GCSE Geography | Challenges in the Thar Desert (Hot Deserts 4)
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Last updated 19 Jul 2023
The Thar Desert stretches across north-west India and into Pakistan, covering approximately 200,000 km² (which is slightly smaller than the UK). It is mostly in the Indian state of Rajasthan and is the most densely populated desert in the world.
The harsh conditions in the Thar Desert make life very challenging.
Extreme temperatures in the Thar Desert
Temperatures in the Thar Desert can exceed 50°C in the summer which makes life very difficult for people, animals and plants.
It is the world's most densely populated desert, and the majority of people work outside, for example farming and mining - working in the extreme heat can be extremely challenging, and puts people at serious risk of harm.
The extreme heat leads to high rates of evaporation, which can lead to water shortages in the region. This affects people through a lack of drinking water, but also means there may not be enough water for agricultural and industrial uses. It also has an impact on animals and plants.
Farmers have to provide shade for their livestock, such as goats and cattle, to protect them from the high insolation during the day.
Water supply in the Thar Desert
There are significant issues with water supply in the Thar Desert with demand for water increasing due to population growth, and the increased need to develop farming and industry in the region. The high population density is in conflict with water usage - water is scarce due to the lack of precipitation, extreme heat and strong winds - which all lead to high rates of evaporation.
There are some sources of water in the Thar Desert
- Ponds - these are where drinking water (for both people and animals) is stored. These can be natural ponds, known as tobas, or manmade ponds, which are called johads.
- Rivers and streams - these flow through the Thar Desert (such as the River Luni), however they are not permanent water sources and only flow after rainfall. Most of the people who live in this desert, live along these rivers.
- Aquifers - these are underground water sources where water is stored in rocks. This water can be accessed using wells, however the quality of the water is not great because of the high salt content.
Inaccessibility in the Thar Desert
Accessibility is difficult in the Thar Desert - extreme weather and vast barren areas have made it hard to develop a decent road network. Tarmac melts in extreme heat and the strong winds often blows sand across roads, meaning that drivers can't see where they are.
As a result most places in the Thar Desert can only be accessed by traditional forms of transport, such as camels. What public transport there is, is in the form of extremely overladen, and therefore dangerous, buses.