Research Essay on Southeast Asia

1 January 2017

The definition of the phrase ‘Settlement pattern’ is associated with the understanding of how a particular society used the available resources in its region. The phrase can also be described as the actual land upon which a settlement is built. So what exactly is the pattern of settlements in Southeast Asia?

Some say that the pattern of human settlement in Southeast Asia is dispersed settlements where buildings are spread out; an example would be the rural areas of Philippines, where different villages are at different parts of the country. Others say that it’s more like linear settlements that grow in a line, often alongside roads, river valleys or the coast, for example, the dense population in the rural part of the Mekong and Irrawaddy rivers.

Yet, a handful also say that it’s more like nucleated settlements with buildings grouped close together and are found at cross roads, like Singapore, where it is clustered by tall buildings and settlements. Therefore, it is hard to decide on what pattern are the settlements in the region; is it the dispersal settlement, the linear settlement or the nucleated settlement – or people are just looking for a place where it can satisfy their basic needs of food and shelter? However, there are many factors that affect the settlement patterns.

The location and the growth of a settlement depend on its site. The site is the place where people locate their settlement and the progress of their settlement will depend on its accessibility and availability of natural resources. There are also four specific variables, the economic factor, the physical factor, the technological factor and the historical factor that have the most impact on the nature of human settlement of all kinds. These variables control the desire of settlers to move to another location in order to gain rewards and start afresh.

The economic factor is the necessary cause of settlement and the physical, technological and historical factors are all sufficient causes of a settlement. The guarantee of material reward is one of the most important factors in human settlement. More profit in proportion to labour exerted is the core in dictating settlement patterns. Communication and resources are as important too, as communication increases trading and pioneer settlers require wood for fuel and building to build a settlement.

Next comes the physical factors. The few physical factors that influence the location of a settlement include, the water supply (settlements always require water to get on with their daily life, so they often choose a location on wet point sites for this), defence (locating their settlement on a high ground gives them an advantage during periods of war, such as high ground allow people to look out for enemies) and natural harbour.

An example would be the fertile river valleys, especially in the delta areas, like the Mekong and Irrawaddy rivers, which provides a constant source of water, food and transport. The technological influences are connected to the physical environment to a certain extent. The technological composition of the current settlement is a result of assimilating to the natural topography, as well as the availability of resources. Language and ethnic compatibility are not exception.

The nature of a settlement has its own language and lingo, this is one of the cultural norms that make up a society, making it easier for others to fit in and discouraging outsiders from interfering. By having their own lingo, outsiders would not have a clue what the others are talking about. Thus they will feel discourage from joining their group. This not only makes similar settlers more comfortable to fit in but it also makes the community more bonded. Climate also affects settlement patterns in numerous ways.

Colder countries tend to have lesser population than warmer countries. For example, Alaska has the smallest population in the United States. Extreme climate conditions may play a role too, Sometimes it is even impossible to inhabit that area, due to the weather conditions. A land’s geographical location can determine whether an area has higher risk of experiencing an earthquake or not. Singapore is considered very blessed as her geographical location is very well shielded by other larger countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.

Furthermore, we do not sit on the earthquake belt. However Japan and Indonesia are less fortunate, as they are located right on the earthquake belt and are constantly experiencing earthquake every now and then. If your settlement is located nearby to a river, there will be a reliable source of food and transportation which adds to the land’s desirability. Some people are drawn to coastal areas as these areas offer a number of recreational activities, such as surfing or wakeboarding and access to water transportation.

Maybe they also appreciate the value of waterfront property. In this essay, I have come to the conclusion that Southeast Asia has more than one pattern of settlements. Instead, it has three, namely, the dispersal settlement, the linear settlement and the nucleated settlement. Although I have stated more than one factor that affect the pattern of settlements, I think that the economic factor is the most significant. However, the other factors have a part to play in the distribution of settlements in Southeast Asia as well.

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