Life in the Deserts (NCERT Class 7 Geography Chapter 10 Notes)

Desert is a dry region characterized by extreme temperatures and low vegetations. Approximately one-third of the earth surface is desert. Depending on weather conditions, there are two types of deserts in the world: cold deserts and hot deserts.

Sahara - The Hot Desert

Sahara is the world largest hot desert and sprawled in the area of 8.54 million sq km. It is part of 11 countries, namely, Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Sudan, Tunisia and Western Sahara. The Sahara desert has huge stretches of sand, but few areas are covered with gravel plains and an elevated plateau with height reaching up to 2500 m.

Sahara Desert
Satellite Image of Sahara Desert/Image Souce: Wikipedia
Sahara has a hot and dry climate. It has a very short rainy season. Any moisture evaporates faster than it accumulates. The temperature can reach up to 50°C in days and can go down to sub zero levels in nights.

Flora and Fauna

The main vegetation of Sahara is cactus, date, plams and acacia. Camels, hyenas, jackals, foxes, scorpions and several varieties of the snake are found here. However, there are several patches of greenery can be found here in Sahara, known as an oasis.

It is found that Sahara was once a lush green place and had animals such as elephants, lions, giraffes and river crocodile, but due to extreme climatic change, the region has turned into a hot and dry desert.

Sahara is inhabited by several groups of people. Bedouins and Tuaregs are the most prominent groups among them. They are known for cattle rearing. The animals provide them with milk, meat and hides. They wear heavy robes for protection against extreme heat and dust storms.

The oasis in Sahara and the Nile Valley in Egypt have major settlements. Since water is available here, people grew date palm and cultivate crops like rice, wheat, barley, beans and cotton. Tafilalet Oasis in Morocco with a land cover of 13000 sq km is one of the largest oasis in the world.

The discovery of oil has changed the economic fate of this region. The Oil Industry fuels the economic development of major Saharan countries like Algeria, Libya and Egypt. Sahara is also rich in iron, phosphorus, manganese and uranium deposits.

Ladakh - The Cold Desert

Ladakh is a typical example of a cold desert. It lies in the Great Himalayan Region on the eastern side of Jammu and Kashmir. It is bounded by Karakoram Range from the north and Zanskar Mountains from the south. Indus, Zanskar, Shyok, Suru and Dras river are some of the rivers that flow through Ladakh. Several glaciers are also found here such as Siachen and Gangotri glacier.

The altitude of Ladakh varies from 3000 m (Kargil) to 8000 m (Karakoram). The climate of Ladakh is cold and dry. The temperature can range from 3°C to 35°C in Summers and can drop -30°C in Winters. As it lies in the Himalayan rain shadow region, the recorded rainfall is sometimes less than 100 mm a year.

Flora and Fauna
The vegetation is sparse here. There are patches of grass available for grazing. One can see groves of willows and poplars. Apple, apricot and walnut trees can be seen here. One can spot birds like Robins, Redstarts, Tibetan snowcock and Hoopoe. One can also see sheep, yaks and feral mastiff dogs in Ladakh.

Yak is reared for milk, meat and hides. The hair of sheep and goats are used to make woollens. Shahtoosh wool of Chiru is extremely famous for its light weight and warmth. Sadly, Chiru is disappearing due to human greed.

Most of the Ladakhi people follow Buddhism. Ladakh is famous for its Buddhist monasteries. Some of the famous monasteries are Hemis, Thiksey, Shey and Lamayuru.

Agriculture and tourism are the two main economic drivers of Ladakh. Barley, potatoes, peas, beans and turnip are the main agricultural produce of Ladakh.

Ladakh is well connected with rest of India with road and airways. Manali-Leh Highway is known for some of the highest motorable roads in the world.

The beautiful monasteries and picturesque landscape of Ladakh attract thousands of tourist from India and abroad. Tourism is also making a huge impact on the climatic conditions of the region.