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Topography; Sindh Province

Topographically, Sindh can be divided into 4 distinct parts with the dry and barren Kirthar Range in the West, a Central Alluvial Plain bisected by the River Indus, a desert belt in the East and the Indus delta in the South.

MountainsCentral PlainsRivers, Streams, and LakesForestsSoils – Climate – Seismic Activity

Mountains; Sindh Province 

The Western hilly tract consists of the hill ranges of Kirthar, Pab, Lakki (off-shoot of Kirthar Range), and Kohistan. There is no vegetation on these ranges due to scanty rainfall. The Kirthar Mountain Range extends southward for about 300 km (190 miles) from the Mula River in East-central Balochistan to Cape Monze (Muari), near Mubarak Village, Karachi, on the Arabian Sea. This Range forms the boundary between the Lower Indus Plain (in the East) and Southern Balochistan (in the West). It consists of a series of parallel rock hill ridges rising from 1,200 m (4,000 feet) in the South to nearly 2,500 m (8,000 feet) in the North. The hills decrease in height from North to South where they spread out in width and are known as Sindh-Kohistan.

The maximum elevation of Borough Hills, a peak in the Sindh segment of Kirthar Mountains, was reported in April 2009 as 2,151 m (7,056 feet) above sea level, which would make it the highest peak of Sindh, situated a few miles Northwest of the Gorakh Hill Station, which is located at a height of 1,734 m (5,688 feet).

The next highest peak of Sindh (again in the Kirthar Range) is a 2,097 m (6,880 feet) high peak, known locally as Kutte-ji-Kabar (Dog’s Grave). There are also a number of other peaks in the Sindh segment of Kirthar Mountains, heights of which exceed 1,676 m (5,500 feet); these peaks receive occasional snowfall during the winter.

The Lakki Mountain Range is located in the North of Manchar Lake (Jamshoro district) and is mainly composed of tertiary rocks; it contains a large number of thermal springs. This range is 80 km (50 miles) long and is an off-shoot of the Kirthar Mountain Range.

The Pab Range (another off-shoot of Kirthar Range) is mostly located in Balochistan Province in the Eastern corner of Jhalawan Country (Khuzdar) to Lasbela but a portion extends into Sindh’s sea coast near Karachi.

Central Plains; Sindh Province

The Central Plains are fertile alluvial plains constituting the valley of the Indus River. Collectively, the Central Plains are about 580 km long and about 51,500 km2 in area. They gradually slope downwards from North to South. The plain area is a vast region, rising to a maximum of 100 m above sea level. The lower part of this area, which starts near Hyderabad, is predominantly covered with flood silt. There are a few limestone ridges in this area. One of these ridges is near Rohri (Sukkur), commonly known as the Rohri Cuesta. It extends about 50 km South of Rohri and reaches an average height of about 75 m above sea level. Another such ridge is the Ganjo Takkar, a cuesta of limestone which stretches southward from Hyderabad covering a distance of 25 km. There are also a few depressions and lakes in the Central Plains.

The region is divided into 3 distinct zones:

  • Lar or Southern Sindh, which are the areas South of Hyderabad
  • Wicholo or Central Sindh, which is the area in the immediate vicinities of Hyderabad
  • Siro or Northern Sindh, which is the area beyond Naushero Feroze and Sehwan

Eastern Desert Belt; Sindh Province

The Eastern Desert region includes low dunes and flats in the North, the Achhrro Thar (white sand desert) to the South, and Thar Desert in the Southeast. A major portion of the Thar Desert lies in India in the East. In the North, the Thar Desert extends up to Bahawalpur in Punjab, where the Punjabi portion is called Cholistan. With little rain and a low water table, the area is a barren land with scattered, stunted, thorny bushes. The landscape of the desert is sandy and rough with sand dunes covering more than 56% of the area. The relief features in the area vary between flats near sea level to sand dunes reaching more than 150 m above sea level. This relief is due to a small hilly tract called Nagarparkar Taluka of Tharparkar District. In the extreme Southeast corner of this desert lies a small hilly tract known as Karunjhar Hills, consisting of granite rocks. These hills are about 20 km in length from North to South and reach a height of 300 m. The hills are a part of the Aravali Range. This range is a part of the Archaen system which has some of the oldest known rocks of the earth’s crust.

Indus Delta; Sindh Province

The deltaic plains of Sindh lie in the Lower Indus valley and are comprised of alluvium, trenched with river channels in some places and overridden by raised terraces in others. A few isolated low limestone hills are the only relieving features in the plains which are otherwise at one level. The distributaries of River Indus start spreading out near Thatta across the deltaic flood plain[1] in the sea. The even surface is marked by a network of flowing and abandoned[2] channels. A coastal strip 10 to 40 km wide is flooded at high tide and contains Mangrove swamps.

The chief characteristics of the region are the creeks, which serve as the changing outlets of the Indus and as inlets for the sea. The lowland Indus Plain merges into this region.

Rivers, Streams, and Lakes; Sindh Province

Sindh is entirely dependent upon River Indus for its survival and development. About 95% of all farmlands in Sindh obtain water for irrigation from River Indus. There are a large number of both seasonal and perennial streams in the province. Khadeji in Karachi and Achleshwar, Sardharo in Tharparkar, as well as Gaj and Hab in District Dadu are a few of the perennial streams flowing in the province.

Some of the main rivers and streams include:

  • Hub River: This is a perennial stream flowing from the Pab Range. For most of the year, it forms shallow pools. The Hub dam constructed on it is the main source of water for Karachi
  • Baran River: It originates in the Kirthar Range and takes water from nais[3], flowing into the Indus
  • Malir River: This is a seasonal stream and joins Khadeji River which is perennial. After heavy rains, it flows into the Gizri Creek near Karachi
  • Lyari River: This river flows into the Kemari Harbor
  • Other rivers: Small rivers from the Kirthar Range and its off-shoot hills also flow through Sindh. These include the Mohan or Rani, which rises in the East of Lakki Range, or the Sann (the name given to the portion of the Mohan River that flows outside the Lakki range), as well as the Chorlo, Nai Naegh, and the Angyi. All of these flow either into the Indus or the Arabian Sea

In addition, there are a large number of seasonal rivers and streams that carry run off from the mountains down into the Sindh plains. Malir, Naing Nai, Bhetiani, Gordhoro, Budhni Nullah, and Gujjar Nullah are a few of them. The main hill torrents that enter in the kutcha[4] area are Gaj Nai, Angai Nai, Taki Nai, Nali Nai, Shori Nai, and Gar Nai. All these water courses ultimately reach the Manchar Lake.

There are a total of 42 streams in Sindh, of which, 39 are in Dadu district, 1 in Thatta district, and 2 in Karachi. Of the 39 streams in Dadu, 13 are thermal springs. 2 additional streams, one in Karachi and one in Thatta, are also thermal.

There are a large number of lakes and wetlands of international and national importance in Sindh. Some of these are protected under International Wildlife laws.

The following table provides a list of all lakes and wetlands of Sindh:

Name of Wetland (or Lakes) Status District Ramsar[5] List
Badin and Kadhan Lagoons Not Protected Badin
Beroon Kirthar Canal Not Protected Larkana
Charwo Lake Not Protected Badin
Clifton Beach Not Protected Karachi
Drigh Lake Wildlife Sanctuary Larkana  Ramsar List
Ghauspur Jheel & Sindhi Dhoro Lake Not Protected Jacobabad
Hab Dam Wildlife Sanctuary Karachi
Hadeiro Lake Wildlife Sanctuary Thatta
Haleji Lake Wildlife Sanctuary Thatta  Ramsar List
Hamal Katchri Lake Not Protected Larkana
Hawkes Bay/ Sandpit Wildlife Sanctuary Karachi
Indus Dolphin Reserve Wildlife Sanctuary Kashmor  Ramsar List
Indus Delta Karachi to Indian border  Ramsar List
Keti Bunder North Wildlife Sanctuary Thatta
Keti Bunder South Wildlife Sanctuary Thatta
Khango (Khowaj) Lake Not Protected Badin
Kinjhar (Kalri) Lake Wildlife Sanctuary Thatta  Ramsar List
Khipro Lakes Not Protected Sanghar
Korangi & Gharo Creeks Not Protected Karachi
Langh (Lungh) Lake Wildlife Sanctuary Larkana
Mahboob Lake Not Protected Sujawal
Manchar Lake Not Protected Dadu
Nara Canal area Game Reserve Sanghar
Phoosna Lakes Not Protected Badin
Pugri Lake Not Protected Larkana
Runn of Kutch Not Protected Thatta
Sadhori Lake Not Protected Sanghar
Sanghriaro Lake Not Protected Sanghar
Shahbunder& Jafri Lake Not Protected Thatta
Soonhari Lake Not Protected Sanghar
Shahbunder Salt Waste & Jafri Lakes Thatta
Tando Bago Lake Not Protected Badin
Jubho Lagoon Protected Thatta Ramsar list
Nurri Lagoon Protected Badin Ramsar List

Table 1.3 Sindh Wetlands and Lakes

Forests; Sindh Province

Total forest cover in the province is 1,034,000[6] HA. There are 4 different types of forests in Sindh as follows:

  1. Riverine forests occur along the protective embankments on both sides of River Indus. These forests rely on inundation by River Indus for irrigation and, therefore, their existence is heavily dependent on the intensity, duration, and frequency of river water flow. These forests are spread over 241,247 HA. Flora of these riverine forests includes sarkanda or wild sugarcane (Saccharum bengalense), kans grass (Saccharum spontaneum), salt cedar or lai (Tamarix dioica), jhau or tamarisk (Tamarix indica), bahan or poplar (Populus euphratica), prickly acacia or babul (Acacia nilotica), khejri or jhand (Prosopis cineraria), dub or durva grass (Cynodon dactylon), peelu or tooth brush tree (Salvadora persica), vann (Salvadora oleoides), karir or kair (Capparis deciduas), gum Arabica or khumbat (Acacia senegal), baonli (Acacia jacquemontii).

Riverine forests are the mainstay of forestry in Sindh. Besides providing a source of livelihood for thousands of people, these forests provide fuel wood, timber, fodder, honey, and tannin. Moreover, they serve as carbon sinks and also protect the surrounding areas from the severity of floods.

  1. Irrigated forests are canal irrigated plantations and are also known as Inland forests. These are spread over 82.310 HA. Eucalyptus is the most common tree species of irrigated forests. Other common trees are semul, mulberry, java plum and lead tree (used as fodder).
  2. Mangroves are forests in the deltaic area of Sindh. These are spread over 0.344 million HA, and are protected under the 1927 Forest Act by the Government of Pakistan. As stated already, Sindh has a 342 km long and 50 km wide coastal belt along the coastline of the Arabian Sea, and is a complex, distinct, environment, pre-dominated by the Mangrove ecosystem. Thus, an area of 73,000 HA of the Indus Delta is covered by Mangrove forests in the districts of Thatta, Badin, and Karachi. They rank as the 6th largest contiguous fresh water mangroves worldwide[7]. Mangroves form a unique assemblage of flora and fauna, providing a complex detritus-based food web for a number of marine and brackish water organisms. These forests are not productive in terms of timber and fuel wood, but their protective role is very significant. They serve as breeding grounds for fish and shrimp, protect Karachi and Bin Qasim ports from silting, and the city of Karachi from tsunamis. The main tree species growing in these forests is Avicennia marina which is locally known as timer and forms 97% of the total Mangrove tree cover. Other species are Rhizophora macronata, Ceriops tagal, and Aegiceras cornicuata.
  3. Rangelands provide forage for cattle and livestock in the desert and dry mountainous areas of Sindh. These lands cover an area of 0.457 million HA. The main tree species found in rangelands are kandi (prosopis cineraria), gum Arabic or kor (Acacia senegal), rohida or desert teak (tecomella undulata). The main grass species is dhaman or buffle grass (cenchrus ciliaris).

Figure 1.5 Forest Map of Sindh

Figure 1.6 Mangrove Forests of Sindh

Soils; Sindh Province

The soil in the plains of Sindh is mostly plastic clay that has been deposited by the Indus. When combined with water, it develops into a rich mouldable clay, and without water it degenerates into a dry, sandy, desert-like consistency. Nearly the entire Indus valley is rich in soil which is extremely friable[8] and easily disintegrated by flowing water. As a result, the water in Sindh always contains a large amount of suspended silts. The following map shows the location of different types of soils in Sindh:

Figure 1.7 Sindh Types of Soils

Climate; Sindh Province

The climate of Sindh is reminiscent of both the Sahara type and of that prevailing in the tropical regions of low and dry lowlands. The Tropic of Cancer passes a little below its Southern boundary, and the thermal equator passes through the province, making solar heat more intense, with longer hours of sunshine. The physical features of Sindh—the Thar Desert in the East, sea in the South, and the Kirthar Range in the West and Northwest—make the climatic conditions variable.

The highest humidity occurs in August (75%) while December (47%) is the driest month in Lower Sindh. April is the most humid (47%) month of Upper Sindh. Thus, the weather is drier and hotter in Upper Sindh, but is more bearable due to low humidity. The winds in Upper Sindh are usually calm for nearly half the year, but nearer the coast, the wind velocity is high, especially during the Monsoon months. Both dust storms and squally weather are common at the beginning of the 2 chief seasons (summer and winter).

Climatically, Sindh is divided into 3 sections:

  • Siro (upper section centered on Jacobabad)
  • Wicholo (middle section centered on Hyderabad)
  • Lar (lower section centered on Karachi)

In Siro, or Upper Sindh, dry atmospheric conditions prevail. Rainfall in Sindh is the lowest of Pakistan and the temperatures are the highest. There is a great range of variation between day and night temperatures and frost is common in winter.

In Wicholo, Middle Sindh, Southwest Monsoon winds blow throughout the year, making the heat bearable, especially at night. In some years, the rains are slightly higher than those recorded in Karachi. The temperatures are lower in this region than in Upper Sindh and humidity is moderate. Dry hot days and cool nights in summer are a characteristic of this region.

In Lar or Lower Sindh, the winding coastline affects the climate of the region to some extent. The coastline and deltaic regions are naturally damper, with smaller ranges of variation between day and night temperatures. Rainfall is at times lower than in Middle Sindh. Dampness causes muggy weather in summer and the climate is characterized as Maritime Climate.

Sindh falls in-between the two Monsoons: the Southwest Monsoon from the Indian Ocean and the Northeast or retreating Monsoon, deflected towards the province by the Himalayan Mountains. It generally escapes the climactic influence of both. The average rainfall in Sindh is 150 to 180 mm per year. This scanty rainfall during the two Monsoons is compensated by the Indus, in the form of inundation, which is caused twice a year by the spring and summer melting of Himalayan snow as well as by the brief rainfall in the Monsoon season.

As a subtropical region, Sindh is hot in the summer and cold in winter. Temperatures frequently rise above 46 °C between May and August, and the minimum average temperature of 2 °C (36 °F) occurs during December and January. The annual rainfall averages about 179 mm occurring mainly during July and August. The Southwest Monsoon wind begins to blow in mid-February and continues until the end of September, while the cool Northerly wind blows during the winter months, from October to January.

The record highest temperatures of the summer months are usually recorded in Shaheed Benazirabad district (previously called Nawabshah district) and Sibi in Sindh. Starting in May and going up to August each year, temperatures in these districts can rise to above 48 °C. The climate in the region is dry and hot, but during the winter months, temperatures can sometimes fall to 0 °C or even lower than -7 °C in December or January.

Seismic Activity/Seismicity; sindh Province

Most parts of Sindh lie in Zone 2B which is the “low to moderate” seismic zone of Pakistan. Some parts belonging to Thatta and the Runn of Kutch fall in Zone 4 which is the “moderate to high damage” seismic zone.

The following map shows the seismic zones of Pakistan:

Figure 1.8 Seismic Zone Map of Pakistan

[1] Flood plains are flat areas of land next to a river where flooding can occur

[2] River channels which no longer have any water due to different environmental factors like a change in a river’s course.

[3] Sindhi word for small rain-fed streams/ rivers

[4] Kutcha areas are the flood plain areas

[5] Ramsar Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. Any wetland on this list is protected under International laws.

[6] According to Land Utilization Statistics p.82, Sindh Development Statistics 2018

[7] IUCN 1991. The Mangroves in Sindh are unique as they thrive in mingled fresh and salt water

[8] Friable soil has a crumbly texture and is considered to be ideal for plant growth if it forms a part of loamy soil