Which is the largest desert in India

The deserts of Asia

The deserts of the Indian subcontinent


In the north-west of the Indian subcontinent lies an extensive dry area that occupies large parts of Rajasthan to the west of the Arawalli Mountains and extends beyond the Indian-Pakistani border to the Indus. Even if precipitation values ​​of less than 150 mm per year are not reached anywhere - 90 percent of the rain falls in the season of the southwest monsoon from July to September - and there are practically no vegetation-free areas, not least man has contributed to desert-like conditions.

The largest desert with 200,000 km² is the Thar desert, which stretches as far as Pakistan and is called Cholistan in the northern part and Nara in the southern part. The Pakistani desert Thal, also called Sind-Sagar-Doab, is enclosed by the Jhelum, a tributary of the Indus, and by the Indus itself. A second Pakistani desert, the Sind Desert, is located in the province of the same name in this country on the lower Indus. The entire area is part of the Indo-Iranian arid region, which continues west of the Indus via Balochistan into Iran. The influence of the equatorial monsoons extends as far as the Suleiman and Kirthar mountains, which demarcate Balochistan from the Indus plain. Dry winters and low rainfall during the summer monsoon determine the course of the year east of these mountain ranges. Balochistan, on the other hand, has a dry, subtropical desert climate with rainfall in winter.

In the sandy Thar desert, the otherwise typical oases are missing due to the low, salt-contaminated and hardly accessible groundwater reserves. While the region west of Jaisalmer is almost completely covered by thinly overgrown dunes, the area near Bikaner and Cholistan, a Pakistani part of the Thar, is only half a sandy desert. These up to 150 m high dunes, running from northeast to southwest , have formed parallel to the dominant winds in the dry season.

The Thar desert is repeatedly referred to in literature as a "man made desert". Although the formation of the desert also has climatic causes, the enormous influence of humans on the ecology of the Thar cannot be denied. The destruction of the trees - the wood was used as fuel and for building houses - as well as the destruction of the grass cover through overgrazing have meant that the summer rainfall no longer penetrates the soil sufficiently. The result is a further lowering of the groundwater level. Since the completion of the 470 km long Rajasthan Canal in 1986, which brings water from the Pundjab and, together with secondary canals, has a distribution system over 3,500 km in length, the population in the irrigation areas has increased tenfold. Several railway lines connect the desert cities, such as B. Jodhpur and Jaisalmer in India and Bahawalpur and Haiderabad in Pakistan. The Thar is therefore today the most densely populated and the most cultivated desert on earth.

The problem that a steadily growing population places competing demands on land that is becoming increasingly scarce is also evident in Cholistan. In the past, cattle was kept by sedentary farmers. To the extent that the irrigation land (separation: irrigation) of the Punschab moved south and the pastureland near the settlement was thus lost as arable land, the cattle farmers were forced to migrate further and further. They eventually adopted a nomadic way of life and, with their huge herds of cattle, involuntarily contributed to the fact that the desertification in Cholistan has reached extreme proportions.

Although the Indian subcontinent reaches its western border in the Indus Plain, we will briefly discuss Balochistan at this point, because it is largely located in Pakistan. Ladakh on the other side of the main Himalayan ridge belongs geologically and culturally to Tibet and is therefore part of the Central Asian deserts.

To the west of the Suleiman and Kirthar mountains rises the extensive Balochistan plateau, which extends far into Iran in the west and also belongs geologically to the Iranian highlands. To the north, towards Afghanistan, it is bounded by the Chagai, Toba and Kakar mountains and traversed by bare mountain ranges. The driest areas are in the northwest, but the Central Makran Mountains also offer only limited opportunities to live. Five million Baluchis live in Balochistan. They are split into numerous rival groups and live as nomadic cattle herders on the grasslands of the mountains in summer and in the valleys of the Indus plain in winter.