This article deals with ‘Plateaus.’ This is part of our series on ‘Geography’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


  • Plateau is an elevated tract of relatively flat land , limited on atleast one side by steep slope falling abruptly
  • Eg: Tibetan plateau.

Reasons for formation of Plateaus

There are many reasons for the formation of Plateaus

  • When two mountain ranges are forming, then landmass in between them rise too &  Plateaus are formed .
  • Deposition from lava – if lava is basaltic it will spread easily &  form flat elevated surface
  • Deposition from wind over long time => After compression & solidification of deposited material plateau will form.
  • When upland of any surface is eroded due to glaciers, plateau is formed.

Types of Plateaus

1 . Intermontane plateau

  • Intermontane plateaus are  highest, largest & most complex plateaus of world.
  • Intermontane plateaus are enclosed and surrounded by mountain ranges from different sides.

Examples include

a. Tibetan Plateau

  • Stretches 1000 km north to south &  2500 km east to west & average elevation is 4500m  => called Roof of the world .
  • Bounded by Kunlun Mountains in the north & Himalayas in the south. 
  • Many major rivers of Asia like Indus, Brahmaputra etc rise here & also holds constellation of salt & freshwater lakes .

b. Plateau of Bolivia

  • Lies largely  in Bolivia
  • It has average elevation of 1350 m.
  • Highland  was uplifted during tertiary period when the Andes were formed
  • Contrary to Tibetan Plateau, it is very dry and  has no exterior drainage

c. Plateau of Mexico

  • Plateau stands between the eastern and western Sierra Madre Mountains.
  • It has average elevation between 1800 meters to 2300 meters
  • Large  parts of this Plateau are very dry.

d. Colorado Plateau

  • Situated in USA between Cascade Range and Rocky Mountains
  • It is situated at elevation

e. Anatolia Plateau

  • Lies in Turkey between Taurus & Pontic Range
  • It’s elevation is cause of cool weather of Turkey 
Intermontane Plateaus

2. Piedmont or Border Plateau

  • These  Plateaus border mountain ranges and owe their present position to the same uplifts that raised the mountains. 
  • Examples include
    1. Piedmont Plateau on the border of Appalachian Mountains
    2. Patagonia Plateau in South America

3. Volcanic Plateau

  • Volcanoes form variety of plateaus. 
    • Larger : built by BASALTIC lava flow.
    • Small : formed by resistant lava caps that aren’t eroded & maintain its elevation after surrounding land has been worn away.
  • Examples are
    • Columbia Snake Plateau .
    • Deccan Plateau , India.
    • Shan Plateau , Myanmar
    • Katanga Plateau, Congo
    • North Island in New Zealand
Volcanic Plateaus of the world
Volcanic Plateaus of the world

4. Erosional Plateau

  • Form in semiarid regions where streams have cut away portions of high lands.
  • Examples include
    1. Allegany Plateau near  New York 
    2. Cumberland Plateau near Appalachians in USA

5. Depositional Plateau

  • Formed due to depositional action of wind
  • Examples include Loess Plateau in China => It is formed due to process of deposition of sediments carried from the desert  by the Anticyclonic  winds which develop over Russia and come to China shedding their load in this area
Loess Plateau

6. Dome Plateau

  • These plateaus are uplifted by folding and faulting processes  into a broad dome.
  • Entrenched Meanders are feature of these plateaus
  • Examples include Ozark Plateau of USA

7. Glacial Plateau

  • These are formed due to  erosional action of glaciers.
  • Examples include
    1. Laurentian Plateau of Canada (North America)
    2. Garhwal Plateau of India

Importance of Plateaus

  • Plateaus have large amount of   mineral wealth like Gold, Iron, Copper, Diamond, Manganese, Mica , Granite etc. which forms industrial base of any economy. Eg : Katanga Plateau of Congo is very rich in copper and Deccan Plateau of India is very rich in resources.
  • Plateaus are have more plain regions as compared to pure mountainous regions which helps in development of means of transport. Rail and road transport is lesser costly in plateau regions as compared to mountainous regions.
  • Plateau regions have abrupt slopes which are beneficial for setting up hydroelectrical centres thus helping in overall development of the region
  • Plateaus greatly effect the climate of region . For example Tibet plateau divides western Jet Stream in two parts while in summer and helps to create low pressure over Indian subcontinent which results into attraction for Monsoons 
  • They are important agriculturally as well . Eg : Deccan Plateau in India has black soil which is unmatchable for production of Cotton and Sugarcane.
  • Plateaus especially Intermontane Plateaus are great source of water resources as well. Eg: Large number of rivers like Indus , Brahmaputra etc originates from Tibet plateau.

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