Thar Desert

Thar Desert or Great Indian Desert is the world’s ninth largest desert. It forms a significant portion of western India and covers an area of about 200,000 km² to about 238,700 km². In Pakistan is continues as Cholistan Desert. Most of the Thar Desert is situated in Rajasthan, covering 61% of geographic area of Rajasthan. About 10 percent of this region comprises sand dunes, and the remaining 90 percent consist of craggy rock forms, compacted salt-lake bottoms, and interdunal and fixed 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. Rainfall is precarious and erratic, ranging from below 120 mm in the extreme west to 375 mm eastward. The soils of the arid region are generally sandy to sandy-loam in texture. The consistency and depth vary as per the topographical features. The low-lying loams are heavier and may have a hard pan of clay, calcium carbonate or gypsum.

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: perhaps around 2000 – 1500 BC. Around this time the Ghaggar-Hakra ceased to be a major river. It now terminates in the desert but at one time was a water source for the Indus Valley Civilization centre of Mohenjodaro.

It has been observed through remote sensing techniques that Late Quaternary climatic changes and neotectonics have played a significant role in modifying the drainage courses in this part and a large number of palaeochannels exist. Most studies did not share the opinion that the palaeochannels of the Sarasvati River coincide with the bed of the present-day Ghaggar and believe that the Sutlej along with the Yamuna once flowed into the present riverbed. It has been postulated that the Sutlej was the main tributary of the Ghaggar and that subsequently the tectonic movements might have forced the Sutlej westwards, the Yamuna eastwards and thus dried up the Ghaggar-Hakra.

Studies on Kalibangan in the desert region by Robert Raikes indicate that it was abandoned because the river dried up. Prof. B. B. Lal (retd. Director General of Archaeological Survey of India) supports this view by asserting: “Radiocarbon dating indicates that the Mature Harappan settlement at Kalibangan had to be abandoned around 2000-1900 BCE.

And, as the hydrological evidence indicates, this abandonment took place on account of the drying up of the Ghaggar-Hakra. This latter part is duly established by the work of Raikes, an Italian hydrologist, and of his Indian collaborators”.

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