The northern plains are among the most prominent physical divisions of India. It is also known as the Indo-Gangetic basin due to the presence of 2 main rivers- Indus and Ganga. They spread out to states like Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Assam.
Formation: As the Indian peninsular plateau receded due to the tectonic rise of the Himalayas, a basin came into place. The northern plains from alluvial deposits brought by the rivers Ganga, Brahmaputra, and Indus to the Himalayan foothills convert into this basin.
Location: The northern plains is the largest alluvial tract of the world that stretches 3200 km from east to west with average width varying from 150-300 Km. The average depth lies between 1000-2000 Km. Distinguished from the Himalayan Frontal Fault, they reside in the southern part of Shivaliks till the northern edge of The peninsular plateau.
Northern plains divided into three zones:
- Bhabar: A tapered belt of 8-10 Km baby rests on the foothills of the Shivalik from River Indus to Tista.Rivers falling from the Himalayas unload alluvial fans along the foothills. The coarser materials such as boulders and rocks sometimes make the rivers disappear due to blockage. Therefore the region does not support agricultural cultivation. However, tall trees with strong roots can survive and provide quality timber.
- Tarai: Tarai belt lies south of Bhabar with a width ranging between 10-20 km. Most rivers running underground in Bhabar re-emerge without any distinguished channels. These channels turn the area into swampy marshlands with improper drainage. This area with high rainfall and humidity is ideal for agricultural cultivation.
- Alluvial plains: These plains feature landforms at the later stage of fluvial erosion and deposition like sand bars, meanders, ox-bow lakes, and braided channels. Alluvial plains divide into Khadar and Bhangar.
- Khadar comprises new alluvial deposits which form floodplains at the bank of the river. The soil is light and has a sandy texture. The rivers deposit a new layer each year that turns the soil extremely fertile and permeable.
- Bhangar region comprises old alluvium deposited along the river beds. The soil is heavy and dark due to the richness of humus. It has a clayey nature packed with lime modules. These exist in the Barind plains in Bengal and the Bhur formation in central Ganga and Yamuna doabs. In dry areas, Bhangar consists of tracts of saline and alkaline nature called Reh.
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Demography and urbanization: Plains attract the population because of their abundance of resources towards a sustainable life. The plains are rich in underground water that comes to use in agriculture and other activities. Crops such as rice, wheat, maize, sugarcane, and cotton cultivate predominantly. The rivers and roads that are easy to navigate become ideal ways of transport and communication. Major hydroelectric projects are present in the northern plains. The plains are one of the most densely populated areas around the globe that support forty-five percent of the population. Such a population provides cheap labor and a sprawling market for iron, steel, cotton, jute chemical, oil, paper, and petrochemical industries.
Culture: The plains have historical importance due to the birth of one of the oldest Indus valley civilizations in Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro, Lothal, etc. the fertile and flat region has seen the rise and fall of various dynasties like the Mauryan empire, the Kushan empire, the Mughal empire, and the Maratha empire. These variant influences make the region a hub of art, culture, and architecture that attract tourism. Many holy sites such as Varanasi, Sarnath, Sun temple, Ayodhya, golden temple, Agra find their foundations at the Gangetic plains.
Flora and fauna: The flatland is home to various species of herbivores such as rhinoceros, elephants, buffalo, gazelle finding pasture in the grasslands. Carnivores such as Indian wolves, hyenas, Asiatic lions and cheetahs, Bengal tigers, crocodiles reside here. This region is also home to the Gangetic dolphin. The vegetation varies from temperate grasslands to thick deciduous and evergreen forests.
Hence, the northern plains having immense physiographic, cultural, economic significance are among the most attractive regions of India that promise sustainability, biodiversity, and a dependable ecosystem.