Terai

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For other uses, see Terai (disambiguation).
Aerial view of Terai plains near Biratnagar, Nepal

The Terai (Nepali: तराई, मधेश, 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[edit]

In Sanskrit, the region is called तराई tarāī meaning "foot-hill".[3] In Nepali, the region is called तराइ tarāi meaning "the low-lying land, plain" and especially "the low-lying land at the foot of the Himālayas".[4] The region's name in Urdu is ترای 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[edit]

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 square kilometres 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[edit]

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

Terai in Nepal[edit]

The Terai in Nepal is differentiated into "Inner" and "Outer" Terai.

Inner Terai[edit]

The Inner Terai refers to the river valleys in the lowlands of southern Nepal located between the Mahabharat and Shivalik ranges. In Nepali, they are called 'bhitri madhes'. The Inner Terai comprises five elongated valleys extending from north-west to south-east parallel to the enclosing hilly ranges:[7]

Most of these valleys are five to ten kilometers wide (north-south) and up to a hundred kilometers long (east-west).[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Outer Terai[edit]

The Outer Terai begins south of the Siwalik Hills and extends to the Indo-Gangetic plain. In the Far-Western Region, Nepal it comprises the 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 (1814–1816), 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. Farther east, the Outer Terai comprises the Kapilvastu, Rupandehi, Nawalparasi, Parsa, Bara, Rautahat, Sarlahi, Mahottari, Dhanusa, Siraha, Saptari, Sunsari, Morang and Jhapa districts.[8]

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.[citation needed]

The 2001 national census counted 10.3 million population (45% of the national total) in the Outer Terai districts.[citation needed]

History[edit]

Until the mid 18th century, the Terai was divided into several smaller kingdoms, and the forests were little disturbed.[10] Forest stands comprised mainly Sal.[8] Heavy logging began in the 1920s. Extracted timber was exported to India to collect revenues. Cleared areas were subsequently used for agriculture.[10]

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 to reach the hills before nightfall.[8]

Malaria was eradicated using DDT in the mid-1950s. Subsequently, people from the hills migrated to the Terai. Timber export continued to 1969. In 1970, the king granted land to loyal ex-army personnel in the districts of Jhapa, Sunsari, Rupandehi and Banke, where seven colonies were developed for resettling about 7,000 people. They acquired property rights over uncultivated forest and 'waste' land, thus accelerating the deforestation process in the Terai.[11]

Ethnic groups[edit]

Tharu people are the traditional inhabitants of the Terai forests. They were semi-nomadic, practised shifting cultivation and collected wild fruits, vegetables and medicinal herbs.[12] They 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.[13]

Pahari farmers from the mid-hills moved to the plains in search of arable land including Bahun, Chhetri and Newar. In the rural parts of the Terai, distribution and value of land determine economic hierarchy to a large extent. High caste migrants from the hills and traditional Tharu landlords who own agriculturally productive land constitute the upper level of the economic hierarchy. 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.[14]

Economy[edit]

The Terai is the most productive region in Nepal with the majority of the country's industries. Agriculture is the basis of the economy.[15] 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
For a more comprehensive list, see List of cities in Nepal.

Transport[edit]

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[edit]

Buddha statue at Kathauna Bazar

Tourist attractions in the Terai include:

Terai in India[edit]

In India, the valleys in the inner Terai are called Dūn (Hindi: दून). The 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[edit]

  1. ^ Johnsingh A.J.T., Ramesh K., Qureshi Q., David A., Goyal S.P., Rawat G.S., Rajapandian K., Prasad S. 2004. Conservation status of tiger and associated species in the Terai Arc Landscape, India. RR-04/001, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun
  2. ^ a b Bhuju, U.R., Shakya, P.R., Basnet, T.B., Shrestha, S. (2007), Nepal Biodiversity Resource Book. Protected Areas, Ramsar Sites, and World Heritage Sites, Kathmandu: International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development; Government of Nepal, Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology; United Nations Environment Programme, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific 
  3. ^ Bahri, H. (1989). "Learners' Sanskrit-English dictionary — Siksarthi Nepal-Angrejhi sabdakosa.". Rajapala, Delhi. 
  4. ^ Turner, R.L. (1931). "A Comparative and Etymological Dictionary of the Nepali Language". K. Paul, Trench, Trubner, London. 
  5. ^ Platts, J. T. (1884). "A dictionary of Urdu, classical Hindi, and English.". W. H. Allen & Co., London. 
  6. ^ Das, K.K.L., Das, K.N. (1981), "Alluvial Morphology of the North Bihar Plain – A study in applied geomorphology", in Sharma, H. S., Perspectives in geomorphology 4, New Delhi: Naurung Rai Concept Publishing Company, pp. 85–105 
  7. ^ Nagendra, H. (2002). Tenure and forest conditions: community forestry in the Nepal Terai. Environmental Conservation 29 (04): 530–539.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Guneratne, A. (2002). Many tongues, one people: the making of Tharu identity in Nepal. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. 
  9. ^ Rai, C. B. (2010). Analysis of timber production and institutional barriers: A case of community forestry in the Terai and Inner-Terai regions of Nepal. PhD thesis, Lincoln University, Christchurch.
  10. ^ a b Gautam, A. P., Shivakoti, G. P., & Webb, E. L. (2004). "A review of forest policies, institutions, and changes in the resource condition in Nepal". International Forestry Review 6 (2): 136–148. 
  11. ^ Regmi, R. R. (1994). "Deforestation and Rural Society in the Nepalese Terai". Occasional Papers in Sociology and Anthropology 4: 72–89. 
  12. ^ McLean, J. (1999). "Conservation and the impact of relocation on the Tharus of Chitwan, Nepal". Himalayan Research Bulletin XIX (2): 38–44. 
  13. ^ Terrenato, L., Shrestha, S., Dixit, K.A., Luzzatto, L., Modiano, G., Morpurgo, G., Arese, P. (1988). "Decreased malaria morbidity in the Tharu people compared to sympatric populations in Nepal". Annals of Tropical Medicine and Parasitology 82 (1): 1–11. PMID 3041928. 
  14. ^ Hatlebakk, M. (2007). Economic and social structures that may explain the recent conflicts in the Terai of Nepal. Kathmandu: Norwegian Embassy. 
  15. ^ Sharma, R. P. (1974). Nepal: A Detailed Geographical Account. Kathmandu: Pustak-Sansar. 

Further reading[edit]

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

External links[edit]