Hot deserts provide opportunities for economic development. As part of your GCSE Geography syllabus, you will have studied how humans use these hostile environments. The way that they are used depends on whether the country is rich or poor. You should be able to compare and contrast the different ways in which deserts are used in these two cases.
In richer countries, deserts are used for commercial farming, mineral extraction, retirement migration, leisure and tourism. These all require the country to have a well established infrastructure, good communications and plenty of capital. One of the usual case studies is that of Las Vegas in the Mojave Desert in the USA.
The Mojave Desert lies in the American far west and has a fragile ecosystem and limited resources. Despite this, one of America's fastest-growing cities has arisen - Las Vegas.
The Colorado River passes through this desert and was dammed to create Lake Mead in the 1930s. This was crucial to the development of Las Vegas and the lake supplies both water and electricity to the city. The lake and its surroundings are used for tourism - sailing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking and sightseeing are a few examples. Since 2000, the area has seen lower than normal rainfall and the levels of water in Lake Mead have been falling. Las Vegas city officials have asked the inhabitants to recycle as much waste water as possible in the interests of water conservation.
Other areas of the desert are used by the military, rock climbers, film makers and off-road drivers on quad bikes, trail bikes, 4x4 vehicles etc. Fibre optic cables connecting urban centres have been routed through it and there is even a spaceport! These uses all put pressure on the fragile desert ecosystems.
The story is very different in LEDCs. Here, the deserts are used by local people for subsistence farming with some commercial farming, mining and tourism. Desert soils are poor and farming tends to be limited to raising a few animals on any areas where grass exists and moving around to find new pastures and water sources as the old ones are 'grazed out' and dry up. This is known as nomadic pastoralism and is practised by hunter-gatherer tribes.
Around the edges of deserts and around oases, it is possible to grow a few crops and perhaps some fruit trees. Where good irrigation is available, cash crops can be grown, for example cotton and wheat in the Thar Desert (India and Pakistan) alongside the Indira Ghandi Canal. In the same desert, deposits of limestone, marble, lignite coal, oil and gypsum are mined. Tourism is often on a small scale with locals acting as guides.
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