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Topography of Pakistan

Topographically, Pakistan can be divided into 6 major parts:

Mountainous Areas

The northern and western parts[1] of Pakistan consist of mountains which are the West and Southwest extensions of the Himalayan system. These mountains may be subdivided into the following 4 parts:

  1. Northern Mountains
  2. Western Bordering Mountains
  3. Suleiman Mountains and Kirthar Hills
  4. Mountains and hills of Sub-Himalayas, Siwaliks

Northern Mountains

The Northern Mountains comprise 3 main mountain ranges: the Karakorum, the Himalayas, and the Hindu Kush.

The Karakorum Mountain Range or “black gravel” (average altitude 6,000 meters) extends for more than 400 km, from Hunza to Shyok River. Only the western edge of this range lies in Pakistan. K-2, the second highest peak in the world (8,610 meters), is located in this range.

The Himalayas (average altitude 4,000 meters) are to the South of the Karakorum Range. They include the following mountain ranges:

  • The Siwaliks: These have generally low altitudes (average height 600-1,200 meters). These hills are located near Attock (at the border of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)
  • The Lesser or Lower Himalayas: These have medium altitude (1,800-4,500 meters). They are represented by the Pir Panjal Range. This range is home to some popular hill stations like Murree, Nathia Gali, and Ghora Gali
  • Central Himalayas: The Mountains between Pir Panjal Range and Karakorum Range are called the Central Himalayas. This part of the Himalayas lies mostly in Kashmir. The highest peak of the range is the Nanga Parbat, with a height of about 8,126 meters. This peak lies in the Northern Areas (now Gilgit-Baltistan) of Pakistan

The Hindu Kush Range is located on Pakistan’s Northwest border, where the borders of Afghanistan and China meet. This range runs in the North-South direction, and has mountains like Tirich Mir (7,690 meters).

Glaciers of Northern Mountains

The Northern Mountains are home to glaciers, most notable of which are the Baltoro (which is considered to be the longest glacier outside the Polar Region), the Batura, and Siachin.

Western Bordering Mountains

The western bordering mountains run South from Hindu Kush in several parallel ranges. South of the Kabul River, the direction of the Ranges changes from North to South to East to West. The West-East strike of these mountains is called the Safed Koh Mountains. The general height of this range is 3,600 meters, and the highest peak is called Sakaram (4,761 meters). Outliers in Kohat district have a height of 900 meters. South of the Koh-e-Sufaid are the Waziristan Hills with the same East-West direction.

Several large passes cut the ranges along the border with Afghanistan. Among these are the Khojak Pass, about 80 km Northwest of Quetta in Balochistan; the Khyber Pass, 40 km West of Peshawar and leading to Kabul; and the Baroghil Pass in the far North, providing access to the Wakhan Corridor. Other passes include the Tochi Pass and the Bolan Pass. These hills are crossed by the Kurram and Tochi Rivers and bounded on the South by Gomal River.

Suleiman Mountains and Kirthar Hills

These ranges lie between the Balochistan Plateau and the Indus Plains. The Suleiman Mountains extend South from the Gomal River, and, on reaching the Marri-Bugti Hills, they turn northward, extending up to Quetta, where they take a bend southward and merge into the Nagan Range. Further South, they join the Kirthar Range in the far South, and merge into the Kohistan Area of Sindh Province, extending eastward up to the Indus River and southwards up to the Arabian Sea. The Kirthar Mountains are backed by the Central Brahvi Range and the Pab Range. The average height of the Suleiman Mountains is 600 meters. The Kirthar Mountains descend to a height of 300 meters near the Arabian Sea. Some of the peaks reach considerable heights; for example, Takht-e-Suleiman is 3,487 meters high.

The most important pass/break through these mountains is the Bolan Pass, which connects Quetta with Sibi.

Mountains and Hills of Sub-Himalayas, or the Siwaliks

The Sub-Himalayas or Siwaliks are the southern-most ranges in Pakistan, located in the Punjab province. They do not rise to great heights. Their average height is 600-1,200 meters. The highest point is near Sakesar, which is 1,500 meters. They include the hills of Rawalpindi district.

Figure 1.6 Pakistan Topographical Map


There are 2 important plateaus in Pakistan: the Balochistan Plateau (which is located in the Balochistan province) and the Potwar/ Potohar Plateau (which is located North of the Salt Range, Punjab). Other important plateaus include the Salt Range, and the Deosai Plains.

Balochistan Plateau

The area West of the Suleiman and Kirthar Mountain Ranges constitutes the Balochistan Plateau, located at an average height of 600-900 meters. The plateau occupies a large area and is divided into two parts by the Chaman and Ornach-Nal Faults. This is a large area of about 347,190 km2 with a number of river basins such as the Zhob and Loralai Basins (Northern Balochistan) and the Coastal Area. The western part of the coast is known as the Makran Coast, and the eastern part is called the Lasbela Plain. This is a triangular area with its apex in the North and its base in the South, along the coast.

The Potohar (Potwar) Plateau

The Potohar (Potwar) Plateau forms the northern part of Punjab, and borders the western part of Azad Kashmir and southern parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The plateau is bounded in the East by the River Jhelum, in the West by River Indus, in the North by the Kala Chitta Range and the Margalla hills, and in the South by the Salt Range. The Potohar Plateau includes 4 districts: Jhelum, Chakwal, Rawalpindi, and Attock.

The Salt Range

The northern periphery of the Salt Range forms a rough plateau cut across by several streams that run into the Himalayan foothills, North of Islamabad. In the West, River Sindh forms the sudden end of the range. The Salt Range covers most of the Jhelum, Chakwal, Kalabagh and Mianwali districts and includes the Salt Mines at Khewra (Jhelum district).

Even though the plains are usually dry and hot, snow is often found in some parts due to the height of the plateau. The Khewra Salt Mines, discovered in 1922, are located on this plateau, and are the biggest salt mines in the world. They continue to produce the best quality of salt, often used in health and spa-related salt products as well as for domestic and medical uses.

Deosai Plains

The Deosai plateau is located between the western massifs[2] of the Himalayas and the Central Karakorum Range.

Deosai means Land of Giants. Spread over an area of almost 3,000 km2, the Deosai Plateau (located in Gilgit-Baltistan) is considered to be the highest plateau in the world. The plateau is located almost at the boundary of the Karakoram and the Western Himalayas. The area is surrounded by snowy mountains exceeding 5,000 meters in height as well as suspended glaciers.


The plains[3] in Pakistan are mostly formed by the River Indus and its tributaries. These are divided into the following groups:

Trans-Indus Plains

The Trans-Indus plains, located in the West of the Indus River, include the plains of Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the sub-mountain plains of Dera Ghazi Khan district of Punjab. This Trans-Indus plain area is known as Derajat.

Upper Indus Plains

The Upper Indus Plain includes the land of Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej, and Indus Rivers, with average height ranging from 122 meters (400 ft) to 366 meters (1200 ft). This is an almost complete plain area with micro-relief. River areas form Meander Flood Plains, Cover Flood Plains, and Scalloped Interfluves or Bars.

The Upper Indus Plain is subdivided into 4 large doabs,[4] plus the Bahawalpur Plain, and the Derajats or Suleiman Piedmont.

Following are the 4 doabs:

  • The Sindh Sagar Doab or Thal Desert (3.2 million HA)
  • The Chaj Doab (1.3 million HA)
  • Rechna Doab (2.8 million HA)
  • Bari Doab (2.9 million HA)

Bahawalpur Plain

Before Partition and up till 1953, Bahawalpur Plain (in Punjab) was mainly the Princely Bahawalpur State, with a total area of 45,911 km², extending from India. The total length of the border separating the State from India was 482 km (300 miles) in the East to the districts of Multan, Sahiwal and Muzaffargarh (all districts in Punjab province) in the West, to Sindh province in the South and Ferozepur district of India in the North. In 1953, the State was merged into West Pakistan and for administrative purposes, was divided into Bahawalnagar and Bahawalpur districts.


The Derajat is a level plain between the River Indus and the Suleiman Range. The name derives its name from 3 Deras: Dera Ismail Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Dera Fateh Khan (a Union Council of Dera Ghazi Khan), and Dera Ghazi Khan. It extends North to the Sheikh Budin Range (Dera Ismail Khan District), and South to Rajanpur District, having a length of 523 km and breadth of 81 kms[5].

Lower Indus Plains

The area in the South of Punjab to the Arabian Sea is known as the Lower Indus plain, which comprises of most of the area of the province of Sindh.

The Lower Indus Plain is very flat, sloping to the South with an average gradient of 1 meter in 10 kilometers. The predominant land forms are Meander and Cover Flood Plains.

Deltaic Plains

Near Thatta, the River Indus becomes closer to the Arabian Sea, where almost 556,000 acres of swampy delta is formed (this includes mangrove forests). This delta then divides into several branches and continues into the Arabian Sea.

This delta covers an area of about 41,440 km² (16,000 square miles), and is approximately 210 km (130 mi) across where it meets the sea. It is home to the largest arid mangrove forests in the world,[6] as well as many birds, and fish as well as the critically endangered Indus River Blind Dolphin known as Bulhan.

Desert Areas

Pakistan’s desert area lies along its Southeastern border. It spreads over an extensive area in Eastern Bahalwalpur, Ghotki, Sukkur, Khairpur, Sanghar, Mirpur Khas, and most of the Tharparkar districts, spanning most of Sindh and a part of the Punjab province. The desert is separated from the central irrigated zone of the plain areas by the dry bed of Ghagra River in Bahawalpur (Punjab) and the Eastern Nara Canal in Sindh. The surface of the desert is a maze of sand dunes and sand ridges, which occasionally rise up to 150 meters above the desert’s general surface.

Figure 1.7 Topographic Map of Pakistan

Rivers, Streams, and Lakes of Pakistan

All the major rivers and streams flowing through Pakistan are a part of the Indus River system. A few small rivers and streams in Balochistan are either lost in the inland drainage system or flow directly into the Arabian Sea.

Indus River Basin

The Indus River is the main river in Pakistan, flowing in a North-South direction, which is then joined by other major rivers, with each river containing its own tributaries and streams. The following is an overview of the Indus River and its tributaries:

The Indus River is joined by other rivers as follows:

  1. Panjnad[7] Rivers flowing into Indus:
  • Chenab River
  • Ravi River joined by
    • Ojh Nadi River
  • River Jhelun or Jhelum River joined by
    • Poonch River
    • Kunhar River
    • Neelum River
    • Kishanganga
  • Tawi River
  • Manawar Tavi River
  • Sutlej River
  1. Gomal River Joined by
  • Kundar River
  • Zhob River
  1. Kurrum River or Karam River joined by
  • Tochi River, sometimes referred to as the Gambila River
  1. Soan River
  • Ling Stream
  1. Haro River joined by
  • Kabul River
    • Swat River (Tributary of Kabul River)
      • River Jindi (Tributary of Swat River)
      • Panjkora River (Tributary of River Swat)
    • Bara River (Tributary of Kabul River)
    • Kunar River [Kunar Rud] (Tributary of Kabul River)
      • Lutkho River (Tributary of Kunar River)
  1. Siran River
  2. Tangir River
  3. Astore River joined by
  • Rupal River, rising from the melt water of the Rupal Glacier
  1. Gilgit River joined by
  • Hunza River. Following are its tributaries:
    • Naltar River
    • Hispar River
    • Shimshal River
    • Chapursan River
    • Misgar River
    • Khunjerab River
  • Ishkuman River (tributary of Gilgit River)
  • Yasin River
  1. Shigar River, formed from the melting water of the Baltoro Glacier and Biafo Glacier
  • Braldu River (tributary of Shigar River)
    • Shyok River (tributary of Braldu River)
  • Saltoro River (tributary of Shyok River)
  • Nubra River, rising from the meltwater of the Siachen Glacier (Tributary of Shyok River)
  1. Suru River
  • Dras River (Tributary of Suru River)
  • Shingo River (Tributary of Suru River)

Where the Indus River system is considered to be the main river system for Pakistan, there are other important river systems that are located in different parts of Pakistan. The following section lists those rivers.

Rivers Flowing into the Endorheic Basins[8]

(These are mostly located in Balochistan)

  1. Hamun-i-Mashkel
  • Mashkel River
    • Rakshan River
  1. Sistan Basin (mostly located along Iran/Afghanistan border)
  • Helmand River (Iran/Afghanistan)
    • Arghandab River (Afghanistan)
    • Lora River or Dori River (flows both in Afghanistan and Pakistan)

Rivers Flowing into the Arabian Sea

  1. Dasht River
  2. Kech River
  3. Basol River
  4. Hingol River
  5. Nal River
  6. Porali River
  7. Hub River
  8. Orangi Nala
  9. Malir River
  10. Lyari River
  11. Gujjar Nala

Rivers of the Indus Plains

  1. Nari River
    • Mula
    • Bolan
    • Beiji
      • Anambar River
        • Loralai River
    • Loe Manda River

Rivers of the Thar Desert

  1. Ghaggar River

Lakes of Pakistan

Following is an alphabetized list of all the natural lakes in Pakistan:

  1. Ansoo Lake is a high altitude lake (elevation 4,126 meters) located in the Kaghan Valley in Mansehra district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The lake’s shape resembles a tear drop and is hence called Ansoo (the Urdu word Ansoo means “tear drop”)
  2. Baghsar Lake is nearly half a kilometer long and overlooks the Bandala Valley, Bhimber district, Azad Kashmir
  3. Banjosa Lake is a small manmade lake and a tourist attraction near the city of Rawalakot in District Bagh, Azad Kashmir
  4. Borith Lake, a saline water lake, is located to the Northwest of Hussaini, a village near Gulmit, Gojal, in the Upper Hunza Valley
  5. Chitta Katha Lake is located in the Shonter Valley of Azad Kashmir
  6. Dudipatsar Lake lies in the extreme North of Kaghan Valley at a height of 3,800 meters. The term dudi in Urdu means white [like milk] and sar means lake; the literal meaning of the word Dudipatsar is “white (as milk) lake”
  7. Hadero Lake is a brackish water lake in Thatta, Sindh. The lake was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1977. The lake has a surface area of 1,321 HA
  8. Haleji Lake is located about 70 km from Karachi, near Thatta, Sindh, and is the largest water fowl reserve in Asia
  9. Hanna Lake is located 10 km from Quetta, near Urak Valley in Balochistan
  10. Kallar Kahar, a saltwater lake is located near the Salt Range in Chakwal district, 125 km from Rawalpindi, Punjab
  11. Karambar Lake is the 31st highest lake in the world. It is located in Gilgit-Baltistan. The approximate length of the lake is 3.9 km, its width is 2 km and average depth is 52 m
  12. Keenjhar Lake (also called Kalri Lake) is one of the largest artificially made freshwater lakes formed by combining two natural lakes: Sonehri Lake and Keenjhar Lake. It is located in Thatta district, Sindh
  13. Khabiki Lake is a salt water lake located in the Southern Salt Range in the Soon Valley, District Khushab, Punjab. The lake is named after a nearby village: Khabikki
  14. Kundol Lake is in Swat Valley, in the lap of the Hindu Kush Mountains, at an elevation of 3,033 meters. It is formed by glacial waters
  15. Lower Kachura Lake is also known as Shangrila Lake and is located at a drive of about 20 minutes from Skardu town in Gilgit-Baltistan
  16. Lalusar Lake is the main source of the Kunhar River in Kaghan Valley, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, and has a smaller lake beside it. The word sar means “top or peak” in Pashto, hence Lalusar means Lalu’s peak
  17. Mahodand Lake is located 40 km from Kalam Valley in the upper reaches of Swat Valley, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
  18. Manchar Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Pakistan and one of the largest in Asia. It is located West of the Indus River in Jamshoro district, Sindh. The area of the lake fluctuates with the seasons from as little as 350 km² to as much as 520 km². The lake collects water from numerous small streams in the Kirthar Mountains and empties into the Indus River
  19. Payee Lake is also called Siri Lake and is located near Shogran, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, surrounded by the Makra Peak, Malika Parbat, and the mountains of Kashmir
  20. Rama Lake is located at a distance of 9 km from the valley of Astore in Gilgit-Baltistan
  21. Rush Lake is a high altitude lake located near Rush Pari Peak in Gilgit-Baltistan. At over 4,694 meters, Rush is the highest lake in Pakistan and one of the highest alpine lakes in the world. It is located about 15 km North of Miar Peak and Spantik Peak (Golden Peak), which are in the Nagar valley
  22. Lake Saiful Muluk is located in the northern end of Kaghan Valley. The lake has a total surface area of over 2.5 km2
  23. Satpara Lake is located in Skardu Valley in Gilgit-Baltistan and is one of the larger freshwater lakes in Pakistan. It supplies water to the town of Skardu
  24. Simli Lake is located 30 km from Islamabad. The lake is formed from the melting snow and natural springs of Murree Hills. Simli Lake is the largest drinking water source for the residents of Islamabad
  25. Sheosar Lake is situated in the Deosai Plain/ Plateau of Gilgit-Baltistan, which is one of the highest plateaus of the world. The lake is situated at an altitude of 4,142 meters with an average depth of 40 meters
  26. Shontar Lake is a small lake located in Neelam Valley, Azad Kashmir. It is situated at an elevation of 3,100 meters and is fed by melting glacier waters
  27. Subri Lake, also known as Langarpura Lake, is situated 10 km from Muzaffarabad, Azad Kashmir, where the Jhelum River widens to form the lake
  28. Uchhali Lake is located in the Southern Salt Range in Soan Sakesar Valley of Khushab district, Punjab, and has brackish/ saltish water, as the lake was formed due to a lack of drainage in the Salt Range
  29. Upper Katchura Lake is surrounded by wild apricot gardens and has a depth of around 70 meters. It is located in Skardu, Gilgit-Baltistan

In addition to these rivers and lakes there are numerous natural streams[9] that make their way into the plains from the mountains.

Forests of Pakistan

The following forest types are found in Pakistan:

Littoral and Swamp Forests

These are gregarious forests of low height found on the coast, in the Arabian Sea coastal region around Karachi, Sindh as well as Pasni, Balochistan. The main species of trees in these forests is Avicennia marina (grey mangrove, 99%). According to the latest estimates, these forests cover an area of 207,000 HA.

Tropical Dry Deciduous Forests

These are forests of low or moderate height, consisting almost entirely of deciduous species. Their canopy is typically light though it may appear fairly dense and complete during the short rainy season. This type is found in limited areas, near the Rawalpindi foothills. The chief tree species are kamlai or kembal (Lannea[10]), semal (Bombax ceiba), kakoh or kangu (Sterculia, Flacourtia), kamila or raiuni (Mallotus) and kath (Acacia catechu). Common shrubs are bankar, basuti or bansha (Adhatoda), putaki (Gymnosporia) and kathi or kainthi (Indigofera).

Tropical Thorn Forests

These are low, open and pronouncedly xerophyte[11] forests in which thorny leguminous species are predominant. This type is found in the majority of the Indus Plain except in its driest parts. The major tree species are jhand (Prosopis cineraria), karir or karil (Capparis deciduas), ber (Zizyphus mauritiana), farash (Tamarix aphylla) and pilu or vann (Salvadora oleoides). Among them are a large number of shrubs of all sizes. The tree forest climax is very frequently degraded to a very open, low thorny scrub of thor (Euphorbia), and ber (Zizyphus), among others. Edaphic[12] variants, especially connected with the degree of salinity, and shallowness over rock, often occur. Characteristic pioneer vegetation[13] is found on inland sand dunes and the semi-deserts of the areas with least rainfall. On the basis of climax vegetation, the whole Indus Basin Plain, with the exception of parts of the districts of Sialkot, Gujrat and Jhelum, consists of tropical thorn forests. The climax species of these forests are Salvadora oleoides, Capparis decidua, Tamarix aphylla, and Prosopis cineraria, which grow on a wide range of soil textures, from flat deep alluvial soils to heavy clays, loams, and sandy loams.

Subtropical Broad-Leaved Evergreen Forests

These are xerophytes forests of thorny and small-leafed evergreen species. This type occurs on the foothills and lower slopes of the Himalayas, the Salt Range, Kala Chitta, and the Suleiman Range. The typical species are kau (Olea cuspidate) and phulai (Acacia modesta), with areas dominated by either thickets of single type of tree or of both mixed, and the shrub sanatta (Dodonaea) which is particularly abundant in the most degraded[14] areas. Total area of these forests is estimated to be 1,191,000 HA.

Subtropical Pine Forests

These are open, inflammable, pine forests sometimes with, but often without, a dry evergreen shrub layer and little or no under-wood. This type consists of Chir pine (Pinus roxburghii) forests found between 900 m and 1,700 m elevation in the Western Himalayas within the range of the Southwest summer Monsoon. It is the only pine of these forests though there is a small overlap with kail or biar (Pinus wallichiana) at the upper limit. These forests are found in West Himalaya, Azad Kashmir, North Punjab, and North Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Himalayan Moist Temperate Forests

The evergreen forests of conifers, locally with some admixture of oak and deciduous broad-leaved trees fall in this category. Their undergrowth is rarely dense, and consists of both evergreen and deciduous species. These forests occur between 1,500 m and 3,000 m elevation in the Western Himalayas, except where the rainfall falls below 1,000 mm in the inner ranges, especially in the extreme Northwest. These forests are divided into a lower and an upper zone, in each of which single species of conifers and/ or oaks dominate.

In the lower zone of these forests, deodar or diar (Cedrus deodara), kail or biar (Pinus wallichiana), kachal (Picea smithiana) and partal (Abies pindrow) are the main conifer species in order of increasing altitude, with rin or rinj (Quercus incana) at lower altitudes and different varieties of barungi or mom (Quercus dilatata) above 2,130 m.

In the upper zone, West Himalayan Fir (Abies pindrow) and brown oak (Q. semecarpifolia) are the dominant tree species. There may be pockets of deciduous broad-leaved trees, mainly edaphically conditioned, in both the zones. Alder (Alnus species) colonizes new gravels and sometimes kail does the same. Degradation forms take the shape of scrub growth. In the higher reaches, parklands, and pastures are subjected to heavy grazing.

Himalayan Dry Temperate Forests

These are open evergreen forests with open scrub undergrowth. Both coniferous and broad-leaved species are present. This type occurs on the inner ranges, mainly represented in the North West. Dry zone deodar, chalghoza (Pinus gerardiana) and/or holy oak (Quercus ilex) are the main species. Higher up, blue pine communities occur, and in the driest inner tracts, forests of blue pine, abhal, shupa or shur (Juniperus macropoda) and some kachal (Picea smithiana) (e.g. in Gilgit) are found locally.

Subalpine Forests

Evergreen conifers and mainly evergreen broad-leaved trees occur in relatively low open canopy, usually with a deciduous shrubby undergrowth of guch (Viburnum), and willow or bed (Salix). The type occurs throughout the Himalayas, from about 3,350 m to the timber limit[15]. Birch or bhuj (Abies spectabilis and Betula utilis) are the typical tree species. High level blue pine may occur on landslips and as a secondary sere[16] on burnt areas or abandoned clearings. Bras or chahan (Rhododendrons) occur in the under-storey but do not form extensive communities as they do in the Central and Eastern Himalayas. Dwarf junipers are often abundant[17].

Alpine Scrub

This type includes shrub formations 1 m to 2 m high extending 150 m or more above the subalpine forests. The characteristic genera[18] are Salix (a type of willow), phut (Lonicera), sumbul or sumblue (Berberis), CotonEaster with Junipers and occasionally asmania (Rhododendron or Ephedra).

The Juniper Forests

The world’s second largest Juniper forests (after California, USA) are found near Ziarat, with some trees as old as 5,000-7,000 years. A sizable forest is also found near Zargoon.

Manmade Forests/Irrigated Plantations

Two famous manmade forests of Pakistan are the Changa Manga (Lahore, Punjab) and Lal Sohanra (Bahawalpur district, Punjab) Reserve Forests[19].

Some of the most famous forests of Pakistan are:

  1. Ratrapahi (Azad Kashmir)
  2. Pai Forest (Nawabshah district, Sindh)
  3. Sonda Protected Forest (Thatta, Sindh)
  4. Rakh Bet Mir Hazar (D I Khan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)
  5. Dandewala Protected Forest (Faisalabad, Punjab)
  6. Latti Forest (Bahawalpur, Punjab)
  7. Birir Valley Coniferous Forest also called ‘Deodar Chilghoza Oak Forest’ (Chitral District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)
  8. Jhangar Scrub Forest (Chakwal district, Punjab)
  9. Suleiman Coniferous Forests also called Suleiman Chilgoza Pine Forest (Balochistan)
  10. Ziarat Juniper Forest (Ziarat District, Balochistan)
  11. Lal Suhanra Wildlife Sanctuary (Bahawalpur, Punjab)

Some Important manmade forests of Pakistan:

  1. Changa Manga Forest (Lahore and Kasur Districts)
  2. Chichawatni Plantation (Sahiwal District)
  3. Khipro Reserve Forest (Sanghar District)
  4. Lal Sohanra (Bahawalpur district, Punjab)

There is one forest owned privately by H.H. Mir Ali Murad Khan Talpur II called Mehrano, Khairpur, Sindh.

Following is the area[20] of forest in Pakistan organized by type of vegetation:

  • Coniferous (1,666,000 HA)
  • Irrigated Plantations (283,000 HA)
  • Riverine Forests (352,000 HA)
  • Scrub Forests (1,001,000 HA)
  • Coastal/Mangroves (330,000 HA)
  • Linear Plantation (17,000 HA)
  • Rangelands (1,484,000 HA)
  • Mazri Forests (24,000 HA)
  • Miscellaneous (834,000 HA)














Figure 1.8 Juniper Forest, Ziarat, Pakistan

Types of Soils in Pakistan

There are 3 main types of soils indigent to Pakistan. Only some of the soils are fertile and easily utilized for agricultural[21] purposes. They are:

  • Indus Basin soils
    • Bangar Soils
    • Khaddar soils
    • Indus Delta Soils
  • Mountain soils
  • Desert soils

Indus Basin Soils

The Indus Basin comprises a vast area of alluvial plains deposited by the Indus and its tributaries, and a small area of loess[22] plains. Most of the material is sub-recent or recent in origin, calcareous, and low in organic content. The soils can be divided into 3 major categories: Bangar Soils (old alluvium), Khaddar Soils (new alluvium), and Indus Delta Soils.

Bangar Soils

These soils cover a vast area in the Indus Plain, including most of the Punjab, Peshawar, Mardan, Bannu, and the Kachhi plains, as well as the greater part of the Sindh Plain. These soils are deep, calcareous, of medium to fine texture, low in organic matter, but very productive when irrigated and fertilized. In some ill-drained areas, these soils have become waterlogged, and capillary action has carried salts to the surface. Some areas, thus, show a puffy salt layer at the surface, but these can be reclaimed by simple leaching, if supplied with plenty of irrigation water. In some small areas, strongly alkaline soil in patches has developed, and these patches, being non-porous, are difficult to reclaim for agriculture purposes.

In the Upper Chaj and Rechna Doabs, the sub-montane area bordering the Peshawar-Mardan Plain, as well as in the Eastern Potohar, the Bangar Soils have developed under sub-humid conditions. Because of the higher rainfall, they have been leached of lime and are non-calcareous, of medium to fine texture, and have a slightly higher organic content. These soils are also fertile when supplied with plenty of water and manure.

Khaddar Soils

These soils are formed from recent and present-day deposits along the rivers. Parts of these soils are flooded each year, adding depositional layers of silt loam and silty clay loam. The organic content of these soils is low, but they are usually free of salts.

Indus Delta Soils

Indus Delta Soils are formed of sub-recent alluvium and estuarine deposits. They cover the entire area of the Indus Delta from the South of Hyderabad to the coast. These soils are clayey soils, developed under flood water conditions, and cover about one-third of the delta. With irrigation, these soils are used for rice cultivation. Some of the Indus Delta Soils are saline loamy soils. Some areas with a salt crust at the surface have been reclaimed by simple leaching and improved drainage. However, extremely saline patches can be used only for poor grazing.

Coastal estuarine deposits form the lower part of the Delta, which is a maze of tidal flats, basins, and sea-water creeks. The soils are extremely saline and mostly barren, with some weedy vegetation in certain areas.

Mountain Soils

Mountain soils occur in the highland areas of the North and West of Pakistan, and are residual as well as transported by rivers. Along the steep crests and slopes, and in the broken hill country, shallow residual soils have developed. Under arid and semi-arid conditions, these soils are usually strongly calcareous, with low organic content. Further North, under sub-humid conditions, there is more leaching, and a higher organic content.

In the mountain valleys, soils are formed from the alluvial in-fills of the streams. These soils are calcareous silt loams and sandy loams of low organic content. They are cultivated in patches only.

In the sub-montane area of the Potohar Plateau, shallow residual soils, and silty eroded loess have been formed. In places, these soils are substantial, susceptible to erosion, and strongly gullied, producing a dissected landscape. Lime content is high and organic content low, but, with plenty of water, these soils are relatively productive.

In the lowest parts of the inter-montane valleys and interior basins of the arid and semi-arid regions, strongly saline soils develop. Excess of evaporation with lesser precipitation leaves a thick crust of salts at the surface of the intermittent lakes. For the most part, these soils are barren. The margins carry low shrubs and salt bush, used for poor grazing.

Sandy Desert Soils

These soils extend over some parts of Western Balochistan, and the Cholistan and Thar Deserts. Thal/ Thar desert soils occur in large sections of the Sindh Sagar Doab. Desert soils include rolling to hilly sandy soils, and clayey flood plain soils. Where the soils are formed of deep sand, as in much of Balochistan, they are moderately calcareous, and largely aeolian. In places, the windblown material is mixed with old alluvium. The arid and semi-arid desert sand areas have few possibilities for improvement, beyond very poor grazing.

Climate of Pakistan

Pakistan is located in the Temperate Zone. The climate is generally arid, characterized by hot summers and cool or cold winters, and wide variations between extremes of temperatures at specific locations. The Coastal Area along the Arabian Sea is usually warm, whereas the frozen snow covered ridges of the Karakoram Range and of other mountains of the far North are so cold year-round that they are only safe for world-class climbers for a few weeks in May and June of each year.

Average Temperatures

The hottest month in the plains area is June and July in the hilly areas/stations. The mean monthly temperature for June and July for various weather stations in the plains is 38 °C. The maximum can generally rise above 46 °C. Jacobabad is the thermal pole for the subcontinent; here, the mean maximum temperature for the month of June is 49 °C and the mean minimum is 33 °C. At night, the temperature goes down to 21 °C. In January, generally the coldest month for Pakistan, temperatures for the Upper Indus Plain areas are moderate and pleasant. At Lahore, for example, the mean maximum is 20 °C and the mean minimum is 6 °C. These temperatures increase in the Lower Indus plain areas, reaching 26 °C and 10 °C respectively for Karachi. The summers are milder in the coastal areas. The maximum temperature for Karachi in June is 35 °C and the mean monthly minimum is 26 °C. Temperatures in the northern and Northwestern mountains are generally very low. Chitral, for example, has a mean maximum of 9 °C and a mean minimum of -1 °C in January. These areas are snowbound until April. Weather stations in the western mountainous areas record similar temperatures.

Rainfall in Pakistan

A majority of Pakistan experiences dry climate. All of Sindh, most of Balochistan, major parts of Punjab and central parts of Gilgit-Baltistan receive less than 250 mm of rain annually. Three large areas—Northern Sindh and Southern Punjab, North Western Balochistan, and the central part of Northern Areas—receive less than 125 mm of rainfall. North of Sahiwal, the rainfall steadily increases, and aridity decreases.

There are 2 sources of rainfall in Pakistan: the Monsoons and western depressions. The Monsoon rainfall occurs between July and September, while the western depressions bring rainfall primarily from December to March. In the intervening months, small amounts of rainfall occur due to thunderstorms.

Seismic Activity Pakistan

Pakistan is an earthquake prone country. A number of earthquakes have hit Pakistan, resulting in loss of life and property. Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) presently has a network of 11 seismic stations, which record seismic activity in Pakistan. Pakistan also has a history of tsunami. The first recorded tsunami occurred on November 28, 1945, generated by an 8.3 magnitude earthquake in the Northern Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Pakistan is divided into 4 main seismic zones in terms of major, moderate, minor and negligible zones with respect to ground acceleration values as shown in the figure below (units used to measure seismic activity: g for ground acceleration; unit is Gal[23]):














Figure 1.9 Seismic Risk Zone Map of Pakistan, PMD.

[1] The Environment of Pakistan by Huma Naz Sethi

[2] A compact group of mountains

[3] Plains and plateaus are both flat areas of land; the main difference between plain and plateau lies in the elevation. A plateau is a flat land that is raised significantly above the ground whereas plain is a flat, low-lying area

[4] Doab is a term used in India and Pakistan for the tract of land lying between two converging, or confluent rivers. It is similar to an interfluve.


[5] Imperial Gazetteer of India v.11 page 269 and 270

[6] Forest Department Government of Sindh; Ofiicial Website

[7] The Panjnad is a river system consisting of 5 main rivers that flow into the Indus

[8] Endorheic basins are closed basins and retain water into themselves not allowing any outflow

[9] Pakistan Fishing Forum

[10] All names in parentheses are botanical names

[11] A xerophyte is a species of plant that has adapted to survive in an environment with little liquid

[12] Edaphic refers to soil quality, including drainage, texture. Soil quality has a direct impact on the type of flora endemic to a region.

[13] Pioneer plants are hardy plants with long roots, and root nodes containing nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and leaves that employ transpiration.

[14] Degraded land is land that has lost some degree of its natural productivity due to human-caused processes.

[15] Timber limit refers to areas in which rights of cutting timber (granted by government licence) are limited. In other words, specific areas are protected from excessive timber collection.

[16] Sere: an ecological stage or event. Here, secondary sere refers to an intermediate stage in an ecological system.

[17] Please refer to chapters on individual provinces and districts for more details.

[18] Division or sub-division of a group or classification of species

[19] For details, please refer to volume on Punjab province.

[20] Compendium of Environment Statistics of Pakistan 2015, Latest available

[21] For details on natural resources and land use, please refer to the relevant sections.

[22] Loess are silt-sized grains formed by windblown dust and silt. Loess accumulates, or builds up, at the edges of deserts. It often develops into extremely fertile agricultural soil.

[23] Gal. refers to the unit of acceleration defined as 1 centimeter per second squared (1 cm/s2).