Geographical Features of Jammu and Kashmir State (North Western Himalayas)

China has also occupied some part of it. Though shorn of a large part of its territory, the state is still in possession of vital strategic routes and passes, fertile land and sites favouring the development of power, forests and mineralized areas.

This state has its own constitution which distinguishes it from other state of India.

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This state is divided into two provinces namely Jammu province and Kashmir province. Ladakh, a district of Kashmir province covers nearly half the area of this state. Ladakh is separated from rest of state by great Himalaya’s covers eastern part of the state and is very arid and cold.

Relief Features:

The Himalayan and the Trans-Himalayan mountain ranges running in the north-west, south-east direction and separated from one another by the valleys drained by the Indus and the Jhelum make this region.

These flow north- westward till in the west they bend almost at right angles to the south after cutting deep transverse gorges through the mountain ranges. The outermost low ranges in the west lying between the Ravi in the east and the Jhelum in the west is called the Jammu Hills.

In the north of Jammu hills there is Pir Panjal range which is the westward extersions of Dhaoladhar range. The Vale of Kashmir originally, a synclinal valley is filled by detritus brought by Jhelum and its tributaries. It is about 40 km. wide and 15 km. long and it represents conspicuously the largest level stretch of fertile land set gracefully in an otherwise rugged mountainous country.

Its situation in the encircling snow-clad mountains (in winter), its glittering mountain torrents pouring their water into the placid Jhelum and upland pastures called margs,- all contribute towards making the Vale of Kashmir one of the most beautiful and fascinating regions of the world.

In the north of the Vale of Kashmir rises the Great Himalayan Range. Close to the northern flank of the Great Himalayan Range runs the Zaskar Range which is lower in elevation than the Great Himalayan Range but higher in elevation than the Lesser Himalaya.

The Zaskar Range lies between Kargil in the northwest and the Shipki La in the south-east and like the Great Himalaya it is perpetually snow-bound above a height of 6,100 metres. West of the Burzil Pass, the Great Himalaya is called Nanga Parbat (8,335 metres) round which Indus flows in gorge 5180 metre deep. This gorge is the deepest in the world.

The valleys of the rivers in the Karakoram Mountains are more than 3,000 metres above sea-level. The Karakoram Mountains attain their maximum height of 8,611 metres at Peak K2 (also known as Mt. Godwin Austin) and trend towards the east. This formidable mountain has the famous Karakoram Pass (5, 57 metres) which connects Sikiangs with Leh by a rough track.

Passes:

Some of the important passes of the region are Zojial on the Great Himalayas, Banihal on the Pir Panjal, Photula on the Zaskar and Khardung La on the Ladakh range.

Lakes:

Some of the important fresh water lakes such as Pal and Wular and salt water lakes such as Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri are also in this drained by the river Indus and its tributaries such as the Jhelam and Chenab.

Climate:

There is variety of climate in this region. Since the penetration of moisture-laden summer monsoon winds into the interior of Kashmir is checked considerably by the intervening Pir Panjal Range, the Vale of Kashmir receives hardly one- fourth of its total annual rainfall during the months of July, August and September. It is about 66 cm. of rainfall annually.

Ladakh receives little rainfall from the summer monsoon winds of India due to barrier of Great Himalaya. The Western disturbance cyclones cross this area during the period from November to May and deposit their moisture mostly in the form of snow at altitudes higher than 1, 525 metres.

Thus, the area lying south of the Great Himalayan Range receives rainfall during winter as well as the summer monsoon rainy season. North of the Great Himalaya all the precipitation is in the form of snow. There is only 11.5 cm. of rainfall annually in Leh.

There is variation in temperature due to variation in height. The Karakoram Mountains and the Ladakh Range except for the valley bottoms are cold like Arctic region. The water of the rivers in these areas including that of the Indus is frozen in winter. The mean January temperature of Leh (3,514 metres) situated in the valley of the Indus in Ladakh is 84°C.

Diurnal range of temperaature is, therefore, high in Leh region.

Vegetation:

There is scanty rainfall and vegetation. In Ladakh and other parts of this state lying to the north of the Great Himalayan Range, very cold and dry climate permits only stunted growth of bushes, pencil-cedar, and willow and poplar trees. Firewood is not easily available. Here trees are planted and carefully watered. There is forest, south of the Jhelum where the vegetation zones correspond to those of the Punjab Himalayas.

Agriculture:

There is only 17 percent area under cultivation. Although a small proportion of land is under cultivation, agriculture is the chief stay of the people. Maize, rice, wheat, pulse, rapeseed and mustard are important crops. The crops are raised in those areas where irrigation is available. Nearly 46.9% of the net sown area is cropped more than once.

Jammu province in the south, Ladakh district in the north-east and Kasmir province (excluding ladakh district) in the middle, form three broad agricultural regions of this state based on different topography and climate.

Yak, serves as the beast of burden in Ladakh, and sheep are reared mostly by nomadic tribes. A few hundred merino ewes and rams have been imported from the erstwhile U.S.S.R. Some of them have been crossed with the local sheep. Farms of cross-bred sheep and pure Russian merino are maintained at a few places in Ladakh.

There is fertile alluvial soil, cool temperate climate and irrigation facilities, in the Vale which support a fairly dense population. Winter being severely cold, agricultural activity is restricted mainly to the summer season which is long enough for the successful cultivation of one crop.

Deposits of newer alluvium along the Jhelum and in the valleys of innumerable streams joining this river are the places of major and intensive agricultural activity. There is a separate blocks of land deeply dissected consisted of old alluvium. These plateau-like blocks of older alluvium are called karewas. The soil of the karewas is generally poor. They have, however, been brought under cultivation because of great pressure of population.

About 60% of the net area sown is under irrigation. Almost all the arable land of the Vale is under plough. Rice and maize are the major crops. Rice is, however, the leading crop. Low irrigated flat land is generally devoted to rice.

Maize is raised mainly in the hilly areas and in those parts of the valley which are relatively elevated and lack facilities of irrigation. It is the second crop of the Vale. Wheat is raised as a winter crop. Saffron and temperate fruits are the distinctive products of the Vale of Kashmir. Mulberry is grown for rearing silk worms.

The normally raised fruits are apple, pear, apricot, peach, cherry and pomegranate in the Vale. They are raised mainly in Srinagar district. Baramula is the leading apple growing district and accounts for more than half of the total apple produced in the Vale of Kashmir.

In Jammu district a little more than one-third of the area sown is under irrigation. Here irrigation is provided by canal taken off from the Chenab. About one fifth of the net sown area of Jammu is under irrigation.

Pastoral Occupation:

There are large members of meadows called ‘Marg’ in the mountains. The Margs are easily accessible and form ideal grazing grounds for sheep during summer. Wools are used for making woollen fabrics, shawls namda, blankets, lohies, pattu etc.

Medicinal Plants:

In the absence of heavy downpour of rain, the active principles of the medicinal plants are preserved. This climatic advantage has made it one of the most important herb and medicinal plant growing states of India. It grows a variety of plants varying from tropical to alpine ones. These plants are used for making medicines at Srinagar and Jammu.

Minerals:

A large number of minerals are found in this region. Jammu province is endowed with workable deposits of coal, limestone, bauxite and clay but the coal occurs in powdery form.

Borax which is used in the manufacture of paper, ceramics and glass occur in inaccessible Ladakh district at an elevation of about 4,570 metres.

Power:

A large number of sites suitable Tor the development of hydro-electricity in Jammu and Kashmir are available This is the reason that the chief source of power is hydro-electricity in this state.

Salal Hadro-Electric Project:

This is one the major hydro-electric power projects of India. A 113- metre high dam has been constructed across the Chenab at Dhyangarh near Riasi. The construction of the project was undertaken in 1969 and first stage power station with a generating capacity of 345 mw was commissioned in February 1988.

Lower Jhehlum Hydro-Electric Project:

The project site is located at Gantmulla about 12 km. away from Baramula. It has four generating units each of 35 mw capacity.

Industries:

There are small scale industries in this region. The undercoat of hill goats called Pashmina is of very fine quality and is used for making woollen carpets and woollen fabrics. Raw silk is locally available. Beauties of flora and fauna, snow- clad towering mountains and vast panoramas of meadows inspire the craftsmen to depict artistic designs on woollen carpets and tapestry, on wood carvings, and papier-machie goods.

Shawls which are noted for the excellence of their weave and the needle craft, are woven at a number of places. Woollen cloth called Patti is made by the village weavers. In Srinagar blankets, rugs and tweeds are manufactured in the Government Woollen Mills.

Silk fabrics are manufactured in government owned factories located in Srinagar and Jammu. Tourism a major source of income for this state has suffered due to militancy menace

Population:

There are people belonging to different religion and culture in the state. South of the Great Himalayan Range, people are Aryans. They are tall, fair and of sharp and regular features. They speak Kashmiri in the Vale of Kashmir and Dogri in the Chenab Valley, the Jammu plain and the Jammu Hills.

Average density of population of the state in 1981 was 59 persons per square km. 1991 Census could not be held due to disturbed condition and 2001 census operation is also under cloud due to militant threat.

Area north and east of the Great Himalayan Range being arid is one of the most sparsely peopled areas of India. Here density of Kargil district is 5 and that of Ladakh district 2 per square km. People living in Ladakh are comparatively short in stature but are sturdy. They are of mixed stock but not free from Mongolian admixture. The important towns of this region are Srinagar, Jammu, Anantnag Baramula, Gulmarg and Udhampur.