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Terai region

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Terai region

For other uses, see Terai (disambiguation).

The Terai (Nepali: तराई, tarāī) is a belt of marshy grasslands, savannas, and forests located south of the outer foothills of the Himalaya, the Siwalik Hills, and north of the Indo-Gangetic Plain of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and their tributaries. The Terai belongs to the Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands ecoregion. In northern India, the Terai spreads eastward from the Yamuna River across Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Corresponding parts of West Bengal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Assam east to the Brahmaputra River are called Dooars.[1] The lowland plains of the Terai lie at an altitude of between 67 and 300 m (220 and 984 ft). North of the Terai rises the Bhabhar, a narrow but continuous belt of forest about 8–12 km (5.0–7.5 mi) wide.[2]

Etymology

In Hindi, the region is called तराई tarāī meaning foot-hill.[3] In Nepali, the region is called तराइ tarāi meaning the low-lying land, plain, especially the low-lying land at the foot of the Himālayas, south to the border with India.[4] Nepalis may also call it Madhes (Nepali: मधेस), particularly when noting its ethnic compositions similar to adjacent India and unlike the ethnic makeup of the "hills" (Nepali: पहाड, pahārd). The region's name in Urdu is ترائي tarāʼī meaning lands lying at the foot of a watershed or on the banks of a river, low ground flooded with water, valley, basin, marshy ground, marsh, swamp; meadow.[5]

Geology

The Terai is crossed by the large perennial Himalayan rivers Yamuna, Ganges, Sarda, Karnali, Narayani and Kosi that have each built alluvial fans covering thousands of km2 below their exits from the hills. Medium rivers such as the Rapti rise in the Mahabharat Range. The geological structure of the region consists of old and new alluvium, both of which constitute as alluvial deposits mainly of sand, clay, silt, gravels and coarse fragments. The new alluvium is renewed every year by fresh deposit brought down by active streams, which engage themselves in fluvial action. Old alluvium is found rather away from river courses, especially on uplands of the plain where silting is a rare phenomenon.[6]

The Terai region has a large number of small and usually seasonal rivers, most of which originate in the Siwalik Hills. The soil in the Terai is alluvial and fine to medium textured. Forest cover in the Terai and hill areas has decreased at an annual rate of 1.3% between 1978 and 1979, and 2.3% between 1990 and 1991.[2]

As the Terai is increasingly deforested, drained and brought under cultivation, the connection with wetness fades in contemporary usage. Terai becomes a geographic, not a hydrographic term, for districts in the plains near or bordering the Siwaliks. A permeable mixture of gravel, boulders, and sand enables the water table to sink 5–37 m (16–121 ft) deep. The Terai zone is composed of less permeable layers of clay and fine sediments, bringing groundwater to the surface in springs and wetlands.

The reduction in slope as rivers exit the hills and then transition from the sloping Bhabhar to the nearly level Terai causes current to slow and the heavy sediment load to fall out of suspension. This deposition process creates multiple channels with shallow beds, enabling massive floods as monsoon-swollen rivers overflow their low banks and shift channels. The 2008 Bihar flood was only an example of recurrent catastrophes in the Terai.

Climate

Biratnagar, 26°N, 87°E
Climate chart (explanation)
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Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: Levoyageur
Chandigarh, 31°N, 77°E
Climate chart (explanation)
JFMAMJJASOND
 
 
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Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: World Weather Information Service

Comparing the climates of Chandigarh in India at the Terai's western edge with Biratnagar in Nepal near the eastern edge illustrates several differences:

  • Moving inland and away from monsoon sources in the Bay of Bengal, climate becomes more continental with greater summer-winter difference.
  • In the far western Terai, which is five degrees latitude further north, the coldest months average 3°C (5°F) cooler.
  • Total rainfall markedly diminishes from east to west. The monsoon arrives later, is much less intense and ends sooner. Winters are wetter in the west.

Terai in Nepal

In Nepal, Terai is differentiated into "Outer" and "Inner" Terai.

Outer Terai or Madhes begins at the southern edge of the Siwalik Hills. In ordinary usage the Terai extends to the border with India, even if drier, cleared agricultural land well south of the marshes may be included. The Outer Terai of far-western Nepal consists of Kanchanpur, Kailali, Bardiya and Banke districts. These were once called the Naya Muluk and lay on the periphery of the Awadh dynasty. After Nepal lost the Anglo–Nepalese War (1814–16) these districts were annexed by the British in the Sugauli Treaty and returned in 1860 as reward for Nepal's military aid in the Indian Rebellion of 1857.[7]

East of Banke the Nepalese outer Terai is interrupted where the international border swings north and follows the edge of the Siwaliks adjacent to Deukhuri Valley. Here the Outer Terai is entirely in Uttar Pradesh's Shravasti and Balrampur districts. East of Deukhuri the international border extends south again and Nepal has three more Outer Terai districts Kapilvastu, Rupandehi and Nawalparasi.

In Chitwan district east of Nawalparasi the international border again follows the southernmost Siwaliks, placing the outer Terai in Bihar's West Champaran district. Then the international border extends south and the Nepalese Outer Terai is continuous across eleven districts to the country's eastern border. These additional districts are: Parsa, Bara, Rautahat, Sarlahi, Mahottari, Dhanusa, Siraha, Saptari, Sunsari, Morang and Jhapa.

The 2001 national census counted 10.3 million population (45% of the national total) in the outer Terai districts.

Inner Terai

Inner Terai (Nepali: भित्री तराई, Bhitrī Tarāī) is also called ''Bhitrī Madhes (Nepali: भित्री मधेस). It consists of seven elongated valleys (Nepali: उपत्यका, upatyakā) lying within the Siwalik Hills or between them and the 1,500-2,700 metre Mahabharat Range further north. In India these valleys would be called Dūn (Hindi: दून), for example Dehradun. Most of these valleys extend east-west or SSE-WNW parallel to enclosing ranges. They are five to ten kilometers wide (north-south) and up to a hundred kilometers long (east-west).

Nepal's Inner Terai valleys are (from west to east):

The 2001 national census counted 2.3 million population (10% of the national total) in these seven Inner Terai districts (counting Banke district as Outer Terai). Adding 45% in the outer Terai gives 55% of Nepal's population living in its Terai districts.

History

The Terai was heavily forested with Sal before heavy logging began in the 19th century, particularly for use as railroad sleepers. Foresters of the British Raj were of the opinion that in ancient times the Terai was cleared and cultivated. After Buddhism went into decline, the area was largely abandoned, and quickly re-vegetated with shrubs and trees, but took much longer — centuries perhaps — for Sal forest to return.[7]

Inner Terai valleys historically were agriculturally productive but extremely malarial. Some parts were left forested by official decree during the Rana dynasty as a defensive perimeter called Char Kose Jhadi, meaning four kos forest; one kos equals about 3 km (1.9 mi). A British observer noted, "Plainsmen and paharis generally die if they sleep in the Terai before November 1 or after June 1." British travelers to Kathmandu went as fast as possible from the border at Raxaul in order to reach the hills before nightfall.[7]

Except for indigenous peoples with genetic resistance, a malaria eradication campaign in the 1950s using DDT made the Inner Terai habitable for the first time.

Ethnic groups

Tharu people have been living in the Terai for many centuries, and reputedly had an innate resistance to malaria. Following the malaria eradication program using DDT in the 1960s, a large and heterogeneous non-Tharu population settled in the region.[8]

Pahari farmers from the mid-hills moved to the plains in search of arable land including Bahun, Chhetri and Newar. Tharus constitute the traditional population in the western Terai. The eastern part has been occupied by castes and ethnic groups that migrated from India — the Madhesi people, a term that sometimes also includes the Tharu people. High caste migrants from the hills have purchased, or otherwise got hold of large landholdings. Together with traditional Tharu landlords, they constitute the upper level of the economic hierarchy, which in the rural parts of the Terai is determined to a large extent by the distribution and the value of agriculturally productive land. The poor are the landless, or near landless, Terai Dalits, including the Musahar and Chamar, as well as the traditional fishermen, the Mallaah, and some of the hill Dalits. In particular the Musahars rarely get other work than hard farm labor.[9]

Economy

The Terai is the most productive region in Nepal with the majority of the country's industries. Agriculture is the basis of the economy.[10] Major crops include rice, wheat, pulses, sugarcane, jute, tobacco, and maize. In the eastern districts from Parsa to Jhapa they support agro-based industries: jute factories, sugar mills, rice mills and tobacco factories.

Cities over 50,000 population in Nepal's Terai include:

Municipality District Census 2001 Economy
Biratnagar Morang 166,674 agro-industry, education, trade/transport Hub
Birganj Parsa 112,484 trade/transport hub, agro and other industry
Dharan Sunsari 95,332 tourism hub and destination, education, financial services
Bharatpur Chitwan 89,323 agro-industry and food processing, tourism, health care, education
Bhim Dutta Kanchanpur 80,839 transport hub, education, health services
Butwal Rupandehi 75,384 transport hub, retailing, agro-industry, health care, education
Hetauda Makwanpur 68,482 transport hub, cement factory, large and small-scale industry
Dhangadhi Kailali 67,447
Janakpur Dhanusa 67,192 transport hub, agro-industry, education, health care, pilgrimage site
Nepalganj Banke 57,535 transport hub, retailing, financial services, health services
Triyuga Udayapur 55,291 tourism
Siddharthanagar Rupandehi 52,569 trade/transport hub, retailing, tourist and pilgrim services

Mahendra Highway crosses the Nepal Terai from Kankarbhitta on the eastern border in Jhapa District, Mechi Zone to Mahendranagar near the western border in Kanchanpur District, Mahakali Zone. It is the only motor road spanning the country from east to west.

Tourism

Tourist attractions in the Terai include:

Terai in India

In India, Terai extends over the states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. These are mostly the districts of these states that are on the Indo-Nepal border.

References

Further reading

  • Chaudhary, D. 2011. Tarai/Madhesh of Nepal : an anthropological study. Ratna Pustak Bhandar, Kathmandu. ISBN 978-99933-878-2-4.

External links

  • , showing the Terai
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