One of the most fascinating deserts in the world forms the natural boundary between the Indian subcontinent and mainland Asia.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about the Thar Desert, an amazing piece of nature to discover in the world!
1. It’s located in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent
The Thar Desert is a huge arid region that forms the natural boundary between India and Pakistan in the northwestern corner of the Indian subcontinent.
This fascinating arid region covers an area of 238,254 square kilometers (91,990 square miles), which makes it the 17th-largest desert in the world and the 9th-largest hot subtropical desert.
2. It covers areas in 4 Indian states and 2 Pakistani provinces
About 85% of the total area of the desert is located in India and the remaining 15% is in Pakistan. It covers areas in 4 Indian states, namely Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab (India), and 2 Pakistani provinces, Sindh and Punjab.
One of the most remarkable facts about the Thar Desert is that over 60% is located in the Indian state of Rajasthan.
The desert is bounded by a mountain range called the Aravalli Hills in the northeast, a salt marsh called the “Great Rann of Kutch” along the coast, and the plains of the mighty Indus River in the west and northwest.
3. The area receives very little rainfall in just a few months a year
The desert is an extremely arid region which means it receives very little rainfall every year. The yearly precipitation is estimated to be anywhere between 100 and 500 millimeters (4 to 20 inches), and most of it falls between June and September.
There is, however, a clear difference between the extremely dry Marusthali region in the west, and the semiarid region in the east of the desert. This also means that most of the vegetation can be found in the eastern part.
4. The desert features several large salt lakes
The desert features several great lakes which contain saltwater. Some of these lakes are the Kuchaman, Didwana, Pachpadra, and Phalodi lake in Rajasthan, and the Kharaghoda lake in Gujarat.
One of the most interesting facts about the Thar Desert is that the largest salt lake in India is located here as well, called the “Sambhar Salt Lake” in Rajasthan.
This lake can be found about 80 kilometers (50 miles) to the southwest of Jaipur, the largest city and capital of Rajasthan. It has a maximum length of about 35.5 kilometers (22.1 miles) and varies in width between 3 and 11 kilometers (1.9 and 6.8 miles).
This means that this remarkable lake has a surface area of between 190 and 230 square kilometers (73 and 89 square miles).
5. There’s a particular forest located around the desert
The entire desert is surrounded by what was once a dense forest and which is referred to as the “Northwestern thorn scrub forests.” This xeric shrubland encircles both the Thar Desert and the Indus Valley Desert ecoregions.
This forest has been seriously degraded because of agriculture and the extraction of firewood. Inside the desert, it consists of small shrubs scattered all around which increase in density from west to east, which is because of the increased rainfall in the eastern region.
Remarkably, the desert is native to a wide variety of trees such as Acacias, and various types of shrubs and herb species.
6. Trees are being planted in the desert to stabilize dunes
Because there is very little rainfall in this extremely arid region, the desert is prone to wind erosion. Dunes are moving around and the dry soil is blown into fertile lands nearby, causing huge problems for the local agriculture.
Therefore, a program to plant newly introduced shrub and tree species in the desert is being conducted to avoid the dunes moving around.
That’s why the desert is covered with Acacia tortilis and Jojoba plantations as part of a massive afforestation program to prevent desertification.
7. About 18% of the desert consists of protected areas
About 18% of the desert consists of protected areas in the form of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. These are situated within the borders of both India and Pakistan.
The most important ones are the “Desert National Park” in India which covers 3,162 square kilometers (1,221 square miles), and the “Nara Desert Wildlife Sanctuary” in Pakistan which covers 6,300 square kilometers (2,400 square miles).
8. Many animals live in the Thar Desert including India’s National bird
One of the most amazing facts about the Thar Desert is that the harsh conditions in this arid part of the world don’t mean that nothing can live here. In fact, it’s actually rich in wildlife of all sorts, including 2 dozen native lizards and snakes, and various species of mammals and birds.
Some species have even moved here from the desolate landscape and salty environment of the Rann of Kutch, including the blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra), chinkara (Gazella bennettii), and Indian wild ass (Equus hemionus khur). Wolves and foxes are also living within the national parks.
141 species of migratory birds also enjoy staying in the desert, including peafowl, the national bird of India, and the Indian state of Punjab.
9. It’s the most populated desert in the world
Even though the desert can’t be considered to be densely populated when compared to more urbanized regions, it’s still the most densely populated desert in the world.
The population density is 83 per square kilometer and a whopping 40% of the population of the Indian state of Rajasthan lives within the borders of the desert!
Jodhpur, the second-largest city in Rajasthan with a population of over 2.3 million people in its metro, is located entirely inside the desert.
10. Only one river flows through the desert
The only natural source of water inside the desert is the Luni River. It originates in the Aravalli Range and flows all across the southeastern section of the desert to eventually release inside the salt marshes of the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat.
It’s a saline river that flows to the west and has a total length of 495 kilometers (308 miles). It features several dams, including the Jaswant Sagar Dam which creates one of the largest artificial lakes in India.
11. It features the world’s largest irrigation system
So how is it possible that this immensely arid region is inhabitable at all? Without water, there’s no life, right?
The answer is the age-old system of irrigation which turns the dry soil into fertile lands suitable for agriculture. The most important source is the Indira Gandhi Canal of which the construction started in the year 1950 and of which the final elements were only completed in 2010.
This immense canal has a total length of 650 kilometers (400 miles) and is the longest canal in India. It delivers water to the irrigation system of the Thar Desert which is the largest of its kind in the world!
12. The desert is home to an astounding 18th-century fortress
The desert is much more than nature reserves and wildlife parks and is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination. The people visiting the region include both backpackers and tourists interested in discovering the desert culture with guided tours and desert camel rides.
One of the most astounding landmarks in the desert is the Derawar Fort, an immense castle in Pakistan that was originally constructed in the 9th century by the rulers of the Bhati clan.
The fortification as it looks today was completed in the year 1732 and features enormous guard towers. These massive towers stand up to 30 meters (98 feet) tall and can be seen from a long distance across the desert, a fascinating sight to behold!