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The Thar Desert

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The Thar Desert

The Thar desert carpeting a major area of 200,000 km square in the west-Indian state, Rajasthan is ranked as the seventh largest desert in the world. It stretches to other nearby states – Haryana, Punjab and northern areas of Gujarat. It also crosses the western border to be a part of Pakistan known as Cholistan Desert. Its small portion is constituted by sand dunes and rest comprises of rocks. With comparatively less rainfall having just one river Luni, the region faces scarcity of water. The soil remains sandy with a very low amount of clay, it also consists of calcium carbonate and gypsum.

Physiographic Division of India

Soil of Thar Desert

The soil of the desert usually stays dry due to scanty rainfall. Infact, it gets eroded by the wind that blows over it at high speed. Due to this, the sand dunes are formed that keep shifting from time to time, and the sand also gets settled in the soil of neighboring areas. To save the soil from getting eroded, it needs to be fixed by means of planting trees and shrubs in the areas, which saves the soil from being taken away from its place. Planting of various species of trees has been tried here, of which Acacia torrilis and jojoba have been able to adapt and survive well. To irrigate the land, the Rajasthan Canal, also known as Indira Gandhi Canal scheme was started in the year 1965. It is popularly known as the ‘Feeder Canal’.

Vegetation and Habitat of Thar Desert

Vegetation of Thar Desert

The vegetation here, comprises of Northern Desert Thorn Forest that is not consistent and rather is found in scattered form. The density of patches of small trees, herbs, shrubs and grass, varies from place to place; increasing from west to east, depending upon the extent of rainfall.

The diverse nature of this desert led it to serve as home to a diverse range of animal and plant species. It has some of the endangered species like Black Buck, Chinkara and Indian wild ass. They have been surviving here surprisingly though some credit for this also goes to the protection provide to them by the local people Bishnois that has been living here for quite long time. About 140 species of migratory birds are also found here.

Means of Livelihood in the Thar

Surprisingly, the Thar desert boasts of a heavy population living in the region who earning their livelihood. Owing to adverse natural conditions, agriculture does not prove to be much promising means of earning. The major crop that is grown here is Kharif crop which includes jowar, bajra, guwar, sesame, maize and pulses. The seeds are sown in summer and the ready crop is harvested in September-October. Other crops like wheat, mustard and cumin are also grown here; the credit goes to development of adequate water systems like tube-wells and canals for better water availability for irrigation in the area. The economy of this region largely depends upon animal husbandry. The cattle population includes camels, cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep and ox. A good variety of sheep is found here making the region the significant wool-producing area in India. A large number of cattle fairs namely, Ramevji cattle fair, Tejaji cattle fair, Baldeo cattle fair and Mallinath cattle fair, are organized here.

Since animal husbandry is the most important form of livelihood for the people here, planting of trees and grasslands becomes equally inevitable, on which the livestock grazes to live. Therefore, several afforestation schemes have been carried out here that has led to the development of forests comprising of various kinds of trees. Many research institutes have come forward to practice Agroforestry, encouraging growth and development of the place and improving living conditions for the people and their livestock. Apart from this, the tourism industry has been booming here with major attractions being showcased.

The Thar region has seen a sea change in past two decades. Tourists love to visit here and be a part of this distinct place and its unique culture.
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