Mountain Ranges of Pakistan:
Karakoram Mountain Ranges Pakistan:
In Turkish language Karakoram means "black" this excellent and impressive set of dark brown and black variety of rocks in very rare mountain range. It houses the largest collection of very high pinnacles and mountains in the world stretched for 400 kms. This concentration has 250 kms depth. It is surrounded by Shyok River in the East and Karamber, Ishkuman and Gilgit Rivers in the West. Then it is surrounded by the Shaksgan River in the North East and by Shyok and the Indus Rivers in the South West. Karakoram has special significance for its fractured rocks, guarding vertical characteristics and very sharp angled slopes offering great challenge to mountaineers and adventure lovers. Four summits above 8000 meters i.e., K-2, Gasherbrum I and II as well as Broad Peak exist in Karakoram in an area of only 20 kms encircling the reputed glacial junction - Concordia. Baltoro, Soltoro, Lupghar, Khunjerab, Panmah, Aghil, Masherbrum, Saser, Hispar, Siachin, Rino, Batura, Rakaposhi/Bagrot and Haramosh are the sub-regions of the Karakoram.
This region has variable snow line ranging between 4200 to 4500 meters during the summer season. The temperatures in the area are extremely varied with large difference between lowest and highest mercury in a day. There is no penetration of Monsoons in this area. From May till end of September, each year is the most viable season to go for climbing in Karakoram. However climbing during winter is possible. Apart from towering mountains, Karakoram house largest glaciers outside the Polar Regions.
Travelers used to be attracted by the elegance and massif of the Karakoram and Hindukush. The Chinese are known to be the pioneers among travelers on the renowned Silk Route passing through these beautiful ranges. They recorded their experience of dark mountains, rope bridges and huge glaciers. Mr. Fattien while traveling from Sinkiang to the South Asian Sub-continent in 390 AD croissed the Karakoram via Mintika Pass (4710 m). Hinen Isang did track his way via Karakoram to this region in 603 AD.
Marco Polo's travel from Venice to Kublai Khan's Court in 13th Century left its effects like Marco Polo sheep. Then Ibne Batuta of Tangiers made a journey to this place in 14th century. Afterwards several European dignitaries paid visits to Karakoram seeking adventure, exploration, scientific researches and mountaineering in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Yet in the beginning of 19th century, men of exploration like Mr. J. Henderson and Mr. G.T. Vinge came to Skardu in 1834 and 1836. Hence mountain climbing and trekking in Karakoram commenced in 1892 because Martin Conway during his survey of the Upper Indus, tried to climb summits in the area including Rakaposhi. He was back to the region in 1902 and tried to scale K-2. The grand Duke of Abruzzi from Italy headed his large expedition to go for climbing and have a thorough survey of the Upper Baltoro region in 1909. That showed the way to a series of expeditions eager to do exploration and mountaineering in Karakoram region.
By 1947, some European mountaineers and explorers consisting of British, Italians and American had paid visits to the region. In post independent days in 1947, number of expeditions to this area recorded an increase. In 1953 a US expedition took the initiative of an attempt on K-2 but remained unsuccessful. In 1954 an Italian expedition led by Prof. Ardito Desio successfully went for the first ascent of the extremely fierce mountain - K-2. Mr. Lino Lecedelli and Archille companions were the pioneers to get to the K-2 peak, scaling via Abruzzi ridge. The area was opened for general mountaineering and trekking in 1974 and since then a sufficient number of expeditions come to Karakoram every year. To date so many mountaineers hailing from various countries have scaled K-2. They are among world famous and prominent mountaineers such as Reinhold Messener etc. Number of expeditions approaching Karakoram every year average to 100. A sufficient number of foreign as well as Pakistani mountaineers have so far scaled other high peaks of Karakoram Range, still there are so many other towering peaks yet remain unscaled looking for a challenge from the daring ones.
Hindukush Mountain Ranges Pakistan:
The Hindukush stand high in the west of Pamirs. Considerably it stretches from Wakhjir pass at the conjunction of pamirs and Karakoram to Khawak pass in the north of Kabul. First part of it goes beyond Wakhjir pass up to Dorah pass (320 kms long) and separates Hunza from Wakhan. Its second is satuated on the other side of Dorah pass in Afghanistan. The third region with 240 kms length is located in Pakistan stretching into swat and Kohistan. Eastward, the Indus River separates it from Karakoram. Thich Mir (7492m), Darban Zom (7219m) and Shingeik Zom are the other peaks of the area.
There are few glaciers in the range but these less significant. Because of geographic qualities this area has accessibility to Afghanistan and in 1830 it was first discovered by Europeans and then by the survey teams from Britain. British survey teams had attempted to climb Tirchmir and other summits in the area dating back in 1927. However in 1950 a Norwegian expedition comprising of nationals of different countries along with Pakistanis have scaled it. Other summits of the area were scaled afterwards i.e., in the sixties and seventies. Though almost all the peaks in the above 7000m in the Hindukush have already been scaled, still the goes on to attract mountaineers and those having love for nature. Lately other activities related to adventure tourism such as trekking and jeep safaris have shown considerable rise in the area.
Westerns Himalayas Mountain Ranges Pakistan:
The western Himalayas is located between valley of Kashmir in the east to Indus River in the north and west and Nanga Parbat massif is dominating it. Highest peak of this chain stands at 8125m. the range includes Kashmir, Kaghan, Kohistan, Deosai and Chitral regions. Deosai plains existing at an altitude of about 4500m also dominate this range. These plains are full of flowers blossoming in the summer months, offering very charming scenery. The monsoon also blesses the area and summer is the climbing season. Recently to some extent winter climbing has also commenced.
Longest Glaciers in Pakistan:
Pakistan's Glaciers Systems consists of numerous large and small size glaciers, found in the northern mountain ranges of Karakoram, Himalaya and Hindukush. These glaciers are also the biggest mass and collection of glaciated ice found anywhere in the whole world outside the North and South Poles.
Mostly concentrated in the Karakorum range and followed by Himalaya and Hundukush Ranges, these glaciers cover an approximate area of about 17000 square kilometers, which is around 15% of the mountainous regions in the upper Indus River Basin. The total length of glaciers on the lap of Karakoram Range in Pakistan is above 6160 square kilometres. According to estimates, almost 37% of the Karakoram region is under the glaciated ice. Biafo Glacier, Crossing to Snow Lake. These include Siachen Glacier- the world 2nd longest glacier (75 kilometres), located in the eastern Karakoram range along the disputed India-Pakistan line of control. It is the longest glacier in the Karakoram and second longest in the world outside the polar regions. Its altitude ranges from 5,753 m in the upper reaches to to 3,620 m in the lower reaches.
Biafo glacier the world third longest glacier (63 kilometers) is also found in the same region, which meets the Hispar glacier at the famous snow lake at the height of 5,128 m, creating the longest glaciated highway in the world from Shigar valley to Nagar Valley in Gilgit Baltistan.
Baltoro Glacier at Concordia, looking at K-2Here are also found other famous glaciers i.e. Baltoro (62 kilometres), Batura (58 kilometers) Hispar (53 kilometers) etc. Baltoro glacier is the most famous and visited among all these as it forms the ice highway en-route to four of the 8000 meters peaks including K-2, the world second highest peak. Overall according to conservative estimates there are more 120 major glaciers and numerous smaller glaciers in northern highlands of Pakistan and many of this still need to be explored and documented.
These glaciers are enormous reservoirs of fresh water resources and their gradual melting feed more than 60 large and small rivers in Pakistan. Biafo Glacier, Snow Lake under twilight the water bound in these glaciers is a lifeline for the people and economy of Pakistan, as the country heavily depend on regular discharge of these waters for large scale agriculture, industrial and domestic use. Without these glaciers, Pakistan would be a barren and inhospitable place to support its large population base. These glaciers are prone to climatic changes and global warming and there are conflicting claims of glacier meltdown in northern Pakistan. However any sort of faster meltdown and glacier depletion can greatly affect agriculture, drinking water supplies, hydro-electric power, and ecological habitats in the down country. Nevertheless despite its remoteness and harsh conditions this glacier provides breathtaking scenic beauty and also attracts a good number of experienced adventurists, mountaineers and trekkers.
Baltoro Glacier Pakistan:
The Baltoro Glacier, at 62 kilometers long, is one of the longest glaciers outside the Polar Regions. It is located in Baltistan, in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, and runs through part of the Karakoram mountain range. The Baltoro Muztagh lies to the north and east of the glacier, while the Masherbrum Mountains lie to the south. At 8,611 m (28,251 ft), K2 is the highest mountain in the region, and three others within 20 km top 8,000 m.
The glacier gives rise to the Shigar River, which is a tributary of the Indus River. Several large tributary glaciers feed the main Baltoro glacier, including the Godwin Austen Glacier, flowing south from K2, the Abruzzi and the various Gasherbrum Glaciers, flowing from the Gasherbrum group of peaks; the Vigne Glacier, flowing from Chogolisa, and the Yermandendu Glacier, flowing from Masherbrum. The confluence of the main Baltoro Glacier with the Godwin Austen Glacier is known as Concordia; this location and K2 base camp are popular trekking destinations.
The trough of this glacier is very wide. Small valley glaciers form icefalls where they meet the trunk glacier. The sidewalls vary from very steep to precipitous. The glacier has carved striations on the surrounding country rocks. Moving ice has formed depressions, which serve as basins for numerous glacial lakes.
Biafo Hisper Glacier Pakistan:
The Biafo Glacier is a 63 km long glacier in the Karakoram Mountains of the Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan which meets the 49 km long Hispar Glacier at an altitude of 5,128 m (16,824 feet) at Hispar La(Pass) to create the world's longest glacial system outside the polar regions. This highway of ice connects two ancient mountain kingdoms, Nagar (immediately south of Hunza) in the west with Baltistan in the east. The traverse uses 51 of the Biafo Glacier's 63 km and all of the Hispar Glacier to form a 100 km glacial route.
The Biafo Glacier presents a trekker with several days of very strenuous, often hectic boulder hopping, with spectacular views throughout and Snow Lake near the high point. Snow Lake, consisting of parts of the upper Biafo Glacier and its tributary glacier Sim Gang, is one of the world's largest basins of snow or ice in the world outside of the polar regions, up to 1,600 m (one mile) in depth.
The Biafo Glacier is the world's third longest glacier outside of the polar regions, second only to the 70 km Siachen Glacier disputed between Pakistan and India and Tajikistan's 77 km long Fedchenko Glacier.
Campsites along the Biafo are located off of the glacier, adjacent to the lateral moraines and steep mountainsides. The first three (heading up from the last village before the glacier, the thousand-year-old Askole village) are beautiful sites with flowing water nearby. Mango and Namla, the first two campsites, are often covered in flowers and Namla has an amazing waterfall very near the camping area. Baintha, the third camp site, is often used as a rest day. A large green meadow, it has a few running streams near the camp and many places to spend the day rock climbing or rappelling.
Evidence of wildlife can be seen throughout the trek. The Ibex and the Markhor Mountain Goat can be found and the area is famous for brown bears and snow leopards, although sightings are rare.
Batura Glacier Pakistan:
Batura Glacier (57km long) is one of the largest and longest glaciers outside the polar regions. It lies in the Gojal region of the Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan, just north of Batura (7,795 m) and Passu(7,500 m) massifs.
It flows west to east. The lower portions can be described as a grey sea of rocks and gravelly moraine, bordered by a few summer villages and pastures with herds of sheep, goats, cows and yaks and where roses and juniper trees are common.
Lakes and Wetlands in Pakistan:
Pakistan’s Lakes and Wetlands resources consist of numerous natural and manmade lakes and wetland complexes. Distributed all over Pakistan these unique resources includes high altitude alpine and glacial lakes, manmade reservoirs and dams, tropical freshwater and saltwater lakes and the wetlands of Indus river and Arabian Sea coast.
These lakes and wetlands are important sources of water supply and on the other hand these support a unique biodiversity of flora and fauna consisting important plant, bird and animal species, including eighteen thrManchar Lake 350km², Pakistan's Largest, Sindeatened species of wetlands mammals and twenty threatened bird species. Importantly these resources are also situated at the crossroads of Asia’s major bird migration routes, serving as transit points for migrating birds.
Overall lakes and wetlands in Pakistan cover an estimated 9.7% of the total surface area. Around 225 places have been identified and listed as significant wetland sites, which are distributed all over the Pakistan from sea coast in the south to high mountains in the north. However only 46 of the listed sites have some sort of protected status like National Parks, Lake Saiful Malook, near Naran, 4000mWildlife Sanctuaries and Game Reserves, including 15 Ramsar Sites of international importance.
The broader classification or categories of lakes and wetlands of Pakistan include Alpine Lakes, Manmade Reservoirs, Tropical freshwater and saltwater Lakes, Indus River and Coastal area wetlands.
Alpine Lakes and wetlands:
Pakistan’s northern mountainous regions of Karakoram, Himalaya and Hindukush are bestowed upon some of most picturesque high altitude lakes in the world. Karombar Lake, 4300m, Broghal Valley ChitralThese consist of several glacial, kettle and valley bottom lakes ranging from 2500m to 4600m in altitude. Rush Lake is Pakistan’s highest alpine lake at 4661m, located at the western edge of Karakoram Range near Spantik Peak in Nagar Valley of Gilgit Baltistan.
Karomber Lake is another important high altitude lake situated in the Hindukush range at the altitude of 4300m on the north most boarders of Chitral and Gilgit region and Afghanistan. It is the 31st highest lakes in the world and is approximately 3.9 kilometres long, 2 km wide and 52 meters deep. Gudar Lake, 3800m, Swat Valley.
Other important alpine lakes includes Saucher Lake, at 4,150m on the Deosai Plains, Rama Lake, 3550m in Astore valley near Nanga Parbat, Saiful Malook Lake, 3200m, Lalusar Lake 3450 m, Daudipatsar lake 3900m in Kaghan Valley, Saral Lake, 3700m, and Ratigali Lake 3700m, in Azad Kashmir, Gudar Lake, 3800m and Kandul Lake, 3400m in Swat valley and Shindur Lake 3700m in Chitral.
These high altitude lakes are important source of fresh water and most importantly they support a number of animal, birds, fish and plant species. Halegi Lake, Largerst Waterfowl Reserve, SindThese scenic lakes are also important source of tourism. However most of these resources are not under any kind of protection or management, resulting in degradation of its rich flora and fauna.
Tropical Lakes and wetlands:
Despite its semi-arid climatic conditions the central and southern plains and plateaus of Pakistan are home to a number of Tropical fresh and salt water lakes and wetlands complexes.
Freshwater Lakes and Wetlands:
Tropical fresh to slightly brackish water lakes receiving their water from canals, springs and streams includes Lake Manchar which is the largest freshwater lake in Pakistan and is also one of Asia's largest, covering an area of 350 to 520 km². It is located west of the Indus River, in Dadu District, Sindh. The lake collects water from numerous small streams in the Kirthar Mountains and empties into the Indus River.
Another significant fresh lake is Haleji Lake which is one of Asia's greatest water fowl reserve. Uchali Salt Water Lake, Salt Range, PunjabIt is situated 70 km from Karachi and is also an important source of water supply for the mega city. More than a hundred thousand birds fly down each year to Haleji Lake in winter from the cold of Siberia. Haleji Lake supports a very diverse fauna and flora, including several threatened species, and is one of the most important breeding, staging and wintering grounds for waterfowl.
Other such fresh to slightly salt water lakes includes Patisar Lake in Lal Suhanra National Park, Punjab, Kinjhar Lake and Hub Dam in Sind and Baluchistan.
Saltwater Lakes and WetlandsTurbela Lake, Pakistan's Largest Dam, KPK:
Salt or brackish lakes with smaller catchment areas are found mostly in the Salt Range of north central Punjab. These lakes include Nammal Lake, Khabbaki Lake, Ucchali Lake, Jahiar and Kalar Kahar Lakes. Another type of salt lakes which are fed by seepage from irrigation system etc includes Malugul Dhand and Thanedar Wala Lake in Khyber Pakhtoonkwa, Kharrar Lake in Punjab, and Phoosna and a number of other lakes in Sind Province. These salt lakes and associated wetlands also support a unique diversity of flora and fauna.
Mangla Lake, 2nd Largest Dam, Mirpur AJK.
Manmade Lakes and Reservoirs:
Pakistan has been bestowed with a number of large and small rivers. Over the years several water reservoirs and barrages have been constructed to meet the needs for hydro power and irrigation water. These reservoir lakes are also playing an important role in supporting a large number of plant, birds and fish species and are important transit points for the migratory birds.
These include Turbela Dam which is the largest dam in Pakistan and believed to be second largest in the world in terms of structural volume. Indus River Delta and Arabian Sea Coast, SindConstructed on River Indus from 1968-74 in the Province of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, it its spread over an surface area of 240 km². This is the country back bone in terms of hydro power with total installed capacity of 3500 megawatt. Most importantly it serves as vital source for regulation of irrigation water supply.
Another such large water reservoir is Mangla Dam, situated on Jehlum River in Mirpur District of Azad Kashmir, it is the sixteenth largest dam in the world. Constructed in 1961-68 is has a total surface area of around 160 km², it also produces around 1000 Megawatt of hydro electricity and is a source of irrigation water supply. Other reservoir lakes include Warsak dam in Khyber Pakhtoonkwa (KPK), Chashma Barrage,Taunsa Barrage and the Marala, Rasool and Qadirabad Headworks in Punjab Province.
Beside these large reservoirs there are also a number of small water storage dams like Kandar, Tanda, Baran and Darwazai Dams in KPK, Nammal Lake in Punjab and Hub Dam, Hanna Lake, Akara Dam and Band Khushdil Khan in Baluchistan Province. As mentioned earlier all these lakes and associated wetlands are supporting a unique biodiversity of plant, animal, birds and fish species including large number of migratory birds from the north.
River Swamps and Coastal Wetlands:
These are marshes and mudflats which receive their water either from rivers and irrigation canals or consisting of Indus delta swamps and coastal creeks of Sind and Baluchistan. River swaps are mostly found in the Sind Province, receiving its water from Indus River and associated irrigation canals. These include both saline and freshwater marshes like Pugri, Kur and Kharki wetlands in Sind province and swamps of Beroon Kirthar Canal and Kund Lake in Baluchistan Province.
Coastal wetlands are distributed along the Arabian Sea Coast including among others Indus delta in Sind and Astola Island and Jiwani Coastal Wetlands in Baluchistan. Needless to mention that these coastal marshes support a number of plant, fish and bird species including threatened marine turtles, the endangered Marsh Crocodile and is home to large seasonal accumulations of migratory birds.
Longest Rivers in Pakistan:
Pakistan’s river system consists of more than 60 small and large rivers.Indus River, with an overall length of around 3200 KM and total estimated annual flow of 207 billion cubic meters, is Pakistan’s longest and largest river. After originating in the highlands of Kailas Mountains of Tibetan Plateau, it runs from north to south through the entire length of the Pakistan and after collecting waters from all other Pakistani Rivers it finally unloads into the Arabian Sea near Karachi. Other famous rivers flowing through Pakistan includes Jhelum River, Chenab River, Ravi River, Sutlej River, and Kabul River etc.
All of Pakistan’s major rivers originate in northern highlands of Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindukush mountain ranges and pour one by one into each other and finally into Indus River creating the Indus River Basin, which covers an area of more than 0.6 million km2,.
Historically these rivers have been witness to the rise and fall of subsequent civilizations, which flourished along its banks including the famous Indus valley civilization, dating back to 3300 BC. These rivers have always provided ideal conditions for human settlement and growth of politics, arts and culture. It continues to provide key water resources, especially for large scale agricultural irrigation in the valleys of the north and fertile plains of the south of the country.
River waters are also an important source for generating large scale hydro power and industrial and domestic use. Nevertheless these river waters also provide unique ecological environments, where flourish a great variety of plants and animal species.
However the continued demand for river waters on one hand and careless use on the other hand, is putting these important resources and its environment under extreme pressure and its quality and ecosystem is fast degrading.
Many of these rivers originate or pass through Indian territories before entering Pakistan. Since partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, river water use and distribution remained an important issue. In 1960 the Indus Water Treaty was signed with India, according to which all water of the eastern rivers (Sutlej, Bias and Ravi rivers) shall be available for the use of India.
On the other hand, the three western rivers (Indus, Jhelum, Chenab rivers) shall be available for the use of Pakistan.
To utilize these river resources, over the years a number of reservoirs, dams, barrages and canals have been developed to regulate irrigation water and produce electricity in Pakistan. These include 3 major storage reservoirs, 19 Barrages, 82 Small dams, 57 major canals etc, making one of the largest contiguous irrigation systems in the world. Turbela Dam, Pakistan’s largest, is also believed to be second largest in the world in terms of structural volume with a surface area of 240 square km, and is generating around 3500 megawatts of electricity.
The major rivers of Pakistan:
Indus River, Jehlum River, Chenab River, Ravi River, Sutlej River , Kunhar River, Neelum River, Gilgit River, Hunza River, Shigar River, Shyok River, Kabul River, Swat River, Chitral River, Gomal River, Kurrum.
Famous Deserts of Pakistan:
Deserts in Pakistan constitute a significant part of the country’s geography, especially in the central and south-eastern regions. The major deserts of Pakistan include Thar, Cholistan, Thall and Kharan deserts (see Map of Deserts in Pakistan below). These areas receive very little rain fall and are characterized by large tracts of barren wastelands with formation of sand dunes rising sometime to 150 meters above ground level. The vegetation cover in these deserts is sparse and primarily comprises of drought resistant and stunted bushes and trees, mainly acacias, and grasses. The vastness and isolation of these desert areas also support a number of wildlife including desert gazelles, bustards, jackals, foxes, wild cats, lizards and snakes etc.
Despite harsh living conditions these desert areas are also inhabited by a significant number of people and livestock. The desert people mostly lead a semi-nomadic life and are on the continuous move from one place to another in search of water and fodder for their animals. Generally prevalence of poverty is high and resources are scarce among desert dwellers. Development and communication infrastructure in these areas is also very poor or even non-existent. However, despite difficult life conditions the specific desert life style of the people has also given rise to very unique cultures, traditions and arts.
Thar Desert is the largest among all and mostly falls under the territory of Sind province, extending eastwards from irrigated plains on the left bank of River Indus towards the Indian states of of Rajhistan and Gujrat, constituting the largest desert in South Asia, also known as the Great Indian Desert. The approximate area of greater Thar Desert in total is around 200,000 square KM, of which around 50,000 square KM falls in the Pakistani territories, covering the districts of Tharparker, Mirpur Khas, Umerkot, Khairpur, Sukkar and Ghotki in Sindh Province.
Thar desert is among the most populated deserts of the world. The total estimated population living in these Thar Desert districts, according to 1998 census, is around 4.5 million. Most of the population in these district live in settled cities and villages, however a significant of number of people live deep inside the desert and live a nomadic life style and depends heavily on raring livestock for their livelihoods. Thar dwellers are most famous for their colourful culture, of traditions and unique arts. The vegetation type can be classified as Tropical Thorn Forest, comprising of scattered trees and bushes, mainly thorny and drought resistant species and grasses etc. However, whenever there are rains lush green grasses sprout all over providing rich source of fodder. The desert also supports good deal of wildlife including 23 species of lizard and 25 species of snakes and great numbers blackbucks and chinkaras.
There are different theories on the origin of the Thar Desert, some estimates that the desert formation is relatively recent from 2000-1500 BC, this is also the time when the famous Ghaggar-Hakra rivers ceased to exist due to changes in physiological and climatic conditions. Whereas others estimate that desertification in the region started much earlier from 4000 to 10,000 years or even beyond.
The Cholistan Desert, locally known as Rohi, constitutes the south eastern region of Punjab Province with an estimated area of 26,000 square KM, covering the districts of Bahawalpur, Rahimyar Khan and Bahawalnagar. Towards the eastern flanks Cholistan extends into the Indian states of Rajhistan and Punjab and joins the greater Thar Desert. While on the north-western front it is bordered by the irrigated plains of Indus and Sutlaj rivers. The total estimated population living in these desert districts in around 7.5 million (1998 Census). In ancient times the Hakra River use to flow through the area, along the banks of which a number of Indus Valley civilization settlements have been discovered, however the river had long dried up. Beside the unique landscape and unique nomadic culture, the major attractions of Cholistan include Lal Suhanra National Park, Drawar Fort and Annual Desert Car Rally, the biggest motor sport event in Pakistan.
Thal desert is the third largest desert in Pakistan, situated in the central Punjab it covers an estimated area of 20,000 Square KM. It is boarded by Indus and Jhelum Rivers on its western and eastern flanks respectively and, in the north it meets the foothills of Salt Range of Potohar Plateau. Administratively the Thall desert mainly falls in the districts of Bhakkar, Khushab, Mianwali, Jhang, Layyah, and Muzaffargarh and is supporting a considerable population of 9.4 Million (1998 Census). Most of the area is barren wasteland with scanty drought resistant trees, shrubs and grasses. However, unlike the Thar and Cholistan deserts considerable efforts have been made, through building the greater Thall Canal and tube welling to bring considerable desert areas under cultivation. Furthermore in contrast to Thar and Cholistan the roads network in Thall desert is well established and people are living more settled lifestyle, widely practicing irrigated and rain-fed agriculture.
The Kharan Desert is situated in the western regions of Baluchistan Province of Pakistan. Overall all of Baluchistan plateau is characterized by extreme arid conditions and very barren terrain. However Kharan desert can be separated from the rest of the arid landscape due to its sandy nature and more even terrain, ranging from 1000 meter in the north east to 500 meters in the west. It mostly falls in the Kharan District covering an estimated area of more than 20,000 Square KM with a population of only 0.23 Million. In the north, east and west it is surrounded by hills, up to 3000 meters, while on the west it extends in to Iranian territories. It is the most inhospitable deserts in Pakistan with extreme dry climatic conditions supporting very little vegetation cover of mainly desert bushes. Due to its vastness and isolation Kharan desert was selected for Pakistan's second nuclear test executed on May 30, 1998.
Wildlife in Pakistan:
The Wildlife of Pakistan truly represents the greater geographic and ecological diversity of the country. Various ecological zones, from tropical to alpine, support a great variety of wildlife species including mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and insects. Although wildlife is on decline in Pakistan due to various threats, mostly man made, yet some species have recovered miraculously due to endless conservation efforts.
The huge altitudinal variation from 8611 meter (K-2, world second highest peak) to recently discovered coral reefs of Makran Coast (Arabian Sea) below sea level host some of the unique diversity of wildlife in the world. The snowfields of Himalayas, Karakorum and Hindu Kush are governed by snow leopard, the predator at top of the food chain.TMorcopolo Sheep, an endangerd animalhis illusive and endangered cat is rarely noticed physically, except when driven by climatic or biological influences to villages for easy prey like livestock. However at times it also get trapped or killed by the local population in retaliation for the killing of their goats and sheep.
Other mammalian species like Blue Sheep, Himalayan Ibex, Tibetan wild ass, and Tibetan wolf also share this, roof of the world, high elevation habitat with Snow Leopard. This high altitude habitat, though harmonious to many species’ survival, is also home to some of the endangered species including Marco Polo’s sheep and Brown bear. Among birds, Snow Partridge, and Snow Cock also share these alpine highlands.
Brown bear from Deosai plainsThe alpine and sub-alpine meadows and dry temperate forests of the north in Chitral, Dir, Swat, Kohistan and Mansehra in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Giilgit, Astore, Skardu, Ghizer, Hunza and Chilas in Gilgit Baltistan and Muzzafarabad in Azad Kashmir are habitat to ungulates such as Markhor, and birds including Monal Pheasant, Western Horned tragopan. Both of these bird species are listed endangered in the red data book of IUCN and at appendix I of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, while the country’s laws list them protected.
Western Horned TragopanThe moist temperate forests in the districts of Mansehra, Abbottabad, Swat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Neelam valley in Azad Kashmir, in addition to hosting some of the wildlife of dry temperate forests, also is habitat to species such Black Bear and Common Leopard, Grey Goral and birds including Koklas pheasant and Kalij pheasant.
The sub-tropical scrub forests at the lower reaches of Himalaya and Hindukush are home to Common Leopard, Rhesus monkey, Punjab Urial and birds like Chir Pheasant and partridges including Chakor Partridge, Black partridge and Grey partridge.
The Human wildlife conflict, over habitat, food, and fodder has been there since centuries. Markhor, National animal of PakistanHowever this conflict become more evident in areas where resources are deficient and cover for wildlife is limited, such as the deserts and thorn forests of central plains of the country. These areas are roamed by the species including Chinkara and Black buck deer, Cape hare, Afghan Urial and Grey wolf.
Due to very open terrain and developed hunting vehicles, guns and audio-visual aides, these species have been persecuted to levels such as extinction of Black buck. Among birds noticeable are See see partridge, Sandgrouse, and Great-Indian bustard.
Punjab Urial from Central lowlands;
The arid high lands of the country in the south-west are home to ungulates including Sindh ibex and Chiltan markhor, which is endemic to the Chiltan hills in Balochistan. Both species, due to close proximity to human settlements, have been victims of shooting. Their populations, have rebounded due to the conservation actions as a result of capacity building and awareness raising.
Pakistan’s wetlands are no exception to hosting enormous biodiversity of migratory birds and some indigenous fauna. Each year, hundreds of thousands of birds including cranes, geese, ducks, swans and waders migrate between their breeding grounds in the north and wintering grounds in the south. These birds include some of the magnificent species such as demoiselle cranes and Eurasian cranes. Chinkara from Cholistan Desert.
Among them, central population of Siberian crane migrated until its extinction in 2002. Its western population, migrating between Iran and Russia, is at the brink of extinction, while its eastern population migrating between China and Russia is threatened with alterations in its habitat that might be massive due to planned dams.
The people of Lakki, Bannu and Karak districts especially target cranes in Pakistan, as they traditionally keep them as pet birds and some for trade also. Each year, about 4000 to 5000 cranes are been trapped for keeping as pets in these districts or for gifting to elites. This really needs to be checked and stopped before it’s too late. Indus dolphin, an endagered fish
Other migratory species that pass through or winter in Pakistan are the Houbara bustard, falcons particularly Saker and Peregrine falcons, and Russian doves. All these are subject to heavy and in-human hunting practices. Falcons are mostly been sold to the falconers of the Middle East, after due training at their private reserves, these falcons are used to hunt the Houbara bustard, an endangered species protected under the laws in Pakistan.
Among other aquatic fauna, the freshwater cetacean, such as Indus dolphin and about eight species of freshwater turtles are noteworthy. The Indus dolphin population is on rise, but its habitat as a whole is doing poor as reflected from pollution levels recorded in the Indus river waters and declining populations of freshwater turtles and fish.
Highest Passes of Pakistan:
Historical Forts in Pakistan:
| Gilgit Fort, Gilgit Town.
| Chalt fort, Chalt.
| Baltit Fort, Karimabad.
| Altit fort, Altit village.
| Ondra Fort, Gulmit village.
| Chilas Fort.
| Rondu Fort.
| Kharpocho Fort, Sakardu.
|Shigar Fort, Shigar valley.
| Kalandarchi Fort, Misgar valley.
|Duiker view point.
|Rakaposhi view point, Ghulmet.
|» Back to top