This is a highly rugged region covered with snow and elevation of 4250 m. This part consists of three mountain ranges, the Great Himalayan Range in the north, the Siwalik Range along the plains in the south and the Lesser Himalaya which is locally known as Dhaolodhar in Himachal Pradesh and Nagtibha in Uttarakhand) in between them.
The mountain ranges extending in the east-west direction are deeply dissected by the rivers flowing southwards or south-westwards. Intermontane basins and plateaus are rare or almost absent in this closely packed and highly dissected complex mass of mountain. The longitudinal valleys in the Siwalik Range are fairly wide.
It is drained by two major river systems of India i.e. the Indus and the Ganga, the Beas and the Satluj and the tribularies of Ganga flowing through this region include the Yamuna, Gomti, and the Ghaghra.
The two distinguishing features of this region from the point of view of physiology are the ‘Shiwalik’ and ‘Dun’ formations. Some important duns located in this region are the Chandigarh-Kalka dun Nalagarh dun, Dehradun, Harike dun and the Kota dun etc. Dehradun is the largest of all duns with an approx length of 35-45 km and width of 22-25 km.
This mountainous region presents a great variety of climates due to heights. Below 900 metres is the tropical zone. Above 4,250 metres, the climate is severely cold. Day may be warm but at night heat radiates quickly and temperature drops below freezing point.
The western depressions deposit snow which feeds valley glaciers and at some places avalanches takes place in winter.
The zone between 2,740 and 4,570 metres has cold dreary and comparatively long winters. It is visited by wandering herds of sheep and goats for a few months during summer. From 1,075 metres to about 2,440 metres the climate is temperate with warm summers and cold winters. Snow falls for about two to four months in winter generally at a height of 1,750 metres and above. The light snowfall does not continue beyond April which allows agriculture. Summer rain also occurs.
The factors of altitude, exposure and precipitation affect plants here. In the Kumaun Himalayas where heavy rainfall is received, dense forests and other tropical trees predominate below a height of 1075 metres. In the hills of the same altitude in the Punjab Himalayas where rainfall is much less, only scrub with some trees grows. About 45 percent of the area is covered with forests.
About 90 percent of the people is engaged is engaged in agriculture. Net area sown is only 19 percent of the surface in the Punjab Himalayas and 15 percent in the Kumaun Himalayas. Most of the cultivated area is confined to the south of the Great Himalayan Range due to favourable climate.
The factor of altitude and availability of water determine the crop pattern. Wheat, maize, rice, millets, barley, potato and pulse are the main crops. Rice is preferred on low well-watered areas but may be extended to an elevation of 1,830 metres.
Millets are raised mainly in dry lands. In the Kumaun Himalayas millets mainly occupy one-fifth of the total cropped area. Pulse, barley, potato and oilseeds are other crops of this region.
The dun in which Dehradun is situated is fertile. This dun is drained by the Giri, a right-bank tributary of the Yamuna. Soil in these valleys is shallow as a rule and below it lies gravel which soon absorbs water. Wheat is the dominant crop followed by rice, maize, barley and sugarcane in the duns.
Potato is an important cash crop of the farmers of Himachal Pradesh. Deep loamy soils with high content of organic matter are selected for this crop. It is cultivated mainly at altitudes varying in height from 1,675 to, 2,228 metres. Potato is raised as summer crop because summer is sufficiently cool at these altitudes. This potato serves the demand of plain people.
Mushroom is produced in the areas of cool climate and high humidity. Such climatic condition is commonly found in the districts of Solan, Shimla, Sirmur and Mandi. At some places, even five crops of mushroom are raised in year. Spawn of mushrooms is produced at Solan which serves mushroom growers.
A variety of fruits are grown in temperate region. Sub-tropicai fruits are all raised below a height of 915 metres. Owing to poor means of transportation, fresh, easily perishable fruits which require immediate dispatch, are cultivated on a commercial scale only at a few places in the Kullu Valley, Nainital district especially in Ramgarh area and around Almora, Ranikhet and Binsar towns.
Area under apples has also increased many times. Apple is grown at places where temperature falls below 0°C for two months during winter. It is raised generally at elevation varying from1250 to 2150 metres.
The land is irrigated by small irrigation channels popularly known as ‘kuhls’ in the Punjab Himalayas and ‘guls’ in the Kumaun Himalayas. Water from the snow-fed streams is diverted (by placing boulders in the in bed in the streams) into channels which run along the contours in this region.
Farmers supplement their income by pastoral and lumbering occupations. Practically all the farmers in dry areas keep a few sheep. The wool is spun and woven by men and women during dreary winter which is agriculturally a slack season in the higher hilly regions. Large flocks of sheep and goats are kept by the Gaddis, the migratory graziers who live on the slopes of the Dhaoladhar Range.
Kanwaris of Chini and Bhotiyas of Bhot-Desh also keep large flocks of sheep and goats because of scarcity of cultivable land. Sheep thrive in cool and dry climate. During the summer season, the flocks of sheep and goats are led to high and relatively dry alpine meadows situated at elevations ranging from 2,740 to 3,960 metres; in winter they come down or migrate to the Siwalik Range where fresh grazing grounds after the monsoon rains are again available in this ragion.
This region contains coniferous forest. More than one-third of the area is under forest and the whole of it is confined to the belt lying to the south of the Great Himalaya Range. Deodar, silver fir, spruce, etc., found at heights ranging from 1,524 to 3,050 metres are useful timber trees. Deodar is in great demand in the plains of the Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for the various purposes.
Chir pine is another useful tree which occurs at altitudes varying from 1,067 to 2,134 metres, this tree exudes a resinous liquid which is the chief source of turpentine oil commonly used in paint industry.
These forests provide revenue to this region. In some place farmers clear forest for cultivation. Overgrazing and shifting cultivation in the past have depleted the cover of natural vegetation with the result that soil erosion and frequency and intensity of floods have become serious problems.
In the eastern part of the Siwalik Range bamboo grows abundantly. It is extracted in a large quantity and sent to Bareilly for dispatch to other areas. Sabai grass found in this region is used by paper mills located in Yamunanagar and Sultanpur.
There is potential for hydel power.
Nathpa-Jakhri Hydro-electric Project:
A dam for this project is being built on the Sutlej near Rampur in Shimla district. The generating capacity of this project is 1,500 mw.
Tehri Hydro Power Complex is a multi-purpose project. It has a generating capacity of 2,400 mw and will provide additional irrigation to 270,000 hectares. The project envisages the construction of (a) Tehri Dam and Hydro Power Plant, (b) Tehri pumped Storage Plant and (c) Koteshwar Dam and Hydro Power Plant.
There is dominance of cottage and small scale industries. Woolen cloth, blankets and carpets are made on cottage scale. Thermometers are manufactured at Almora and television sets at Bhimtal. Nahan is an important industrial centre. It has a resin and turpentine factory and a foundry.
It is an important producer of apples in the country. Himachal Pradesh is popularly known as the “apple state” of India. Some fruit preservation and fruit processing plants have been set up in this state.
There is sparse population in this region. Bulk of the population, however, lives in the Siwalik Range and the Lesser Himalaya. A dry belt of highly rugged and mountainous area comprising the districts of Kinnaur and Lahul-Spiti (Himachal Pradesh) is very thinly peopled.
In their religious beliefs and way of living the people of these two districts do not differ much from the people of Ladakh and are tradition-bound like them. The northern districts of the Kumaun Himalayas have also low density of population.
The Lesser Himalaya and the Siwalik Range being more warm and rainy than the northern parts of the Himalayas are fairly densely populated areas and had an average density of 101 persons per square km, in 2001. The important towns of this area are Nainital, Mussoorie, Shimla, Dalhousie, Dehradun, Melam, Mandi, Chamba, and Nahan. Jogindernagar and Paunta Sahib.