Hot Deserts Case Study



The Thar desert is one of the major hot deserts of the world. It stretches across north-west India and Pakistan. The desert covers an area of some 2000 000km^2 mostly in the Indian state of Rajasthan. It is the mostly densely populated desert in the world.

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Opportunities for Development (1/4)

Mineral Extraction:

The desert region has valuable reserves of minerals which are used all over India and exported across the world. The most important minerals are:

Gypsum(used in making plaster for the construction industry and in making cement)

Feldspar(used to make ceramics)

Phospherite (used for making fertiliser)

Kaolin(Used as a whitener for paper)

At Jaisalmer the Sanul imestone is the main source of limestone for India’s steel industry. Valuable reserves of marble are quarried near Jodhpur, to be used in the construction industry.

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Opportunities for Development (2/4)


  • In recent years the Thar desert has become a popular tourist destination. Desert safaris on camels, based at Jaisalmer, have become particularly popular with foreigners as well as wealthy Indians from elsewhere in the country.
  • An annual Desert Festival held each winter is a popular attraction. Local people benefit by providing food and accommodation and by acting as a guides or rearing and looking after the camels.
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Opportunities for Development (3/4)

The Thar desert is a rich energy source:

  • Coal – there are extensive lignite coal deposits in parts of the Thar desert and a thermal energy plant has been constructed at Giral.
  • Oil– a large oil field has been discovered in the Barmer district which could transform the local economy.
  • Wind– Recently there has been a focus on developing wind power,a renewable form of energy. The Jaisalmer Wind Park was constructed in 2001.
  • Solar– The Thar desert offers ideal conditions for solar power generation. At Bhaleri solar power is used in water treatment.
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Opportunities for Development (4/4)


  • Most of the people living in the desert are involved in subsistence farming. They survive in the hot and dry conditions by grazing animals on the grassy areas and cultivating vegetables and fruit trees.
  • Commercial farming has been made possible by irrigation. The construction of the Indira Ghandi Canal in 1958 has revolutionised farming and crops such as wheat and cotton now thrive in an area that used to be scrubby desert.
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Challenges for Development

Extreme Temperatures:

The Thar desert suffers from extremely high temperatures, sometimes exceeding 50 degrees Celsius in the summer. This presents many issues:

  • Working outside in the heat of the day can be very hard, especially for farmers
  • High rates of evaporation lead to water shortages which affect people as well as plants and animals.
  • Plants and animals have to adapt to survive in the extreme heat.  Some animals are nocturnal. Livestock need shade to protect them from the intense sun.
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Challenges for Development

Water shortages:

  • Water supply has become a serious issue in the Thar Desert. As the population has grown and farming and industry have developed, demand for water has increased. Water in this region is a scarce resource.
  • The desert has low annual rainfall, high temperatures and strong winds. This causes high rates of evaporation.


  • Due to the very extreme weather and the presence of vast barren areas there is a very limited road network across the Thar Desert. The high temperatures can cause the tarmac to melt and the strong winds often blow sands over the roads.
  • Many places are accessible only by camel, which is a traditional form of transport in the area. Public transport often involves seriously overladen buses.
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