Population, settlements, urban network
The Peru presents itself as one of the most contradictory realities in Latin America, with strong socio-economic inequalities and a considerable delay in development, to which the wealth of resources potentially available to the country acts as a striking counterpoint. On average, the living conditions of the population are very modest (it is estimated that about two thirds of the residents live below the poverty line). The social indicators outline a picture of considerable backwardness, in which the underemployment rate concerns 75 % of the active population, and only 60 % of the total population has access to social and health services. The standard of the rural or suburbanized population is very far from that enjoyed only by a small elite.
The population continues to increase at a rapid pace and, thanks to a high birth rate (24.7 ‰ in 1997), has exceeded 22 million residents at the 1993 census, while a 1998 estimate puts it at around 24.8 million.
The physiognomy of the territorial organization leads to the recognition of three macro-regional bands, as a longitudinal tripartition in the geomorphological units of the Costa, Sierra and Selva. Rich in contrasts, the environmental picture of Peru played an important role in the events of the population: the opposition between the center and the periphery, typical of South America, here is based above all on the contrast between the western coastal and Andean area and the area eastern Amazon. The first is populated and opened onto the ocean, the second much less populated and not very accessible due to the presence of the forest; there is also a difference in population density in favor of the central-northern stretch of coast compared to the southern one and, in the Andean context, between the foothills and valleys and the higher and more inaccessible ones. However, the most striking recent contrast is between the colossal and chaotic urban area of Lima and the rest of the country. In fact, the coastal and littoral settlement now prevails over the historical one of the Andean plateau. The majority of Peruvians (About 60 %) lives in the ‘oasis’ of the arid Costa, since in recent decades a process of littoralisation has taken place which has stolen population from the Sierra (35 %). The eastern side is the area with the lowest population density (about 3 residents / km ²) despite the colonizing forces mostly linked to oil exploitation.
The urbanization process is intense, involving over 70 % of the population, which is concentrated above all in the coastal settlement axis. Lima (6,464,700 residents To an estimate of 1998) stands out for its speed of growth, and by now its metropolitan area, estimated at over 8 million residents, is home to almost a third of the population of the entire country; the capital quickly took on the worst aspect of the metropolitan phenomenon, typical of developing countries, with the formation of gigantic shanty towns (barriadas).
Several other populous cities, of recent demographic development, with populations between 250. 000 and 700. 000 residents, Are, in Costa, Callao (650. 000 residents), Maritime and port center and now conurbato industrialist with Lima, Trujillo (510. 000 residents) And Chiclayo (411. 000), that arise in a ‘ area rich in plantations; in the Andean region stand out the historical capital, Cuzco (255. 000 residents) and Arequipa (620. 000), an important commercial and communication crossroads. Also significant is the city ‘pioneer’ of Iquitos (274. 000), built in the Amazon, in the production of rubber and recently revitalized by oil exploitation. For Peru 2005, please check ehealthfacts.org.
Despite the drastic drop in inflation (which fell from the very high values of the early 1990s to 8.6 % in 1997), the growth of GDP and the expansion of foreign investments, the social costs of liberal policy have been enormous. The agricultural sector is in a state of neglect; mass layoffs were carried out in order to restructure and privatize state-owned companies which swelled the ranks of the poorer classes. Furthermore, the phenomena of corruption, the production and trade of drugs and, consequently, the weight of narcodollars in the national economy have increased considerably. The growing GDP per resident signals a precarious situation even if not at the levels of the poorest South American countries in absolute terms.
Peruvian agriculture presents the classic dichotomy between crops destined for the international market and subsistence ones. The former are concentrated on the Costa where, thanks to irrigation, modern plantations of sugar cane, cotton, fruit, rice and cocoa operate. In recent times, the eastern side of the country has also been affected by the expansion of agricultural export crops; in these regions, however, the most widespread and constantly growing crop remains that of coca. In the Andean region subsistence agriculture prevails (especially corn, the basis of the food of the indigenous populations, barley and legumes) and livestock farming; the latter is mainly based on sheep (13.1 million heads in 1997), goats and llamas;4, 6 million. The forest heritage, rich in precious essences, but subjected to intense exploitation, also in relation to the increase in demographic pressure and agricultural colonization in the Amazon region: the process of deforestation, according to UN estimates, had affected, between 1970 and the 1990, an area equal to 4 % of the entire national territory, and continues with approximately 2000 km ²of equatorial forest cut down per year; this action is causing serious hydrogeological disruption, with effects, among other things, on reservoirs and irrigation systems, which quickly fill up with debris. Fishing is of considerable importance, although in recent years it has shrunk, especially due to the climatic anomaly called El Niño, a warm current off the Pacific coast, which negatively affects the quantity of the catch, for which, still in the 1996, Peru was in second place in the world.
The Peru has a subsoil rich in mineral resources, among which copper (about 20 % of total exports), iron, zinc, lead, tin and precious minerals stand out. Also important are the minerals used in technological production (including vanadium, tungsten, molybdenum and selenium) and oil, with limited extraction (5.8 million t in 1998) but expanding. In addition to the petrochemical and refining sectors, the secondary is also divided into the more traditional steel, metallurgical, textile and food industries, which are almost all concentrated in the metropolitan region of Lima and Callao or in the vicinity of the mining extraction areas. The United States, which has large industrial and commercial interests in Peru, is the first commercial partner, followed by Japan, Chile, Brazil, Argentina and the countries of the European Union.
The Peru has before him the difficult task of attenuating the profound inequalities that have disturbing effects on the economic-social structure. The two sectors destined for significant development in the coming years are mainly hydroelectric and tourism. Although the latter still lacks adequate infrastructures, it can count on an extraordinary archaeological and environmental heritage (about twenty protected natural areas, equal to just over 2 % of the territory).