Geography

Baltoro Glacier 

The 62-kilometre-long Baltoro Glacier, in northern Pakistan, is one of the longest glaciers outside the polar regions

Pakistan covers an area of 796,095 km2 (307,374 sq mi), approximately equalling the combined land areas of France and the United Kingdom. It is the 36thlargest nation by total area although this ranking varies depending on how the disputed territory of Kashmir is counted. Apart from the 1,046 km (650 mi) coastline along the Arabian Sea, Pakistan’s land borders a total of 6,774 km (4,209 mi)—2,430 km (1,510 mi) with Afghanistan, 523 km (325 mi) with China, 2,912 km (1,809 mi) with India and 909 km (565 mi) with Iran. The territory it controls mostly lies between latitudes 23° and 37° N (a small area is north of 37°), and longitudes 61° and 78° E (a small area is west of 61°).

Geologically, Pakistan overlaps with the Indian tectonic plate in its Sindh and Punjab provinces, while Balochistan and most of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa lie within the Eurasian plate which mainly comprises the Iranian plateau. Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir lie mainly in Central Asia along the edge of the Indian plate and are hence prone to violent earthquakes.

Topographical map of Pakistan

        Topography of Pakistan

The geography of Pakistan is a blend of landscapes varying from plains to deserts, forests, hills, and plateaus ranging from the coastal areas of the Arabian Sea in the south to the mountains of the Karakoram range in the north. Pakistan is divided into three major geographic areas: the northern highlands; the Indus River plain; and the Balochistan Plateau. The northern highlands of Pakistan contain the Karakoram, Hindu Kush and Pamir mountain ranges, which incorporate some of the world’s highest peaks, including K2 (8,611 m or 28,251 ft) andNanga Parbat (8,126 m or 26,660 ft). The Balochistan Plateau lies to the West, and the Thar Desert in the East. An expanse of alluvial plains lies in Punjab and Sindh along the Indus river. The 1,609 km (1,000 mi) Indus River and its tributaries flow through the country from the Kashmir region to the Arabian Sea.

Climate

Pakistan’s climate varies from tropical to temperate with arid conditions existing in the coastal south, characterised by a monsoon season with frequent flooding rainfall and a dry season with significantly lesser to no rainfall. There are four distinct seasons; a cool, dry winter from December through February; a hot, dry spring from March through May; the summer rainy season or southwest monsoon period, from June through September; and the retreating monsoon period of October and November. Rainfall can vary radically from year to year, and successive patterns of flooding and drought are common.

Flora and fauna

Cedrus deodara, Pakistan’s national tree

The diversity of landscapes and climates in Pakistan allows for a wide variety of trees and plants to flourish in this region. The forests range from coniferous alpine andsubalpine trees such as spruce, pine, and deodar cedar in the extreme northern mountains, to deciduous trees such as the mulberry-type Shisham in the Sulaiman range in the majority of the country, to palms such coconut and date in South Punjab and Balochistan and all of Sindh. The western hills are home to juniper andtamarisk as well as coarse grasses and scrub plants. Mangrove forests form much of the coastal wetlands along the coast in the south.

Coniferous forests in most of the northern and north-western highlands are found at altitudes ranging from 1,000m to 4,000m. In the xeric regions of Balochistan, date palms and ephedra are common floral varieties. In most of Punjab and Sindh, the Indus plains support tropical and subtropical dry and moist broadleaf forestry as well as tropical and xeric shrublands. These forests are mostly mulberry, acacia, and Eucalyptus.

According to statistics, 2.5% or about 1,902,000 hectares (19,020 km2) of Pakistan was forested in 2000.

Similar to the vegetation, the animal life in Pakistan reflects the varied climatic regions of the land. The southern plains are home to crocodiles in the Indus whileboars, deer, porcupines, and small rodents are found more commonly in the surrounding areas. The sandy scrublands of central Pakistan are home to a jackals,hyenas, wild cats, panthers, and leopards.

Markhor, Pakistan’s national animal

In the north, a wide variety of animals have found home in the mountainous regions including the Marco Polo sheep, Urial sheep,Markhor and Ibex goats, black and brown Himalayan bears, and the rare Snow Leopard. Another rare species is the blind Indus River Dolphin of which there are believed to be about 1,100 remaining, protected at the Indus River Dolphin Reserve in Sindh. There have been sightings of the rare Asiatic cheetahs in the southwestern deserts of Sindh and Balochistan.

Apart from crows, sparrows and myna, hawks, falcons, and eagles are the more commonly found birds in Pakistan. A lot of birds sighted within Pakistan are migratory as they make their way from Europe, Central Asia and India.

In recent years, the number of wild animals being killed for fur and leather trading led to a new law banning the hunting of wild animals and birds as well as the establishment of several wildlife sanctuaries and game reserves. The number of hunters have greatly dwindled since then.

Vast sections of the Indus flood plains have been cleared of natural vegetation to grow crops. Only animals like the jackal, mongoose, jungle cat, civet cat, scalyanteater, desert cat and the wild hare occur in these areas. Hog deer are found in riveine tracts. The crop residues and wild growth support reasonable populations of black and grey partridges.

The lack of vegetative cover, severity of climatic conditions, and the impact of grazing animals on the deserts have left wild animals in a precarious position. Chinkarais the only animal that can still be found in significant numbers in Cholistan. The blackbuck, once plentiful in Cholistan, has now been eliminated; efforts are being made to reintroduce them into the country. A small number of blue bulls are found along the Pakistan-Indian border, and in some parts of Cholistan. Grey partridge, species of sand grouse and the Indian courser are the main birds of the area. Peafowl occur in some areas in Cholistan.

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