The Indian state of Orissa lies in the eastern part of the subcontinent. The coastline of the Gulf of Bengal forms the eastern border; states bordering on Orissa are Madhya Pradesh to the west, Bihar and Bengal to the north and Andra Pradesh to the south. The geographical area of the state comprises 156,000 km² The climate is tropical with hot summers and temperatures of up to 45°C and mild winters with minimum temperatures of around 15°C. Orissa lies on the route of the southwest monsoon bringing a marked rainy season to this area between June and September with a precipitation of between 1,750 mm. in the south west and the coast and 1,320 mm in the west.
The land comprises a transition from the plateau of the Eastern Ghat in the north to the flat alluvial land on the coastline of the Gulf of Bengal. Three quarters of the region is hilly with maximum altitudes of 1,500 m. Three major river systems rise in the highlands in the north, the Chotanagpur Plateau. The wide branching network of the Brahmani, Baitarani and Mahanadi rivers has produced fertile alluvial land along the coastline to the Gulf of Bengal. 40% of the geographic area can be used for agriculture. The tropical forest which originally covered the whole of the territory now comprises an area of 59,960 km² (= 38% of the area) according to official statements; in reality however, only about 16% of the total area can be called forest and this area too is rapidly disappearing due to extensive felling for firewood and building timber.
With an average population density of 169 per km², Orissa is less densely populated than other Indian states. An estimated 32 million people live in Orissa. The state lies in the "tribal belt" of Central India, around 22% are members of non-Hindu tribes. Orissa is mainly an agricultural state: 88% of its inhabitants live in approx. 50,000 villages. 6.4 million people live in towns, the majority of these - 4.6 million or 17% of the total population - in the district Cuttack. The population is predominantly, to approx. 65%, illiterate. The growth rate of the population is 1.9% annually.
Orissa belongs to the least developed and poorest states of India. More than two thirds of the population live below the poverty line. Although this area is rich in iron ore, manganese, chromium, bauxite and coal their mining constitutes only 5.2% of the total raw materials extraction in India. Orissa has over 10% of India's water resources at its disposal (with approx. 4.75% share in the area of the state of India) but only 20% of the cultivation area is irrigated (Indian average: 27%).
Agriculture and economy
Agriculture is the most important source of income for Orissa; two thirds of the state budget is produced by agriculture which employs 80% of the population. The most significant agricultural product is rice; around 7.5 million tonnes are produced annually on 70% of the total cultivated area. The second most important products are leguminous crops taking up more than 20% of the arable area in the state. Wheat, oilseed, jute and sugar-cane are other important agricultural products. About 3.5 million agricultural enterprises are registered by the tax authorities for this state. The average size of farm amounts to 1.6 hectares and is below the average size of farm in other Indian states.
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