International Symposium on
Drylands Ecology and Human Security

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Historical and Archaeological Perspectives of Soil Degradation in Cholistan

Farooq Ahmad

Department of Geography, University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan


Cholistan is an extension of the Great Indian Desert, which includes the Thar Desert in Sindh province of Pakistan and the Rajasthan Desert in India, covering an area of 26,330 Km2, it lies within Southeast quadrant of Punjab province between 27o42' and 29o45' North latitude and 69o52' and 73o05' East longitude. Once, Cholistan was green and prosperous land, where cultivation was practiced. The Hakra civilization, which flourished was one of the longest in the course of world history. Cholistan is the only place where the remnants of the oldest settlements are still intact because of the desertion of the river Hakra. Archaeological ruins present in Cholistan indicate that water availability in the area was higher a few centuries ago. The reduction of vegetation to about one third or less of its historical cover most probably, results in considerably higher near surface and surface temperature. As a result, evaporation of the scarce rainfall has increased considerably during the last decades so reducing the effective rainfall available for range and groundwater recharge, which is well known as self-reinforcing aspect of desertification. The aridity in Cholistan is rightly seen as a major limitation to wide-scale range improvement and management programs. However, aridity prevents high incidence of many crops and livestock diseases as well as nutrient leaching from soils.