The Great Indian Desert-Physical Geography-Frontier IAS
Baljit Dhaka
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The Great Indian Desert - Frontier IAS

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Physical Geography: The Great Indian Desert

The Indian Desert is located to the north-west of the Aravali hills lies the Great Indian Desert. This region receives low rainfall below 150 mm per year; hence, it has arid climate with low vegetation cover. It is because of these characteristic features that this is also known as Marusthali. 

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Great Indian Desert : An Introduction

  • Great Indian Desert also known as Thar Desert
  • A large, arid region in north western part of Indian subcontinent that forms a natural boundary between India and Pakistan.
  • World's 17th largest desert, and the world's 9th largest subtropical desert.
  • About 75% of the Thar Desert is in India, and the remaining 25% is in Pakistan.
  • In Pakistan is continues as Cholistan Desert.

Origin of Thar desert:

  • The origin of the Thar Desert is a controversial subject. 
  • Some consider it to be 4000 to 10,000 years old, whereas others state that aridity started in this region much earlier. 
  • Another theory states that area turned to desert relatively recently: around 2000 – 1500 BC
  • At that time, the Ghaggar- Hakra ceased to be a major water source for the Indus Valley Civilization centre of Mohenjodaro which  later terminated in the desert.

Features of Great Indian Desert:

  • It forms approximately 10% of the Geographic area of India.
  • In contrast to Sahara which has one of the lowest population Densities, Thar desert is one of the most populated desert in the world.
  • More than 60% of the desert lies in the state of Rajasthan and extends into Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana
  • Thar Desert extends between the Aravali Hills in the Northeast the Great Rann of Kutch along the coast and alluvial plains of the Indus river in the west and north west.
  • About 10 percent of this region comprises sand dunes (a hill of loose sand built by aeolian processes or the flow of water), and the remaining 90 percent consist of craggy rock forms, compacted salt-lake bottoms, and dune areas.
  • Annual temperatures can range from 0°C in the winter to over 50°C during the summer.
  • Most of the rainfall received in this region is associated with the short July–September southwest monsoon that brings around 100–500 mm of precipitation. 
  • Water is scarce and occurs at great depths, ranging from 30 to 120 m below the ground level. 
  • The soils of the arid region are generally sandy to sandy-loam in texture. 
  • Luni river is the only river integrated into the desert.
  • Salt water lakes in the Thar Desert include the Sambar, Kuchaman, Didwana in Rajasthan and Kharaghoda in Gujarat.
  • These lakes receive rainwater during monsoon and evaporate during the dry season. The salt is derived by the weathering of rocks in the region.

  • This desert is made up of a very dry part, the Marusthali region in the west, and a semi desert region in the east.
  • The natural vegetation of this dry area is  Northwestern thorn scrub which occur in small clusters.

Significance of Great Indian Desert:

  • Acts as a natural barrier between India and Pakistan.
  • The geographic isolation of the Thar Desert by mountain ranges and plains contributes significantly to the weather patterns that shape its distinctive, hot, dry environment.

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