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Land and Resources, Natural Regions

Chota Nagpur Plateau, Satpura Range, Vindhya Range, Vale of Kashmir, Karakoram Range

India can be divided into three main regions: the Himalayas, the Gangetic Plain, and peninsular India.

The Himalayan mountain system is 160 to 320 km (100 to 200 mi) wide and extends 2,400 km (1,500 mi) along the northern and eastern borders of India. It includes the mountains surrounding the Vale of Kashmir in the Karakoram Range, and the central and eastern Himalayas. Ancient geological forces molded the Himalayas as the Indian plate of the Earth’s crust burrowed under the Eurasian landmass, creating an uplift that continues to push this northernmost boundary of India ever higher. The Himalayan Range is the highest mountain system in the world. Among its towering summits, wholly or partly within India or within territory claimed by India and administered by Pakistan, are K2 (8,611 m/28,251 ft) and Kanchenjunga (8,598 m/28,209 ft), which are the second and third highest peaks in the world, after Mount Everest. Other prominent Indian peaks include Nanga Parbat (8,125 m/26,657 ft), Nanda Devi (7,817 m/25,646 ft), Rakaposhi (7,788 m/25,551 ft), and Kamet peak (7,756 m/25,446 ft). The Himalayas region, including the foothills, is sparsely settled. Agriculture and animal herding are the main economic activities.

South and parallel to the Himalayas lies the Gangetic Plain, a belt of flat, alluvial lowlands 280 to 400 km (175 to 250 mi) wide. This area includes some of the most agriculturally productive land in India. The Indian portion of the broad Gangetic Plain encompasses several river systems, and stretches from Punjab state in the west, through the Gangetic Plain, to the Assam Valley in the east. Marking the western end of the Gangetic Plain are the Indus River and its tributaries, including the Sutlej and Chenab rivers, which flow through Punjab in India’s northwest corner. The Gangetic Plain is formed by the Ganges River and its tributaries, which drain the southern slopes of the Himalayas. Assam Valley is separated from the Gangetic Plain by a narrow corridor of land near the city of Darjiling (Darjeeling). The valley is watered by the Brahmaputra River, which rises in Tibet and crosses into India at its northeast corner, then flows north of the Khasi Hills into Bangladesh. The Thar Desert, a huge dry, sandy region extending into Pakistan, lies at the southwestern end of the Gangetic Plain.

South of the plains region lies peninsular India. The northern peninsula features a series of mountain ranges and plateaus. The Aravalli Range runs in a north-south direction on the eastern edge of the Thar Desert, and low hills cut by valleys lie along the border between the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in central India. The Narmada River flows southwest between the Vindhya Range and an associated plateau on the north, and the Satpura Range on the south. The plains of the Chota Nagpur Plateau in the eastern states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand also lie within this region. The rocky and uneven lands of the northern peninsula are sparsely populated. Herding is a major occupation in the west, and farming of coarse grains such as millet is common in the central part.

In the southern part of peninsular India lies the vast Deccan Plateau, a tableland lying within a triangle formed by the Satpura Range, the steep mountain slopes of the Western Ghats, and the gentler slopes of the Eastern Ghats. Elevations in the plateau region average 600 m (2,000 ft), although outcroppings as high as 1,200 m (4,000 ft) occur. At their northern end, the Western Ghats vary in height from 900 to 1,200 m (3,000 to 4,000 ft), but the Nilgiri Hills of the extreme south reach a height of 2,637 m (8,652 ft) at Doda Betta, their highest peak. The Eastern Ghats lie along the eastern flank of the Deccan Plateau, interrupted by the Krishna and Godavari river basins. Elevations of the Eastern Ghats are much lower, averaging 600 m (2,000 ft). The plateau itself, even rockier than the northern extension of peninsular India, supports a sparse agricultural population and is also home to industrial enterprises.

The Indian Peninsula is bordered by a mostly fertile seashore. The west coast, including the extensive Gujarat Plain in the north, the thin Konkan shore in Maharashtra state, and the Malabar Coast in the south, support substantial populations of farmers and fishermen. Ancient trade routes to the west helped make the cities and towns of this region into market centers for textiles and spices. The east coast’s broad alluvial plains, stretching from the Kaveri River delta in the south to the Mahanadi River delta in the north, are intensely farmed.



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