Thar Desert covers an area of 44.6 million hectare
(mha), of which 27.8 mha lie in India and the rest in Pakistan.
The desert is bounded by the Aravalli hills in the east, by
the fertile Indus and the Nara valleys of Pakistan and the salt
marsh of the Rann of Kutch in the west, and by the alluvial
plains of Haryana and Punjab in the north.
In India, most of the area of the Thar Desert is situated in
western Rajasthan. In Gujarat, the entire Kutch region and parts
of several districts fall in this desert. In Punjab, all of
Bhatinda and Ferozepur districts and, in Haryana, most of Hissar
and parts of Mohindergarh districts are part of the Thar. Of
the total area of the Thar, nearly 60 per cent is being farmed,
with varying intensities of cropping, and 30 per cent is open
pastureland. The annual average rainfall is around 500 mm in
the east to less than 100 mm in the west and there is high variability
from year to year. Agriculture in the region is extremely precarious
and four out of every 10 years on an average, are drought years.
Strong winds blow for four to five months in a year over a large
part of the desert region. Dust storms during summer are a common
The region has great diversity in vegetation. As many as 700
species of plants are found in the area, of which 107 are of
grass alone. These plants are deep-rooted and tenacious enough
to withstand extended droughts and yet efficient enough to gain
biomass rapidly during a favourable season. The local grasses
are generally prolific seeders, and most of the species are
palatable, fairly nutritious and rich in minerals, including
trace elements. The Thar Desert is endowed with some of the
best breeds of livestock in the country. Nearly 50 per cent
of the country's wool is produced in Rajasthan, and the area
has been the main supplier of bullocks to the North.
By and large, land-use in the Thar is dependent on rainfall.
In good rainfall years, large areas are cropped, cattle thrive
on extensive pastures and substantial amounts of hay are stored
for future use. Rainwater is stored in ponds and underground
tanks. As rainfall is very erratic, a pattern of mixed farming
has been developed in which human and animal populations benefit
from each other.
Find more about
Techniques prevalent in this region
who harvest rain