The plains of Northern India covered in haze and smoke  • Earth.com

The plains of Northern India covered in haze and smoke 

Today’s Image of the Day from the European Space Agency features the plains of Northern India and Pakistan covered in haze and smoke. 

“The haze is due to plains being more humid than the mountainous areas, which dominate the upper part of the image,” said ESA.

“Smoke adds significantly to the white veil and is a result of paddy stubble burning. Particularly common in the Indian regions of Punjab and Haryana, this practice involves burning the remains of crops at the end of the season to prepare for the following growing season.”

The plains of Northern India at the foothills of the Himalayas are part of the larger Indo-Gangetic Plain, which is one of the world’s most fertile and densely populated regions. This area, specifically at the foothills, is often referred to as the Terai-Bhabar region in India. It spans across several states, including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, and West Bengal, before extending into neighboring Nepal. 

The Bhabar strip is the narrow belt of land at the foothills of the Himalayas. It is characterized by rocky and porous soil, with dense forests and wild streams. It serves as a natural filtration system, with streams disappearing underground, reemerging in the Terai zone.

The Terai zone, immediately south of the Bhabar, is a belt of marshy land and swamps, known for its rich, alluvial soil, making it an extremely fertile area for agriculture.

The climate in this region is predominantly subtropical, with hot summers, a monsoon season, and mild winters.

The proximity to the Himalayas influences the climate. The mountains act as a barrier for cold winds from the north and also affect the monsoon patterns.

The region boasts significant biodiversity, with numerous national parks and wildlife sanctuaries such as Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand and Dudhwa National Park in Uttar Pradesh. These parks are home to a variety of wildlife, including tigers, leopards, elephants, and several bird species.

The Terai-Bhabar region acts as a crucial corridor for wildlife migration between the plains and the Himalayan forests.

The Terai region is one of the most productive agricultural zones in India, benefiting from fertile soil and abundant water from the Himalayan rivers. Major crops include rice, wheat, sugarcane, and tea, along with a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Despite its agricultural prosperity, the region also faces challenges such as flood and soil erosion, which can impact farming and livelihoods.

The plains at the foothills of the Himalayas are rich in cultural and historical heritage, with a diverse mix of communities and traditions. This area has been a cradle of civilization for millennia, with historical sites that are significant to Hinduism and Buddhism.

Image Credit: ESA

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