Pakistan is bordered on the west by Iran, on the north and northwest by Afghanistan, on the northeast by China, on the east and southeast by India, and on the south by the Arabian Sea. A panhandle of Afghanistan territory in the northwest, the Wakhan Corridor, separates Pakistan and Tajikistan. The area of Pakistan is 796,095 sq km (307,374 sq mi), not including the section of Jammu and Kashmīr under its control. Jammu and Kashmīr is a disputed territory located between Pakistan and India. Pakistan controls a portion of the territory as Azad (Free) Kashmīr and the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA), while India controls a portion as the state of Jammu and Kashmīr.
A -Natural Regions
Pakistan has great extremes of elevation, reaching the highest point at the Himalayan peak of K2 (also known as Mount Godwin Austen) in the north and the lowest point at the Arabian Sea coast in the south. The Indus River flows the length of Pakistan from north to south. The Indus and its tributaries form a wide river valley with fertile plains in Punjab and Sind (Sindh) provinces. Pakistan is mountainous in the north and west. Earthquakes are frequent, and occasionally severe, in the northern and western areas.
Much of Pakistan is a dry, sun-scorched region. To the west of the Indus are the rugged dry mountains of the Sulaimān Range, which merge with the treeless Kīrthar Range in the south. Farther west are the arid regions of the Baluchistan Plateau and the Khārān Basin. A series of mostly barren low mountains and hills predominate in the western border areas. The Thar Desert straddles the border with India in the southeast.
The country also possesses a variety of wetlands, with the glacial lakes of the Himalayas, the mudflats of the Indus Valley plains, and the extensive coastal mangroves of the Indus River delta. The wetland areas cover an estimated area of 7.8 million hectares (19.3 million acres).
The Indus River is the lifeline of Pakistan. Without the Indus and its tributaries, the land would have turned into a barren desert long ago. The Indus originates in Tibet from the glacial streams of the Himalayas and enters Pakistan in the northeast. It runs generally southwestward the entire length of Pakistan, about 2,900 km (1,800 mi), and empties into the Arabian Sea. The Indus and its tributaries provide water to two-thirds of Pakistan. The principal tributaries of the Indus are the Sutlej, Beās, Chenāb, Rāvi, and Jhelum rivers. In southwestern Punjab Province these rivers merge to form the Panjnad (“Five Rivers”), which then merges with the Indus to form a mighty river. As the Indus approaches the Arabian Sea, it spreads out to form a delta. Much of the delta is marshy and swampy. It includes 225,000 hectares (556,000 acres) of mangrove forests and swamps. To the west of the delta is the seaport of Karāchi; to the east the delta fans into the salt marshes known as the Rann of Kutch.
The coastline of Pakistan extends 1,050 km (650 mi) along the Arabian Sea. The Makran Coast Range forms a narrow strip of mountains along about 75 percent of the total coast length, or about 800 km (500 mi). These steep mountains rise to an elevation of up to 1,500 m (5,000 ft). Most of the coast is underdeveloped, with deserted beaches and only a few fishing villages.
D -Mountain Peaks and Passes
Pakistan has within its borders some of the world’s highest and most spectacular mountains. In the northern part of the country, the Hindu Kush mountains converge with the Karakoram Range, a part of the Himalayan mountain system. Thirteen of the world’s 30 tallest peaks are in Pakistan. The tallest include K2 (also known as Mount Godwin Austen), the second highest peak in the world at 8,611 m (28,251 ft), in the Karakoram Range; Nanga Parbat (8,125 m/26,657 ft) in the Himalayas; and Tirich Mīr (7,690 m/25,230 ft) in the Hindu Kush.
Many mountain passes cross Pakistan’s borders with Afghanistan and China. Passes crossing over the mountains bordering Afghanistan include the Khyber, Bolān, Khojak, Kurram, Tochi, and Gomal passes. The most well-known and well-traveled is the Khyber Pass in the northwest. It links Peshāwar in Pakistan with Jalālābād in Afghanistan, where it connects to a route leading to the Afghan capital of Kābul. It is the widest and lowest of all the mountain passes, reaching a maximum elevation of 1,072 m (3,517 ft). The route of the Bolān Pass links Quetta in Baluchistan Province with Kandahār in Afghanistan; it also serves as a vital link within Pakistan between Sind and Baluchistan provinces. Historically, the Khyber and Bolān passes were used as the primary routes for invaders to enter India from Central Asia, including the armies of Alexander the Great. Also historically significant is Karakoram Pass, on the border with China. For centuries it was part of the trading routes known as the Silk Road, which linked China and other parts of Asia with Europe.
E -Plants and Animals
The vegetation of Pakistan varies with elevation, soil type, and precipitation. Forests are largely confined to the mountain ranges in the north, where coniferous alpine and subalpine trees such as spruce, pine, and deodar cedar grow. The southern ranges of the Himalayas, which are of lower elevation, receive heavy rainfall and have dense forests of deodar, pine, poplar, and willow trees. The more arid Sulaimān and Salt mountain ranges are sparsely forested with a type of mulberry called shisham, a broad-leaved, deciduous tree. Dry-temperate vegetation, such as coarse grasses, scrub plants, and dwarf palm, predominates in the valleys of the North-West Frontier Province and the Baluchistan Plateau. The arid western hills are dotted with juniper, tamarisk (salt cedar), and pistachio trees. The area of Ziārat, Baluchistan, has juniper forests that are believed to be 5,000 years old; however, they are dwindling due to deforestation. Dry-tropical scrub and thorn trees are the predominant vegetation in the Indus River plain. Known as rakh, this vegetation is native to the region and can survive temperatures higher than 45°C (113°F). Riverine forests, found in the Indus floodplain, require six weeks of monsoon flooding to sustain them during the dry months. Irrigated tree plantations are found in Punjab and Sind. Mangrove forests in the coastal wetlands are an integral part of the marine food chain.
Animal life in Pakistan includes deer, boar, bear, crocodile, and waterfowl. The wetlands provide an essential habitat for a number of important mammal species, including coated otter, Indus dolphin, fishing cat, hog deer, and wild boar. During the migration season, at least 1 million waterfowl representing more than 100 species visit the extensive deltas and wetlands of Pakistan. Pakistan’s rivers and coastal waters contain many types of freshwater and saltwater fish, including herring, mackerel, sharks, and shellfish.
Threatened or endangered species include the snow leopard, Marco Polo sheep, blue sheep, and ibex (a type of wild goat). These animals can still be found in remote and protected areas of the Himalayas. The houbara bustard has been overhunted as a game bird in Pakistan and is officially protected.
The climate of Pakistan varies widely, with sharp differences between the high mountains and low plains. The country experiences four seasons. In the mountainous regions of the north and west, temperatures fall below freezing during winter and are mild during summer. In the Indus plains, temperatures range between about 32° and 49°C (about 90° and 120°F) in summer, and the average in winter is about 13°C (about 55°F).
Mountainous areas receive most precipitation as heavy snowfall in winter. In other areas of Pakistan, most precipitation comes with the summer monsoons during July and August. The summer monsoons are seasonal winds that bring torrential rainfall, breaking the hot, dry spell and providing much-needed relief. The rainfall is so heavy that it causes rivers in Punjab and Sind provinces to flood the lowland areas. Rainfall is scarce the rest of the year. Punjab Province has the most precipitation in the country, receiving more than 500 mm (20 in) per year. In contrast, the arid regions of the southeast (the Thar Desert in Sind) and southwest (Baluchistan) receive less than 125 mm (5 in) annually.
G -Natural Resources
More than 20 different types of minerals have been identified in Pakistan, but few are of sufficient quality or quantity to be commercially exploited. Most mineral deposits are found in the mountainous regions. Pakistan’s exploited natural resources include coal, natural gas, petroleum, gypsum, limestone, chromite, iron ore, rock salt, and silica sand. Pakistan has extensive natural gas reserves, notably in the vicinity of Sui, Baluchistan, from where it is piped to most of the large cities of Pakistan. Petroleum is limited, but exploration for additional reserves holds promise. Most of the country’s coal is of poor quality. The Salt Range in Punjab Province has large deposits of pure salt. Only about 3.3 percent of Pakistan’s total land area is forested, and timber is in short supply.
H -Environmental Issues
The wetlands in Pakistan are a precious resource. In an arid to semiarid environment, these ecosystems have tremendous value. People, domestic livestock, and wildlife depend on them for livelihood and survival. The wetlands are also a major source of food staples, livestock grazing and fodder, fuel wood, and irrigation water. However, the fragile wetland ecologies are threatened by poor conservation, over-exploitation, and urban and industrial pollution.
Pakistan’s forests also are in urgent need of protection and conservation. The country has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. The primary causes of deforestation are population growth and settlement, lack of fuelwood alternatives, insect damage and diseases, forest fires, and lack of awareness about the importance of preservation.
In the 1970s the government of Pakistan began making efforts to protect the country’s forests. It has created 14 national parks, covering a total area of 2,753,375 hectares (6,803,738 acres). The protected forests of the parks help prevent soil erosion. The parks are also wildlife sanctuaries and game reserves. Khunjerab National Park, established in 1975, is an important habitat sanctuary for a number of threatened or endangered species, including the snow leopard. It is one of the country’s most important alpine biodiversity regions. Located in the Himalayas, it is also one of the highest-altitude parks in the world at 5,000 m (16,000 ft). Most of the parks generally have no ecological basis, however, existing primarily as tourist attractions or for the preservation of game animals.
Pakistan participates in the World Heritage Convention and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and it has one designated biosphere preserve under the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Man and the Biosphere Program.
Essay Courtesy: CSS Forum.Com