24.1 C
Sunday, October 1, 2023
Home > UncategorizedGeography: Of explorers and problem solvers

Geography: Of explorers and problem solvers

Fast Facts
Qualifications: MA/ MSc Geography
Prominent institutions: JNU, Delhi university, BHU, Pune university, Madras university, MSU-Baroda, Allahabad university
Academic and research institutions, urban and regional planning departments, spatial analysis, GIS, environmental management etc.
A lot of people develop interest in Geography during their school days when they learn to spot their country on a map. They then drill down to their State, district, city or village, apart from finding major rivers, mountains, plains and deserts on a map. Finding places on the map has a bit of the thrill and adventure associated with the great discoveries of continents and countries in the past. How does the land beyond our land look? What kind of lives people have in a particular part of the world and why? How does human life change from one place to another?
These are the kind of questions that triggered the development of Geography as a discipline whose earliest indications are traced to the ninth century BC when the first map is generally believed to have been made.
From the use of maps and other forms of geographical intelligence in navigation and exploration, the discipline has since been continuously evolving in its scope, methodology, applications and relevance. Its modern form encompasses domains like Geographic Information System (GIS), urban planning, and also meteorology.
Looking back
Philosophers, mathematicians and travellers of Greece, Rome, the Arab world, and China were the most notable contributors to the earliest records of geographic knowledge. Greek scholar Eratosthenes (250 BC) was the first to use the word ‘geography’ and the first person to measure the circumference of the earth. As the Arab Empire began to expand in the seventh century, Muslim travellers, traders and scholars greatly advanced geography by establishing contact with previously isolated lands and cultures and improving the existing techniques of map making.
Europeans contributed rather modestly to geographic knowledge for better part of the Middle Ages (5th to 15th century), but brought about the Age of Discovery starting from the early 15th century and continuing into the 17th century; the period saw extensive maritime travels for exploration of unknown lands, search for trade routes and mapping of the world. Geography was introduced as an academic discipline in European universities in the nineteenth century and Indian universities in the 1930s.Over the years, ‘geography’ has come to be recognized, in one of its many possible definitions, as the study of the diverse environments, places, and spaces of the Earth’s surface and their interactions.
Skills of a good geographer
  • Observation and inference from data and maps
  • Quantitative abilities
  • Good analytical/research skills
  • Physical fitness and willingness for field work
  • Quest for exploration
  • Attention to detail
  • Writing and communication skills
Who hires geographers?
Public sector: Census office, Survey of India, space application centres, urban and rural development departments, city development authorities, social and environment research organisations, academic institutions.
Private sector: Companies working in areas of urban development, environment and
infrastructure planning, real estate, GIS and spatial planning, transportation and logistics, such as HCL, RMSI, ROLTA, ESRI, Feedback Ventures, IL&FS, Lea Associates, and JLLM, Spatial Decisions, etc.

What does it do today?
What is the role of Geography in a world that has been rendered increasingly easy to explore by information and communication technologies, and described as a ‘global village’? Where do geographers fit in today’s economy which increasingly dictates what people learn at educational institutions and how they will be employed?
“Today Geography is being employed to study any issue that has a spatial dimension – inequitable development, sustainable development, urbanization, climate change, etc. Geography is also becoming less descriptive and more analytical,” says Dr. Bhupinder Zutshi, Associate Professor at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi.
Between Science and Society
“Looking at a problem from the geographical point of view is as important as from economic, social and political angle,” says Dr. Atiqur Rahman, Assistant Professor of Geography at Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi. “There lies the significance of geography.”
Milap Chand Sharma, Associate Professor, Centre for the Study of Regional Development, JNU, says geography covers an important area that links social sciences and physical sciences. “Its interdisciplinary nature gives it a role in planning, exploitation of natural resources, environmental management, and spatial analysis. The use of remote sensing and information technology in generating data about the earth and atmosphere has magnified the importance of that role.”
Higher education in Geography
The discipline has broadly been divided into Physical Geography and Human Geography. Physical Geography seeks to understand systems and processes of lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, soil and flora and fauna patterns. An important part of Physical Geography is geomorphology, which studies the form or shape of the Earth and how various forces affect the primary relief elements of terrestrial surface. It’s intuitive to realize that Physical Geography relies primarily on quantitative methods.
Human Geography explores the relationships between humans and their natural environment and tracks the broad social patterns that shape human societies. It combines economic and cultural geography and gives the learner an insight into how the actions of the governments, companies and individuals affect the people and places. Human Geography has a tradition of using qualitative research techniques, such as participant observation and interviews.
Core themes
At the school level, Geography is being taught both as part of the social sciences curriculum and independently. Students who did not study Geography at plus two level can also opt for the subject at college. Dr. Sunil Kumar, who teaches Geography at Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut (UP), believes that grounding in Maths and Biology at the senior secondary level gives students an advantage in understanding cartography/quantitative methods and environmental studies, respectively, at the undergraduate level.
Undergraduate courses
Geography is widely available at universities in India. Geography’s intermediacy between social and physical sciences has meant that it’s part of Arts departments in some institutions and Sciences in others. One can do either a BA or BSc in Geography (similar is the situation at Master’s level). Jamia Millia Islamia offers both BA and BSc courses in Geography, admitting Arts students in the former and Sciences students in the latter. Dr. Zutshi of JNU says BSc Geography in certain institutions is distinguished by their bias towards Physical Geography and quantitative techniques.
Students going for a BA pass (or general) course may like to opt for subjects like Economics, Political Science and Sociology to go with Geography and prepare the ground for specialization in Human Geography. For students going for BSc general course in Geography, Maths is a good subject to opt for. For Honours degrees in BA and BSc, Economics, History and Maths are generally on offer as subsidiary subjects. An undergraduate curriculum broadly consists of the Principles of Geomorphology, Climatology, Oceanology, Human Geography, Geography of Resources as well as Geography of South Asia, Cartography, quantitative and surveying techniques, Remote Sensing and GIS.
Postgraduate education
For specialization in one of the branches of Geography, a student must earn a Master’s degree. “Master’s is the right stage at which to do specialization in Geography, not before,” says Vishal Dubey, Assistant Professor at Centre for Environment Planning and Technology (CEPT) University, Ahmedabad.
Most of the universities allow the students to choose from a set of subjects for specialization in the second year. A student looking to enrol on a Master’s programme must first ensure that the institution offers the subject for specialization that he/she is interested in.The Geography departments of some universities are best known for the appeal and distinguishing quality of their specializations. While Banaras Hindu University is best known for population and urban studies, JNU has earned respect for regional development, and Jamia Millia for its work in agricultural and cultural geography. Madras and Sagar universities are known for Applied Geography, which rely heavily on spatial analysis and quantitative techniques.
What is common to most of the institutions offering Master’s courses is that they are increasingly placing emphasis on urban planning, environmental management, disaster management, GIS, remote sensing, and other such emerging areas. Thus a Master’s in Geography gives a student not only a spatial view of some of the most pressing issues of our times, such as urbanisation, industrialisation, and environment, but also a view that balances the approaches of social and physical sciences.
Career in Geography
Broadly, students holding Master’s degree have two avenues open to them. They can either go in for further studies in order to make a career in research and teaching or taking up one of the several areas that need application of Geography. The latter may entail some amount of further orientation or training. Some of these career avenues are briefly described below:
  • Urban and regional planning: Rapid urbanisation has led to a large demand for urban planners. A Master’s in Geography can go for Urban Studies at School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, CEPT, Ahmedabad, and other such institutions functioning in a number of States. According to Rupesh Rajpurohit, who did a Postgraduate diploma in Urban Planning after his Master’s degree in Geography and currently works for the Gujarat government, a top-up Urban Planning Course boosts the prospects of a Geography student in terms of career choices   and also boosts financial compensation substantially. Within the area of urban planning, geographers can distinguish themselves because of their special orientation. Urban Studies programme usually require 55 per cent marks at the Master’s level and admissions are based on entrance examination and interview.
  • Environmental and resources management: Geographers are welcome at organisations that are engaged in environmental management and looking for people who combine a keen understanding of environment, natural resources and development. Such employers belong to the government, research organisations, voluntary sector and business consulting.
  • Disaster management: Since disaster management is now being integrated into their Geography curricula by Delhi University, HNB Garhwal University, North-Eastern Hill University and other institutions, geographers have more opportunities in the academia and elsewhere. Those interested can go for a Diploma in Disaster Management along with their Master’s in Geography. Disaster management as a discipline is offered by National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), New Delhi, Disaster Mitigation Institute, Ahmedabad, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Disaster Management Institute, Bhopal, among other institutions.
  • Geoinformatics: Geoinformatics, which finds applications in town planning, forest management, mineral exploration, transport planning and other areas, has opened the exciting field of remote sensing and GIS for geographers. An MA or MSc in geography gives students a good base for further study of Geoinformatics. An MSc, M.Tech or Postgraduate diploma in Geoinformatics can be done at Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS)-Dehradun, Birla Institute of Technology-Ranchi, Symbiosis Institute of Geoinformatics-Pune, among others. Institutions offering GIS and remote sensing courses include Madras University, Allahabad University, Rajasthan University, Annamalai University and Jamia Millia Islamia.Organisations that employ those skilled in Geoinformatics include Indian Space Research Organisation, National Remote Sensing Agency, National Informatics Centre, Space Application Centre (Ahmedabad), urban development authorities of the State governments, and private companies. According to Amit Srivastava, Chief of Management Operations at ArcGeosystems, a private company that provides GIS and remote sensing solutions, a Master’s in geography can start with a salary of Rs. 15,000-25,000 per month.
Challenges and possibilities
Geography as an academic discipline and a career has yet to realize its full potential in India. According to Dr. Amitabh Kundu, Professor of Economics at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development, JNU, Geography will come into its own only when it applies itself wholeheartedly to taking up social problems and public policy challenges facing India.
“Geography needs more public policy orientation. It will then have a major role to play in the challenges of regional disparities in social and economic development and urbanisation,” says Professor Kundu. For geographers and aspiring geographers, that sounds like an exciting challenge as well as an opportunity, which go beyond just a question of making ones’s job or career.
‘Our role is not always that obvious’
And yet opportunities are everywhere, says Anant Maringanti, who opted out of a successful career in journalism to do research in Geography at University of Minnesota. The Hyderabad-based independent research scholar shares his views on Geography.
Q: What was behind your switch from journalism to a different domain, a doctorate in Geography?
A: Some time in the mid 90s, I began to feel that the world around me was changing very rapidly and that I did not have the language to describe it. As a journalist and activist, I felt that without an appropriate and adequate way to describe and interpret the world, we will not be able to act wisely. The changes I saw in the world around me had all to do with shifting boundaries, changing concept of distance because of migration, air travel becoming more affordable, communication technologies becoming more easily accessible, etc. So, a doctorate in geography was the most obvious direction to take.
Q: How important is the role of geographers in today’s world?
A: In India, Geography is not a very powerful discipline. This is true in many countries. But in the US and some parts of Europe, Geography is given significant amount of resources. But this is changing rapidly. ‘The World Development Report 2009’, the most important annual publication of the World Bank is titled ‘Reshaping Economic Geography’. There are other examples too which show that people are taking Geography more seriously.
Geoinformatics, a sub field of Geography has certainly gained a lot of importance. Location decisions for commercial and non-profit organisations and government become easier with GIS applications.
Q: What is your advice to aspiring geographers?
A: Geography is a combination of two words: ‘geo’ and ‘graphy,’ which literally mean ‘writing the world’. Geographers play a key role, which is not always obvious, in concareers360_cmsorary world. In times of deepening global integration, many companies, governments and non-government organisations need to take key decisions regarding ‘location’. In this regard, geographers with applied skills can find many career opportunities as GIS experts, as social and political analysts, cultural critics and so on and so forth. My advice to students who want to pursue higher education is to continue to be optimistic and look out for new opportunities; they are everywhere.

 Where to study Geography

Prominent specialisation
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Regional Development
Delhi University, New delhi
Urban & Regional Studies,
Environment & Resources
Madras University
GIS, Sustainable Development
BHU, Varanasi
Population and Settlement
Geography, Cartography
University of Allahabad
Geomorphology, Environment Geography
MS University Baroda
Industrial Geography, Health Geography
University of Mysore
Tourism Geography, Regional Planning
North-Eastern Hill Univ. Shillong
GIS and Regional Development
University of Kerala
Physical Geography
Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi
Urban Geography
Dr. HS Gaur Sagar University, Sagar, Madhya Pradesh
Population Geography, GIS
Vidyasagar University,
Midnapore, West Bangal
GIS & Coastal Management
University of Burdwan,
Bardhaman – West Bengal
Regional Planning
University of Calcutta, Kolkata
Industrial Geography
Gujarat University, Ahmedabad
Urban geography
Aligarh Muslim University
Agriculture geography
Jammu University
Geomorphology, tourism Geography
Kurukshetra University, Haryana
Agricultural and settlement geog.

 Do you have a query about Geography programmes? Careers360 will answer your queries through the month of October. Post your queries today! 

- Advertisement -spot_img

More articles

- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest article