Geography of Jammu and Kashmir
Kashmir is famous for its beauty and natural scenery throughout the world. Its high snow-clad mountains, scenic spots, beautiful valleys, rivers with ice-cold water, attractive lakes and springs and ever-green fields, dense forests and beautiful health resorts, enhance its grandeur and are a source of great attraction for tourists.
It is also widely known for its different kinds of agricultural products, fruit, vegetables, saffron, herbs, minerals, precious stones handicrafts like woollen carpets, shawls and finest kind of embroidery on clothes. During summer, one can enjoy the beauty of nature, trout fishing, big and small game hunting etc.; during winter climbing mountain peaks and sports like skating and skiing on snow slopes are commonly enjoyed . In addition to the above, Pilgrimage to famous religious shrines of the Hindus and the Muslims make Kashmir a great tourist attraction. About Kashmir Sheikh Sadia great Persian poet is believed to have said said, “If there is any heaven on earth, it is here in Kashmir. ”
The state of Jammu and Kashmir has acquired since the 19th century a unique geo-political status in the Indian sub-continent It has contiguous boundaries with Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and Tibet that deserve constant vigil and as such it has made the State very important. geographically, politically, economically and from the military point of view. Jammu and Kashmir state acceded to the Indian Union in 1947 after the partition. Before the partition in 1947, The English rulers of India took away Gilgit in 1946 from the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir on lease for thirty years so that they could check the advancement of Russia towards India.
Physical Divisions, Mountains and Passes
The State of Jammu and Kashmir falls in the great north-western, complex of the Himalayan ranges with marked relief variation, snow- capped summits, antecedent drainage, complex geological structure and rich temperate flora and fauna.
Kashmir or the Jhelum Valley is situated between the Pir Panjal range and the Zanskar range and has an area of 15220 sq kms. It is bounded on all sides by mountains. The river Jhelum, which flows out from the spring at Verinag in Anantnag district, passes through this Valley at a very slow speedand ultimately flows out through a narrow gorge at Baramulla. Districts of Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramulla, Kupwara and Pulwama lie in this valley. Average height of the valley is 1850 metres above sea level but the surrounding mountains, which are always snow-clad, rise from three to four thousand metres above sea level. The surface of the valley is plain and abounds with springs, lakes and health resorts.
Rice is the main crop and fruits like apples, pears, apricots, almonds, walnuts, peaches and cherries grow in abundance. The valley is also rich in forests. Mulberry trees grow in abundance and are the mainstay of silk industry in the Valley.
Summer is pleasant but winter is cold and there is snowfall. It rains from the middle of March to the middle of May in the valley with an annual rainfall of about 75 cms.
Road transport is common in the valley but the river Jhelum still serves as one of the means of transportation. There is also Air Service from Delhi and Jammu to Srinagar and Ladakh.
Kashmir is the home of handicrafts like wood carving, papier-mache, carpet, gabba and shawl making and embroidery on clothes. Natural scenery of the valley attracts thousands of visitors every year from abroad. People generally speak Kashmiri and their common dress is phiran, shalwar and a turban or a Kashmiri cap.
There are also some small valleys in this region. On the north of Baramulla is Lolab valley which is 6 Kms long and 4.4 Kms wide. It has many meadows and grovesof walnut trees. Forests are so thick that they hide villages in them.
Nullah Sind is the largest tributory of the river Jhelum. The Nullah Sind valley is 100 Kms long upwards and its scenery is diversified. At the head of the valley is the Zojilla pass which leads to Ladakh.
Towards Pehlgam lies the Lidar Valley. Its length is 64 Kms. It has small glaciers, grassy meadows, huge rock walls and gorges in its upper mountains. The path to the holy Amarnath cave passethrough this valley. The Kolohai and Sheshnag streams join at Pahalgam to form the Lidar river.
Mountains and their Passes
Mountains have a special geographical importance to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmir valley is enclosed by high mountain-chains on all sides except for certain passes and a narrow gorge at Baramulla. There are Siwalik hills towards the south and very lofty mountains in the north, the peaks of which always remain covered with snow. There are volcanic mountains too in the State. They have caused havoc in Kashmir in the past.
Some of the famous mountains and their passes are:
1. Karakoram (8615.17 M) and Kyunlun Ranges:
Both these mountains lie to the north and north-east of the State and separate it from Russian Turkistan and Tibet. In the north west, Hindukush range continues towards Karakoram range, where K2 peak, the second highest peak of the world, is situated. Two lofty peaks of Gashorbram (8570 metres) and Masharbram (7827 metres) also lie there. People of Ladakh pass through Karakoram pass (5352 metres) and Nubra pass (5800 metres) while going to Chinese Turkistan and Khattan. One can reach Tibet from Ladakh via Kharudangala pass (5557 metres) and Changla pass (5609 metres).
2. Zanskar Range:
It is about 600 metres above sea level and separates Indus Valley from the valley of Kashmir; it prevents south-west cold winds from reaching Kashmir. Ladakh region terminates at Zojila pass (3529 metres) from where begins the valley of Kashmir. Poat pass (5716 metres) of this range is also a famous pass in this range.
3. Nun Kun Range:
It lies between Ladakh and kashmir border. It is 7055.1 metres above sea level. To its south-east is situated Kulu and to its north-west is situated Kargil tehsil of Ladakh . One has to pass through Bawalocha pass (4891 metres) to reach Leh (Ladakh) from Kulu. In 1947, when Kargil was attacked by Pakistan, Indian forces, arms and ammunition were sent to Ladakh by the Indian Union through this pass.
4. Nanga Parbat Range:
This range spreads in Gilgit. Its height is 8107.68 metres above sea level and is utterly devoid of vegetation. It was conquered by the Italian mountaineers in 1954. This is now under the unlawful possession of Pakistan.
5. Harmukh Mountain:
This is a range of the Himalayas and is situated at a height of 5141.3 metres above sea level towards Bandipore between the rivers Jhelum and Kishan Ganga valley.
6. Burzil Mountain:
It bifurcates Kashmir and Ladakh on which Burzil pass is situated at a height of 3200 metres above sea level.
7. Amarnath Mountain:
This is famous for its holy Amarnath Cave, at a height of 5372 metresabove sea level, which thousands of pilgrims visit every year on Rakshabandan. They have to pass Mahagunas pass (1475 metres) on their way to Shri Amarnathji. Gwasharan (5450 metres) is situated in the Lidar valley towards Pahalgam; on it lies the famous glacier Kolahi. Sheeshnag Mountain also spreads in this valley. It is called Sheshnag as its peaks resemble the heads of seven big snakes.
Toshmaindan (4270 metres) and Kajinag (3700 metres) mountains lie in the Inner Himalayas. They remain clad with snow throughout the year, but during summer when the snow melts, the water flows down into the Jhelum river.
This mountain spreads through the Gulmarg valley. The famous spring Alpathar lies on its peak, from which Nullah Nagal comes out and flows down into the Wullar lake.
10. Pirpanjal Range:
It separates Kashmir valley from the outer Himalayas and is about 2621 Kms. in length and 50 Kms. in breadth. Famous Banihal pass (2832 metres) lies in the shape of a tunnel on its peak; it remains covered with snow during winter making it impassable. Now at a height of 2200 metres above sea level a new tunnel ‘Jawahar Tunnel’ has been constructed. The tunnel is 2825 metres long and it was opened for traffic on 22nd Dec. 1956. On the other end of this range lie Baramula pass (1582 metres) and Hajipir pass(2750 metres). Hajipir joins Poonch and Uri. During 1965 Indo-Pak war, the Indian army had occupied this pass. Later on it was handed over to Pakistan.
11. Siwalik Range:
These hills extend from the north of the outer plains to middle mountains of the State reaching heights varying from 600 metres to 1500 metres above sea level.
12. Volcanic mountains:
One volcanic peak, ‘Soyamji’ (1860 metres) is situated in North Machhipura (Handwara) and the other ‘Kharewa’ peak lies in Tehsil Pehalgam, which is dead so far; the former, however, continued eruption of lava for about l3 months during 1934.
There is a temple on this peak and many sulphur springs are found at the foot of the hill. These volcanic mountains are the cause of earthquakes in Kashmir. So far twelve devastating earthquakes have occurred in Kashmir. Of these the earthquake of 1885 was the most devastating. Hundreds of houses collapsed, thousands of people died and there were cracks in the earth as a result of this earthquake.
Climate Patterns and Climatic Divisions
The territory of the State of Jammu and Kashmir lies between four degrees of latitude from 32.17 to 36.58 North. Within these 640 Kms. there is a sudden rise of altitude from 305 metres to 6910 metres above sea level. The State of Jammu and Kashmir, therefore, lies between the hot plains of the Jammu Province and coldest dry table-land of Ladakh. These territories are, as such, transitional in climate.
Weather conditions are different at different places. There are many causes of difference:
1. Relief is the main factor. Lofty mountains like the Pirpanjal, the Zanskar and the Karakoram check winds from blowing in thus moisture is stopped from entering the valleys by the lofly mountains.
2. The Monsoon winds in summer cause rain in the Outer Plains and the Outer Hills. But these winds can cross the Pirpanjal range only when they are very strong. In winter winds from the Mediterranean cause snow and rain in the Valley of Kashmir. Snow falls on the mountains which enclose the valley.
3. Forests influence winds, rainfall and temperature. The moisture laden winds cause rainfall in the forests on the hills making the temperature to fall in summer. Thus the climate of Pahalgam, Gulmarg etc. is comparatively milder than that of Srinagar or Sopore.
4. Altitude is also a factor. So the climate of the valley of Kashmir is comparatively milder than that of the Outer Plain that lie on a very low altitude. The rainfall also varies as the altitude rises.
Climate of Kashmir
The climate found in the zone of the Middle Mountains and the valleys enclosed is of a particular type. Altitude determines the degree of coolness and elevation the form of precipitation and summer temperature. Winter is cold and of long duration. When the monsoons are strong, rain is caused. In higher mountains round the valley of Kashmir, winter is very cold and there is snow-fall. Summer is very short and milder.
The climate in the Valley of Kashmir has its own peculiarities. Winter is very cold. It lasts from November to March. During these months strong winds bring snow and rain from the Mediterranean depressions. These come over from Iran and Afghanistan. Spring begins after 15th of March when rain falls heavily. It causes landslides. But for sowing crops this rain is extremely useful. Rainfall in July and August is as high as 70% and with summer temperature, it causes discomfort. The lakes and waterways make the atmosphere damp and oppressive. The entire valley is covered with a haze that hides the surrounding mountains from view.
From December 24 to March 8 temperature is often below zero. Strong winds blow from south and southeast. It snows during winter and there are thick black clouds in the sky.
Annual rainfall of the valley recorded is about 75 cms. It rains in July and August and also in March and April . August is the warmest month. Temperature rises to 85 deg. F. January is the coldest month. Temperature falls down to below zero. Longest sunshine hours are in September, October and November.
December has 80% humidity which is the highest and May has 71% which is the lowest. In July atmosphere has a pressure of 62.68 cms.
Vegetation and Soil Types
Vegetation is influenced by climate, rainfall soil and altitude. Since these factors vary as the altitude rises from the outer plains of Jammu Province to the loftiest mountain ranges of the Inner Himalayas, it is but natural that the vegetation should vary from the Inner Himalayas to the middle mountains and the outer plains of Jammu region.
Forests are one of the most important resources of Jammu and Kashmir. Spread over 2,236 sq. kms. of the demarcated area forests accounts for 20% of the total geographical area of the state on this side of the Line of Control. More than 99% of forest area is confined to the province of Jammu & Kashmir only, with largest area of 5848 sq. kms. in district of Doda and smallest are of 481 sq. kms. in the district of Budgam. Over 19,236 sq. kms. is under coniferous softwood (Pine) and 946 sq. kms. under non-coniferous softwood. In the coniferous category.Fir accounts for 3355 sq. kms., Kail for 1874 sq. kms., Chir for 1773 sq. kms. and Deodar for 1122 sq. kms. Forests require abundance of moisture in the soil. So they are found in the areas where there is sufficient rainfall or along the banks of the rivers where sufficient water is available. In the State of Jammu and Kashmir forests are mainly found where annual rainfall is about 100 cms. However, scrub forests are found, where rainfall is even less than100 cms.
The valley of Kashmir has deciduous vegetation. The Chinar, Poplar, Deodar, Fir, Pine, Kail, Partal, Mulbery, Walnut and other fruit trees grow throughout the valley. Baramulla and Anantnag districts have respectively 71% and 60% of their areas under forests.
Big forests in the valley provide timber and fire-wood. Grassy meadows in the forest provide fodder for the cattle. Medicinal herbs such as balladona, hyoseyamus, digitalis, menthol, artemisis, polygola, podophyllum, rubus, trilliu, hops and kuth.grow in these forests. Industries like paper, joinery sports goods, furniture, wood carving, herbal drugs, silk industry, manufacture of agricultural implements and construction of railway sleepers depend on these forests.
The thick undergrowth in the forests stores up rain water and allows it to flow slowly and that is why rivers that have their sources in the forests donot run dry in the dry seasons and check floods during the rainy season.
Among these forests are situated the famous health resourts like Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg, Achhabbal, Verinag and Kokarnag etc.
Industries Dependent on Forests
1. Match Industry. Poplar wood available in the valley of Kashmir is mainly used by this industry. A large Government Match Factory has been established at Baramula since long. Its annual production is 60,000 gross boxes of matches.
2. The wood of poplar and willow trees is used for making cricket bats and mulberry wood is used for making hockey sticks.
3. Sentonin Factory in Baramula manufactures sentonin from artimisia.This drug is useds used as a helminthecide which is exported to foreign countries also.
In the regions of Jammu and Kashmir the soils are loamy and there is little clay content in them. Poor in lime but with a high content of magnesia, the soil is treated with chemical fertilisers and enriched with green manure and legume before cultivation. There is sufficient organic matter and nitrogen content in the alluvium of the Kashmir valley as a result of plant residue, crops stubble, natural vegetation and animal excretion. The valley of Kashmir has many types of soils like: Gurti (clay), Bahil (Loam), Sekil (Sandy), Nambaal (Peats), Surzamin, Lemb, Floating garden soils and Karewa soils. No wonder, in Kashmir, soil is virtually worshipped as a miracle of divinity as it is a source of wealth of the land.
Agriculture and Crops
Agriculture is the most important industry of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Even those engaged in other industries depend on agriculture for raw material.
About 80% people in the State are cultivators in one form or the other. The total area of the State according to the 1992 record of India is 24.15 lakh hecteres. Out of this area 138,6867 Sq. Kms. are rural and only 305.4 Sq. Kms.are urban. This signifies that the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir is rural with 6503 villages. Out of the total area of 24.15 lakh hect. agricultural statistics are available only for about 8.26 lakh hect. The rest of the area is under forests and mountains.
Scope of land cultivation in the State
1. Rice. Cultivation of rice requires hot and moist climate. It is a Kharief crop and is sown in March-April and harvested in Autumn. Sufficient water must cover the fields. It is grown mostly in the valley of Kashmir at 2100 metres above sea level. Total area under rice cultivation in the valley of Kashmir is 374000 acres having a yield of 25.5 quintals per acre.
2. Wheat. It is a rabi crop and its plant requires a cool and somewhat moist climate in the beginning and warm and dry weather at the harvest time. The average rainfall should be between 50 to 70 cms. and that too at intervals. It is sown in August and harvested in March, April. It is cultivated in the entire Outer Plain and the Outer Hills. Important wheat producing areas are Kathua, Ranbirsingpora, Samba and Reasi. In Kashmir, it is grown like grass. Total area under wheat cultivation in Jammu region is 3 l000 acres, in Kashmir 78000 acres and in Ladakh 7000 acres.
3. Maize. It requires hot dry climate. Rainfall required for maize varies from 75 cms to 125 cms. It is sown in May-July and harvested in August-November. It is cultivated on Karewa lands in the valley of Kashmir on about 303,000 acres.
4. Tobacoo. It requires a warm and moist climate and a rich soil containing lime. Frost kills it. It is largely grown in the valley of Kashmir.
5. Rape seed, mustard, linseed, sesamum, toria, cottonseed are the chief varieties of oil-seeds. They require hot and moist climate. They are grown all over Kshmir province but the chief oil seed producing areas are Anantnag and Srinagar. 6700 acres in Kashmir region produce oil seeds.
6. Pulses. Hot and dry climate suit their cultivation. They are largely grown on small patches of land and the pulses of Kashmir Valley are well known for their quality.
7. Saffron is a cash crop and cultivated on the Pampore in the month of July-August Karewas in specially made square beds. Each bed measures l.5m and is provided with narrow trench on all sides to prevent the accumulation of water. The soil is alluvial and lucstrine. About 3000 acres are under saffron cultivation in Pampore.
8. Amarnath (Ganhar) is sown after 3 or 4 ploughings. The grain when ready is parched, ground and eaten with milk. It is largely sown in the valley of Kashmir.
9. Fruits like apples, pears, cherries, plums, grapes, pomegranates, mulberry, peaches, apricots, walnuts and almonds require a cool climate moderate rainfall and bright sunshine. The climate of Kashmir suits their cultivation They are, as such, mostly grown in the valley. Fruit cultivation has been known in Kashmir since very early times.
In recent years fruit cultivation has extended with readily available facilities of better seed, nursery culture, insecticides and very cheap and better transport facilities for their export. Fruit cultivation at present is an important source of wealth to the State.
About 3.50 lakh tons of fruits are produced annually, out of which more than 2.00 lakh tons are exported to the foreign countries. Supply of machinery, equipment and technical advice to the orchardists by the State Govt. free of charge has greatly helped fruit cultivation. The training of gardeners and the establishment of a fruit research centre is no doubt helping the fruit industry a lot.
The valley of Kashmir is also known for the cultivation of potatoes, turnips, carrots, spinach, tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflowers, raddish, onions, lotus-stalk, brinjal, gourd and bitter gourd etc.
Other Agricultural Activities
1. Silk. It is obtained from silk worms which feed on mulberry trees. These trees require a warm and moist climate. Silk cocoons are,therefore, grown in abundance in the valley of Kashmir Two silk factories, one in Jammu and the other in Srinagar, manufacture silkyarn from these cocoons.
2. Wool. It is obtained from sheep and in the State they are mostly reared in the valley of Kashmir on the grassy meadows. Quality sheep from Australia have been imported for sheep breeding in Kashmir.
Geology, Structure, Rocks
The Geology of the territories of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh have been studied in some detail by R. Lydekkar. He has divided the territory into three different structural Zones:
1. The Panjal
2. The Zanskar
3. The Tertiary Groups
These three Geological divisions form the basis of the four physical divisions of the State.
The Panjal forms the Outer plain, the Outer Hills and the Middle Mountains. The Zankar includes the whole of the eastern region from Spiti and Lahol (32.170N. Latitude) to the lofty Karakoram mountains in the north. The Tertiary Groups include the valley of Kashmir and other river Valleys.
The oval valley of Kashmir is longitudinal. It is about 1700 metres above sea level. There is a high wall of mountains round the valley. These rise to a height of 5500 metres above sea level. The only outlet of the valley is Baramulla where the Jehlum flows out through a narrow gorge. The entire drainage of the valley of Kashmir and its surrounding areas have only this outlet. In the north, Kashmir has many volcanic rock formations. These are mostly stratified and several thousand metres thick. There are many layers of sedimentary rocks which are found in Liddar valley, Baramulla, district and Banihal Verinag section of the Pir Panjal range. Limestones and shells are common. The rock layers have many fossils. Near Yarkand to the extreme north, shells have been found showing that the region was under sea in the geological past.
To the south and west of the valley there are karewa formations which are lake-laid clays and shales. These are lacustine deposits and appear like flat mounds on the margin of high mountains. Below these karewas is spread the alluvium of the Jehlum. The highest karewa is near the Pir Panjal. It is 3800 meters above sea level and more than 2100 metres above the level of the Jhelum.
Distribution of Rocks and Minerals
The mountains surrounding the different valleys of the State of Jammu and Kashmir have varied mineral wealth. The first survey of minerals wealth in the State was made by a renowned geologist. Mr. Middlemiss in 1924 in collaboration with the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, but an intensive mineral survey was taken up in the year 1956 when systematic investigation began, as a consequence of which mineral exploitation in the State was organised and developed.
1. Lignite. It is an inferior quality of coal which is found in the valley of Kashmir at Nichahama, Baramulla, Handwara, Chowkibal, Ferozepur nullah, Nagbal, Tangmarg, Raithan, Badgam tehsil, Laligang and Lolab valley. Lignite is a blackbrown coal that is intermediate in coalification between peat and sub-bituminous coal which has a calorific value less than 8300BTU/lb, on a moist mineral free basis. According to the report of the Geological Survey of India, there are lignite coal deposits of about 5 crore 60 lakh tons in the valley. Drilling operations were started first in the Nicahhom- Chowkibal area where the reserves were estimated at 4. 5 million tons to a depth of 40 metres. Lignite is used as a fuel in the valley of Kashmir.
2. Limestone. All the three regions of the State i.e. Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh have deposits of different ages and grades of Limestone. The Limestone of Kashmir is of high quality and is used in the manufacture of cement at Wuyan and Khrew. These deposits exist in Anantnag, Achhabal, Doru, Verinag, Biru, Sonamarg, Ajas, Wuyau, Khrew and Loduv. It is also used as building stone and mortar.
3. Copper ores are found at Aishmuqam, Shubbar area (Anantnag), Lashtil hill spurs (Baramulla), Handwara, Sumbal, Kangan andLolab valley in the province of Kashmir.
4. Iron-ore deposits occur in Sharda (Karnah tehsil), Khrewa, Haral (Handwara), Uri tehsil, Garez (Sopore tehsil) and Lolab valley in Kashmir.
5. Gypsum. It is used for making plaster of paris and chalksticks. The Kashmir province has gypsum deposits at Lachhipora, Baramulla, Anantnag, Liddipora and Kathia Nullah (Uri). There is total reserve of about 4 million tons of gypsum in the State.
6. Ochre. It is used in paints and varnishes etc. There are extensive deposits of ochre in Nur Khawn, Ratasar and Jhaggi in the Uri tehsil. About 4 lak tons of ochre have been found in the State so far.
7. Zinc and Nickelarfound at Buniyar (Baramulla).
8. Fuller’s Earth is used in the manufacture of country soap and for filling paper. It is found in Rampur near Baramulla
9. Slate Stone is found in abundance in the valley of Kashmir.
10. Graphite is used in the manufacture of lead pencils and is found in Bararipora, Uri, Karnah, Malogam, Piran in the province of Kashmir
11. Sulphur is found in Pagga valley in Ladakh. In spring water, it is found at Anantnag and Khrewa. The estimated deposits of sulphur in the State are 2,00,000 tons.
12. Marble. Large deposits of marble have been found at Drugmalla, Zirahama, Oura and Trehgam in Kupwara district of Kashmir. This is light brown to dirty grey in colour. This is being used commonly in buildings these days.
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