Geography

Haryana may be divided into five natural topographic divisions which provide a suitable framework upon which a systematic study of landform environment may be founded. These are :

  • The Bagar and the undulating sandy plains-the sand dunes and the tals(230-350 metres
  • The Alluvial Plain or the Ghaggar-Yamuna Plain comprising Bangar, Khadar, Naili and Bet (below 300 metres).
  • The Aravali outliers (300-600metres)
  • The Shiwaliks-The hills (over 400 metres), and
  • The Foot Hill Zone-The piedmont plain (300-400 metres).

The Bagar and the undulating sandy plain

Sand dunes of various shapes and sizes form a thirsty land, covered by stoppe vegetation in the south-western parts of Haryana. The Bagar lies in parts of Sirsa, Hisar and Bhiwani districts. Of significance is the great amount of wind blown sand, piled-up several metre high above the local flats, and stretched for several kilometres in length. This forms a continuous strip of significant concentration of sand dunes adjacent to the thar desert on about 11 per cent of the total area of the State. Sand dunes, found on a massive scale in this belt, extend from the south-east of Sirsa district along the Rajasthan border with Hisar district and the sand dune belt widens gradually through the Bhiwani district. The region resembles practically treeless undulating arid desert, and is locally known as Bagar. Sand dunes of varying magnitude are the main features of the south-west. At places, the local relief is as high as 15 metres but generally the dunes are mobile, while most are stationary. Their axes may be parallel to the wind direction. Generally, longitudinal dunes are common. The region is not altogether, as the name implies, a desolate treeless waste, but it does support a thin scruby vegetation in tals. Further, the monotony of sand heaps is broken by the rocky projections, such as in Bhiwani district. The region gradually rises in elevation towards the southeastern part terminating in Sohana Plateau of Aravalli ranges. The mobile sand dunes seriously threaten to impair the prosperity of fertile alluvial plains lying to their north and north-east. As a result of meagre rainfall and its highly unreliable character, the climatic conditions of the Bagar and the undulating sandy plains are arid. Most of the arid region possesses a very scanty vegetation partly due to cultivation and grazing practices, and primarily due to the prevailing desert conditions. The soil moisture deficit is very acute and it persists throughout the year. 

The Alluvial Plain

The alluvial plain of Haryana as usual has the alluvial richness. It is one of the socioeconomic hinterlands of India, ontributing a major and significant share to the foodgrain reserve of the nation. Besides, it occupies an important position in the sub-continent as it forms the water divide between the two mighty river systems of the Ganga and the Indus flowing into the Bay of Bangal and the Arabian sea respectively. It comprises vast riverine plains of the older and the newer alluvium and, therefore, the lithological diversity in alluvial monotony has a strong bearing upon the distributional pattern of land use, cropping pattern and agricultural productivity. The Ghaggar and Markanda streams and Yamuna river have left their imprint on the local relief of the alluvial plain. The region is considerably vast , more fertile and populous. Indeed, the 300 metres significant contour represents a more meaningful boundary between the plain and the upland. The plain imperceptibly slopes from north-east to south and south-west, the gradients to which follow the lines of natural drainage. The plain is remarkably flat in the districts of Ambala, Yamuna Nagar, Kurukshetra, Karnal, Kaithal, Jind, Sonipat and the north-eastern part of Hisar. Within the alluvial plain are the narrow low lying flood plains, known as Khadar of Yamuna, Nali of Ghaggar, and Bet of Markanda. Besides, the flat of the saucer in Sonipat and northern parts of Rohtak districts forms a part of the said plain. At places, there are occasional local undulations forming old rolling alluvial plains which include the Rohi of Dabwali and Sirsa tahsils (Sirsa district). The Rohi has many abandoned beds of old streams, in particular that of the Ghaggar, which provide fertile land suited to agriculture. The Rohi is not completely flat because of the presence of tals and tibbas. The local relief of the tibbas is very insignificant and these have either been under the process of levelling or completely graded on account of the extension of irrigation facilities with Bhakra Canal. The older alluvial plain is covered by the Pleistocene deposits. The old alluvial plain (Bangar) at a varying depths contains carbonate of lime, usually occurring in nodules called Kankar, which are from less than one centimetre to more than 5 centimetres in diameter. In Bangar these Kankar formations occur much below the root-zone of the soil and such parts of the land are known as Nardak. In the upper reaches of the Saraswati stream in Thanesar tahsil of Kurukshetra district, the Kankar seems to occur in the form of a pan close to the root-zone and this tract is termed as Chhachhra. The older alluvium of the Nardak and the Chhachhra has lower level of fertility as compared to the Bangar alluvium on account of the Kankar formations in the former. On the whole, the Bangar region is characterised by patches of saline efflorescence which is the result of the mechanical composition of alluvium, gentle slope of the land and the capillary action during hotdry season. The damage caused by salinity has, however, been considerably minimised by the tubewell and canal irrigation facilities. On the east of the alluvial plain is the flood plain of the Yamuna extending from its existing course to its old high bank. It is narrow in the tahsil of Jagadhri in Yamuna Nagar district, it broadens towards Sonipat after passing through the district of Kurukshetra, Karnal and Panipat and again narrows down in the district of Faridabad. In the north-west of the alluvial plain lie the flood plains of the Ghaggar and the Markanda called Nali and Bet respectively. Gulha Nali, Shahbad Bet, and Sirsa Nali are wide and a larger area is liable to inundation during the floods. The wide flood plains gradually merge into adjacent old plains. On the other hand, the flood plain in Fatehabad tahsil is narrow with a recognizable change into the old plains. Ghaggar Nali is gently sloping, and largely cleared of natural vegetation for cultivation. This area has experienced agricultural revolution of significant magnitude during the fifties resulting from agricultural colonization of the cultivable waste land, where the irrigation facilities provided through the minor irrigation schemes and the Bhakra Canal brought dynamic changes in agrarian economy. Sirsa Nali is wide and shallow. The result is that a far larger area is flooded in the south-east of Sirsa tahsil. In this part sand dunes are common as it lies close to the Marusthali of Rajasthan. These dunes are of shifting nature and crescentric in shape. Their march has been checked with the extension of irrigation facilities. The water table in the Khadar, Nali and Bet regions is fairly high, facilitating irrigation from tubewells. The regions have fertile soils of recent deposits which are replenished every year. The topography of Haryana offers both opportunities and challenges to agricultural pursuits. Topography as such has little effect on agriculture, for the proportion of the land which is too steep or too rocky & to cultivate is considerably small. Paradoxically, in the saucer and the bowl which are often the marginal lands in the plains of Haryana, the surface drainage is rather poor. Actually, Haryana, is blessed with extensive level land possessing a wealth of agriculture. The vast alluvial plain forms the heartland binding the hilly region and the sand dune belt together. The combination of level or rolling land and favourable temperature conditions is the most promising aspect of the State. In its extensive areas lie the future prospects for the development of irrigation, agriculture and dry farming. Topographically large areas of level to nearly-level land are suited to cultivation and extensive use of farm machinery, provided the fields can be adequately supplied with irrigation water.

The Aravalli Outliers

Consisting of Alwar and Ajabgarh series, the Arvallis extend for 90 kilometres in the Gurgaon rolling plain and Mahendragarh Tals and Tibbas. The hills traverse a north-east-south -west direction and at places extend upto Delhi and reach the Yamuna river like isolated ridges. In Haryana, the absolute relief of the outliers is at no point higher than 650 metres. Besides Gurgaon, the Aravalli outliers are scattered in Mahendragarh , Rewari and Bhiwani districts and stand out distinctly against the level horizon above the sand dunes. Tosham hills, attaining an absolute relief of 398 metres, in the district of Bhiwani have steep drops. Similarly, the Aravalli extensions in Gurgaon have also moderately steep falls. These with bold and rounded forms present wind-borne and water-eroded topography. Equally apparent is the abundance of debris produced by mechanical disintegration of the bare surfaces. The main south west-north-east alignment of the hills is remarkably regular in the district of Gurgaon. On the whole, these form series of flat-topped ridges, half-buried either in the alluvium or the aeolian deposits giving a low local relief. The Aravallis are fairly dissected by generally dry but at times viciously flowing nullahs. Dry channels, gullies and ravines, the relict hills, the boulders scattered over gullied surfaces, and the undulating dales and vales have made the Aravallis. The water table may be as much as over 150 metres down making traditional irrigation impracticable. It is observed that about 50 per cent of the hills, comprise sharply rising areas where soil erosion is active and soil cover is either thin or absent. Due to inadequacy of rainfall and rocky nature of the terrain, the Aravalli hills generally lack vegetation cover. At best these support some stunted trees of Kikar and Karir or thorny shrubs or bushes of ber and other hardy varieties. Pastures are not widespread but, on gentler slopes, there are patches of grass and shrubs which support a certain amount of pastoral activity.

The Shiwalik Hill Tracts

The Shiwalik hills, which have a north-west, south-east deposition, flank the northern boundary of the Panchkula district. At places the district boundary penetrates deep into the hills and encloses pockets of hilly tract. The Chandigarh Shiwalik range tract, Morni hill tract and Kalesar hill tract are the three main pockets of Shiwalik range tract within the area. These tracts are not only physically separated from each other but also differ from each other in many aspects. This tract is a narrow strip in the Shiwalik hills north of Chandigarh and flanks the southern side of the Pinjore Dun in the Kalka tahsil. The strip, which is only 2 to 5 kilometres wide encloses the northern slopes, the main water dividing line and some parts of the Shiwalik range. It stretches west, from river Ghaggar in the south-east to a point opposite Balad nadi in the north-west, a distance of about 20 kilometres. The Shiwalik range north of Chandigarh presents a typical Shiwalik hill topography.There are hogback ridges formed on gently dipping alternating beds of clay, silt, loam and gravel. The tract is badly dissected and gives the appearance of bad land topography. Numerous hills, gullies and choes are continuosly transforming the face of the area at a very fast rate. Because of unconsolidated nature of the bed rocks, the rate of landslides and mass wasting is high. The northern slope of Shiwalik range is steep and less extensive. Streams descending from the northern slope join either Sirsa nadi or Jhajra nadi, flowing beyond in opposite directions. The main ridge in this section of the Shiwalik range is almost missing. There is only a water dividing line, which is pushed upward very close to the northern limits. The crest of this water dividing line, which separates the northward flowing streams from southward flowing streams, is at many places lower than the crest of the transverse ridges in the area. The highest point in this ridge is Kala Tiba which is 625 metres above mean sea level. The southern slopes of the Shiwalik range are much more extensive. Transverse choes, which cut across almost the entire width of the Shiwalik range, have pushed back the main water dividing line to almost the northern fringes of the hills. These choes have transformed the southern slopes of the Shiwalik hills into alternating ridge and valley topography. They have carved out series of transverse parallel ridges, which run in a direction perpendicular to the grain of the area. The crests of these ridges are like razor’s edge and are broken at many places. Slopes of the transverse ridges are steep and unstable, thus unsuitable for human occupation.

The Morni Hill Tract

The continuity of the Shiwalik range further east is broken by a transcurrent fault north of Panchkula township. Due to this fault, a narrow water gap has been created through which river Ghaggar debouches on to the Punjab plains. This narrow water-gap, which has wall-like vertical eastern bank and terraced western bank, separates the Chandigarh Shiwalik range tract in the west from the Morni hill tract in the east. From the water-gap the Morni hill tract extends up to the tributatries of Begna nadi and Run Cho, in the east, a distance of about 30 kilometres. The northern limit of the tract is marked by the crest of the ridge north of the river Ghaggar. The tract is the largest pocket hilly area within the Panchkula district and comprises two north-west, south-east running parallel ridges separated by the deep and narrow valley of the river Ghaggar. Of the two ridges, the southern one is more massive and extensive, but the highest peak Dharot Kahlong, 1,499 metres above mean sea level lies on the northern ridges.The highest peak on the southern ridge is only 1,246 metres high. The crest of the southern ridge supports a number of small.  The tract is badly dissected by numerous streams forming deep narrow valleys. With the exception of Begna nadi there is hardly any other stream which forms a broad open valley like the one formed by the major choes in the ChandigarhShiwalik hill tract. However, with the exception of the southern fringes and the western part of the tract, the degree of dissection is much less as compared to the ChandigarhShiwalik hills tract. This is because of the thick vegetation cover and the comparatively consolidated nature of bed rocks which belong to Degshai and Nahan for the northern and southern ridges respectively. Slopes are moderate to steep but stable. However, settlements there are steep escarpments at many places formed by landslides and faults. To the south of Morni there is also a small patch of flat land with two tiny lakes. The genesis of this flat land seems to be structural in nature but needs proper investigation.

The Kalesar Hill Tract

Another important pocket of hilly tract within Shiwalik range lies in the north-eastern corner of the then Ambala district(now Panchkula district). The tract comprises two parallel ridges separated by a broad and open valley of a seasonal stream Sukh rao which flows from north-west to south-east and joins the Yamuna river in the extreme north-eastern corner of the Panchkula district. Numerous torrents originating from the slopes of ridges flanking the Sukh rao valley drain into the Sukh rao. The sharp crest of the northern ridge forms the common boundary of the then Ambala (now Panchkula distict) district with Himachal Pradesh. The crest of the southern ridge is also distance of about 7 kilometres . The average width of the valley is about 1.5 kilometres. The transverse ridge slopes down steeply to the stream banks. The relative height of these ridge from the valley to bottom varies fom 200 to 250 metres. The highest point in the tract with a height of 701 metres lies in the extreme north on the crest of the main ridge. The Pinjore Dun.- Pinjore Dun is a structural valley, about 5-8 kilometres wide, sandwiched between the outer Himalayas in the north and the Shiwalik range in the south. It extends from the river Ghaggar in the south-east to the river Satluj outside the limits of the Panchkula district, in the north-west. However, within the area its extent is limited between the river Ghaggar and Balad nadi, a distance of about 25 kilometres. The Dun is flanked in the north by alluvial fans at its contact zone with the Himalayas and the seasonal streams in the south along the Shiwalik hills. The major slope of the area is from north-east to south-west, and it is steeper in the north and gentler in the south. The average gradient of the area which is about 40-50 metres per kilometre is a bit misleading as it is broken into various terrace levels, separated by 5-13 metres high terrace scarps. The underlying alternating beds of loam and gravel are almost horizontal as the dip angle is less than 3º. The minor slope of the area, which is perpendicular to the major slope, divides the area into three different segments.Two segments east and west of Koshallia nadi which flows from north to south dips inwards towards the river. The third segment west of an imaginary line joining village Khera at the foot of the Shiwalik range with Tagra Kaliram in the north-east near Kalka railway station, dips outward towards north-west. The minor slope of the area is also responsible for dividing the Sirsa drainage system from Ghaggar-Jhajra drainage system. The drainage density in the area is very high as a number of seasonal streams descend from the ridges and spurs, flanking to northern side of the valley. In addition to these, a number of streams originate in the Dun itself. The drainage lines form a very closely spaced sub-parallel drainage pattern. The streams flow from north-east to south-west direction across the entire width of the valley and then join the major streams like the Sirsa nadi, the Jhajra nadi or the river Ghaggar which flow at the foot of the Shiwalik range in a direction perpendicular to these streams. Jhajra nadi and Koshallia nadi join the Ghagghar river at the mouth of Ghaggar water-gap in the Shiwalik range, through which it escapes into the Punjab plains. The Sirsa nadi along with its tributaries drains into the river Satluj in the north-west. The streams are generally entrenched and have wall-like vertical banks. At places these banks are as high as 25 metres. The average spacing between the streams is about 500 metres. Almost all the streams are seasonal and carry water only during the rains. Streams beds are strewn with gravel and boulders. Gravel beds are also exposed at some terrace levels.

The Foothill Rolling Plain

This is a long belt of undulating, fairly sloping plain with elevation between 300-400 metres, adjoining the Shiwalik range stretching from the river Ghaggar in the north-west to the river Yamuna in the south-east. Its width varying from 10 to 25 kilometres, is maximum in Naraingarh tahsil. Collateral coalescence of alluvial fans at the foot of the Shiwalik range has created a continuous belt of steeply sloping undulating land all along the hills. These alluvial fans have been formed by the deposit of material brought down by the seasonal streams from the Shiwalik range near the hills, the deposited material is very coarse like sand and gravel but as one moves away from the hills, the material gets finer and finer. Gully formation on the alluvial fans and its extension into the adjoining clay uplands has extended and accentuated the undulations in the area. Gully formation on the two major clay uplands, one between Dangri nadi (Tangri stream) and Begna nadi and the other between the Markanda river and Somb nadi is most intense. Here, the flat land has been devoured extensively by the gullies. Generally, these gullies are entrenched 2-5 metres deep but at places these are as deep as 10 metres, maximum erosion in this tract has been done by the gullies and streams which originate in the tract itself and not by those which come down from the Shiwalik range. It is only in small tracts like the one between the river Yamuna and Somb nadi that erosion is largely due to streams descending from the Shiwalik range. Drainage density in the tract is very high and the streams are fairly closely spaced.

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