisite technology to use it. Human wants are unlimited and they are increasing everyday. But he is a storehouse of knowledge and wisdom. There are still many materials in the world whose utility is either not known to man or he does not possess appropriate technology to use them. With world population increasing at an explosive rate, man will have to search for new vistas of development and new resources will continue to be unravelled. According to Dr. Zimmermann, ‘Resources are not, they become so, because of man’s cooperation.’

Any material cannot be called a resource till it satisfy the following conditions:

  • It should be possible to use it.
  • It can be transformed into more useful and valuable goods.
  • There should be development of science and technology for the exploitation of the resources.
  • Enough capital should be available to acquire technology.

Most of the developing and backward countries of the world are economically backward not because they lack in resources but because they lack in technology and capital. Their backwardness in technology is the root cause of their economic backwardness. The history of the cultural development of man is the history of the development of technology. At every stage of the historical development, man has tried to full his three basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. The forces by which all kinds of productivity are achieved by the use of natural resources are called productive forces. e productive forces include human resources as well as the tools, machines and other objects with which the labour works in the fields, factories and other organisations

Classification of Resources

Resources can be classified in a number of ways depending upon the basis of classification. Following scheme gives a simple classification:

On the Basis of Renewability There are three types of resources depending upon the renewability. They are as follows:

Renewable or Inexhaustible Resources

The resources which can be renewed or reproduced by physical, mechanical and chemical processes are known as inexhaustible resources. Solar energy, air, water, soil, forests, wildlife, agricultural products and human-beings are some important examples of renewable resources. But we have to take precautions to maintain the renewability of these resources. For example, trees are felled for obtaining wood from the forests. But we can get the uninterrupted supply of wood only if we maintain the original forest cover through afforestation. In other words, we will have to plant the equal number of trees which have been cut down.

Non-renewable or Exhaustible Resources

Non-renewable resources are those resources which once used, cannot be easily replenished. All minerals belong to this category. They are exhausted quickly but their formation takes thousands and sometimes lakhs of years. Coal, petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, copper, aluminium, bauxite, uranium, thorium etc. are some examples of non-renewable resources.

Cyclic Resources

There are certain resources which can be used again and again after due processing. These are known as cyclic resources. Water is one such resource. It can be cleansed and used again. From this point of view, iron is also cyclic because scrap iron can be used to manufacture many things.

On the Basis of Origin there are two categories of resources on the basis of origin:

Biotic Resources

Biotic resources are obtained from biosphere and contain life. Forests and their products, agricultural crops, animals and birds, fish and other marine life forms are important examples of biotic resources. Fossil fuels like coal and mineral oil have also originated from organic matter and are kept under this category. While some biotic resources are renewable, some are non-renewable. For example, forest and livestock resources are renewable but coal and mineral oil are non-renewable.

Abiotic Resources

All those resources which are composed of non-living things are called abiotic resources. Land, water and minerals, e.g., iron, copper, lead, gold, etc. are examples of abiotic resources. Some of the abiotic resources such as land and water are renewable while others such as minerals are non-renewable resources. Some of the abiotic resources are found extensively, e.g., bauxite and iron while others are found in limited area, e.g., gold and silver.

On the Basis of Utility- Every source has its utility. Resources can be divided into following classes depending upon their utility:

Energy Resources

The resources which are utilised to give motion are called energy resources. It is required in every sector of economy. Agriculture, industry, forestry, mining, transport and communications, all depend upon one source of energy or the other. Wood, coal, mineral oil, natural gas, hydroelectricity, solar energy, nuclear energy, geothermal energy, wind energy and tidal energy are some of the important sources of energy. Some of the energy sources like coal, mineral oil, natural gas and atomic minerals are exhaustible energy resources. Conservation of these resources is extremely necessary for future development. But some other resources such as running water, solar energy, wind energy, tidal energy and geothermal energy are inexhaustible.

Raw Materials

Raw materials provide solid base to our industrial growth and economic prosperity. ey are available from the following three sources:


Minerals are used in a large variety of industries. Important minerals are iron ore, copper, lead, tin, aluminium, manganese, mica etc.


Vegetation is divided into two parts:

  1. Natural,
  2. Agricultural

Some raw materials such as wood, wild fibres and seeds, barks, corks and seaweeds are obtained from natural vegetation. Similarly, examples of agricultural raw material are cotton, jute, rubber, oilseeds, tobacco, sugarcane beetroot


Animals are also divided into two parts.

  1. Wild animals, and
  2. Domestic animals.

Both wild and domestic animals are important sources of raw materials. Hides, furs, horns, ivory etc. are obtained from wild animals. Fish, sponge, fungi etc. are used for making various products. Likewise we get different kinds of raw materials from domestic animals, e.g., wool and hide from sheep, yak, goat and camel and silk from cocoon.

Food Resources

Man has been using various gift of nature as food resources since the early stages of human civilization. Since the list of food resources is very long, only a few are mentioned here. They are broadly divided in the following three categories.


Salt available in the form of a mineral is a food article. It is also known as Lahori Salt in North India.


Most of our food is derived from vegetation. In early days, man obtained his food from wild vegetation in the form of fruits and roots. He also domesticated several plants through the development of agriculture. Today there is an endless list of agricultural products. Some important products are wheat, rice, sugarcane and sugarbeet, tea, coffee, oil, seeds, fruits etc.

Animals and Birds

The main items of food obtained from animals are meat and milk. Fish form an important item of food. Eggs are obtained from domesticated birds.


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