Geography and Major Biomes
India occupies 7th position in the world in terms of size and Asia's second largest nation with an area of 3,287,263 square km. The Indian mainland stretches from 8 4' to 37 6' N latitude and from 68 7' to 97 25' E longitude. It has a land frontier of some 15,200 kms and a coastline of 7,516 km (Government of India, 1985). India’s northern frontiers are with Xizang (Tibet) in the Peoples Republic of China, Nepal and Bhutan. In the north-west, India borders on Pakistan; in the north-east, China and Burma; and in the east, Burma. The southern peninsula extends into the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean with the Bay of Bengal lying to the south-east and the Arabian Sea to the south-west. For administrative purposes India is divided into 24 states and 7 union territories. The country is home to around 846 million people, about 16% of the World's population (1990 figures). Summary data for India are given. Physically the massive country is divided into four relatively well defined regions - the Himalayan Mountains, the Genetic river plains, the southern (Deccan) plateau, and the islands of Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar. The Himalayas in the far north include some of the highest peaks in the world. The highest mountain in the Indian Himalayas is Kanchenjunga (8586 m) which is located in Sikkim on the border with Nepal. To the south of the main Himalayan massif laid the Lesser Himalaya, rising to 3,600- 4,600 m, and represented by the Pir Panjal in Kashmir and Dhaula dhar in Himachal Pradesh. Further south, flanking the Indo-Gangetic Plain, are the Siwaliks which rise to 900-1,500 m.
The northern plains of India stretch from Assam in the east to the Punjab in the west (a distance of 2,400 km), extending south to terminate in the saline swamplands of the Rann of Kachchh (Kutch), in the state of Gujarat. Some of the largest rivers in India including the Ganga (Ganges), Ghaghara, Brahmaputra, and the Yamuna flow across this region. The delta area of these rivers is located at the head of the Bay of Bengal, partly in the Indian state of west Bengal but mostly in Bangladesh. The plains are remarkably homogenous topographically: for hundreds of kilometres the only perceptible relief is formed by floodplain bluffs, minor natural levees and hollows known as 'spill patterns', and the belts of ravines formed by gully erosion along some of the larger rivers. In this zone, variation in relief does not exceed 300 m (FAO/UNEP, 1981) but the uniform flatness conceals a great deal of pedological variety. The agriculturally productive alluvial silts and clays of the Ganga-Brahmaputra delta in north-eastern India, for example, contrast strongly with the comparatively sterile sands of the Thar Desert which is located at the western extremity of the Indian part of the plains in the state of Rajasthan.
The climate of India is dominated by the Asiatic monsoon, most importantly by rains from the south-west between June and October, and drier winds from the north between December and February. From March to May the climate is dry and hot.
Wetlands India has a rich variety of wetland habitats. The total area of wetlands (excluding rivers) in India is 58,286,000ha, or 18.4% of the country, 70% of which comprises areas under paddy cultivation. A total of 1,193 wetlands, covering an area of about 3,904,543 ha, were recorded in a preliminary inventory coordinated by the Department of Science and Technology, of which 572 were natural (Scott, 1989). India most important wetland areas are shown in. Two sites - Chilka Lake (Orissa) and Keoladeo National Park (Bharatpur) - have been designated under the Convention of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention) as being especially significant waterfowl habitats. The country's wetlands are generally differentiated by region into eight categories (Scott, 1989): the reservoirs of the...