Extreme Settlements around the World

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    Minqin County, China  

    How does it feel to have a home in a place, which is slowly but surely being gobbled up by ruthless sand? A place where the water supplies are running out at an alarming rate, and where the country’s farm and towns being forgotten and submerged bit by bit? China’s Minqin County is a diminishing oasis trapped between two deserts. This drought-afflicted region suffers ruthless wind and dust for nearly four months and as of 2004, the desert was approaching Minqin at a rate 10 meters per year, swallowing the little greenery that is left. The situation is so bad that the Chinese government has started to transfer and relocate about two million of Minqin’s population.

    Cherrapunji, India

    Sitting pretty at 1,290 meters above sea level and braving ferocious torrential rains, the city of Cherrapunji, receives an annual rainfall of a whopping 1270 centimetres! Here’s the irony – the region still faces acute shortage of fresh water, compelling the locals to walk miles to get their daily fill! If this wasn’t enough, the merciless rains cause massive soil erosion, leaving the land of Cherrapunji denuded.

    Tristan da Cunha

    Characterised with harsh winds, persistent rain and a continuous fear of volcanic eruption, Tristan da Cunha is the most remotely inhabited archipelago of the world. Dangling between South America and Africa, this place is starkly cut off for its inhabitants, whose access to the mainland comes only via fishing vessels that run nine times a year.

    Gobi Desert, Mongolia


    An evening in a desert, with camels and tents in the backdrop, makes for a very picturesque photograph but with Gobi desert, the reality is far from this rosiness! With its sharp rocky outcrops, vast expanse of rolling sand dunes, and burning summers to icy winters, Gobi Desert is a harsh desert region of Asia. The region receives an annual rainfall of only 200mm every year, forcing its incumbents to brave snowstorms across the parched land in search of vital resources.

    Coober Pedy, Australia


    You might have heard about underground passages or a tunnel, but did you know that Coober Pedy, a sleepy mining town in Australia, has been built underground in an extensive network of cave-like dugouts that pepper the surrounding hills! This is done to escape the extreme temperature the region faces, characterised by scorching hot days and extremely cold nights. Thanks to the region's low rainfall, high cost of water, sandstone, and lack of topsoil, it is no surprise that very little plant life exists in the town.

    Makoko, Nigeria

    image source: wikipedia

    While most of the world’s population is busy complaining about ‘the hardships they face’, there are people who are surviving amidst floating rubbish, spending their lifetime living in aged boats and dilapidated shacks on stands that are encircled by the oily, grimy waters. If that was not enough, the inhabitants of this floating slum now face the threat of losing their homes, as the Nigerian government pushes to eradicate this ‘scar’ from Lagos’s potentially lucrative waterfront.

    La Rinconada, Peru

    Built on a glacier in the Andes at an altitude of 5,100 metres, this isolated gold-mining town is said to be the highest city in the world. However, life on the roof of the world is far from heavenly. Living condition of its 30,000 odd citizens is harsh. Besides the altitude, the town has no running water and no sewage system. Drawn by dreams of gold, people here live amongst cascades of garbage while struggling with icy temperatures, painfully thin air, and pervading sense of lawlessness (imagine having to live without any permanent police or law order in place).