Thar Desert
The 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 feature.

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.

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Techniques prevalent in this region
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People who harvest rain
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