Geology of Kashmir

Geology of Kashmir
The Geology of the territories of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh has been studied in some detail by R. Lydekkar. He has divided the territory into three different structural Zones:
1. The Panjal
2. The Zanskar
3. The Tertiary Groups

These three Geological divisions form the basis of the four physical divisions of the State.

The Panjal forms the Outer plain, the Outer Hills and the Middle Mountains. The Zankar includes the whole of the eastern region from Spiti and Lahol (32.170N. Latitude) to the lofty Karakoram mountains in the north. The Tertiary Groups include the valley of Kashmir and other river Valleys.

The oval valley of Kashmir is longitudinal. It is about 1700 metres above sea level. There is a high wall of mountains round the valley. These rise to a height of 5500 metres above sea level. The only outlet of the valley is Baramulla where the Jehlum flows out through a narrow gorge. The entire drainage of the valley of Kashmir and its surrounding areas has only this outlet. In the north, Kashmir has many volcanic rock formations. These are mostly stratified and several thousand metres thick. There are many layers of sedimentary rocks which are found in Liddar valley, Baramulla district and Banihal Verinag section of the Pir Panjal range.

Limestones and shells are common. The rock layers have many fossils. Near Yarkand to the extreme north, shells have been found showing that the region was under sea in the geological past.

To the south and west of the valley there are karewa formations which are lake-laid clays and shales. These are lacustine deposits and appear like flat mounds on the margin of high mountains. Below these karewas is spread the alluvium of the Jehlum. The highest karewa is near the Pir Panjal. It is 3800 meters above sea level and more than 2100 metres above the level of the Jhelum.

Distribution of Rocks and Minerals

The mountains surrounding the different valleys of the State of Jammu and Kashmir have varied mineral wealth. The first survey of minerals wealth in the State was made by a renowned geologist Mr. Middlemiss in 1924 in collaboration with the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, but an intensive mineral survey was taken up in the year 1956 when systematic investigation began, as a consequence of which mineral exploitation in the state was organised and developed.

1. Lignite: It is an inferior quality of coal which is found in the valley of Kashmir at Nichahama, Baramulla, Handwara, Chowkibal, Ferozepur nullah, Nagbal, Tangmarg, Raithan, Badgam tehsil, Laligang and Lolab valley. Lignite is a black brown coal that is intermediate in coalification between peat and sub-bituminous coal which has a calorific value less than 8300 BTU/lb, on a moist mineral free basis. According to the report of the Geological Survey of India, there are lignite coal deposits of about 50 million tons in the valley. Drilling operations were started first in the Nicahhom - Chowkibal area where the reserves were estimated at 4.5 million tons to a depth of 40 metres. Lignite is used as a fuel in the valley of Kashmir.

2. Limestone: All the three regions of the State i.e. Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh have deposits of different ages and grades of Limestone. The Limestone of Kashmir is of high quality and is used in the manufacture of cement at Wuyan and Khrew. These deposits exist in Anantnag, Achhabal, Dooru, Verinag, Biru, Sonamarg, Ajas, Wuyan, Khrew and Lodoo. It is also used as building stone and mortar.

3. Copper ores are found at Aishmuqam, Shubbar area (Anantnag), Lashtil hill spurs (Baramulla), Handwara, Sumbal, Kangan and Lolab valley in the province of Kashmir.

4. Iron-ore deposits occur in Sharda (Karnah tehsil), Khrew, Haral (Handwara), Uri tehsil, Garez (Sopore tehsil) and Lolab valley in Kashmir.

5. Gypsum: It is used for making plaster of paris and chalk sticks. The Kashmir province has gypsum deposits at Lasipora, Baramulla, Anantnag, Liddipora and Kathia Nullah (Uri). There is total reserve of about 4 million tons of gypsum in the State.

6. Ochre: It is used in paints and varnishes etc. There are extensive deposits of ochre in Nur Khawn, Ratasar and Jhaggi in the Uri tehsil. About 4 lakh tons of ochre has been found in the state so far.

7. Zinc and Nickel are found at Buniyar (Baramulla).

8. Fuller's Earth is used in the manufacture of country soap and for filling paper. It is found in Rampur near Baramulla.

9. Slate stone is found in abundance in the valley of Kashmir.
10. Graphite is used in the manufacture of lead pencils and is found in Bararipora, Uri, Karnah, Magam, Piran in the province of Kashmir.

11. Sulphur is found in Pagga valley in Ladakh. In spring water, it is found at Anantnag and Khrew. The estimated deposits of sulphur in the state are 2,00,000 tons.

12. Marble: Large deposits of marble have been found at Drugmalla, Zirahama, Oura and Trehgam in Kupwara district of Kashmir. This is light brown to dirty grey in colour. This is being used commonly in buildings these days.

Ladakh Valley

Ladakh is bounded by two of the world's mightiest mountain ranges, the Great Himalayas and the Karakoram and lies transversely to the Ladakh range and the Zanskar range. In geological terms, it is a young land, formed only a few million years ago by the buckling and folding of the earth's crust as the Indian sub-continent pushed with irresistible force against the immovable mass of Asia. Today, a high-altitude desert, Ladakh was once covered by an extensive lake system. The remnants of such a lake system still exists in the southeast plateaus of Rupshu and Chushulmoriri, Tsokar, and grandest of all, Pangong-tso. Despite the rainfall by some stray monsoon clouds that cross over to the area, the main source of water remains the winter snowfall.

Drass, Zanskar and the Suru Valley to the north of Himalayas receive heavy snow in winter feeding the glaciers that melt in summers to form the streams used for irrigating the fields. For the rest of the region, the snow on the peaks is virtually the only source of water.

Ladakh lies at altitudes ranging from about 9,000 feet at Kargil to 25,170 feet at Saser Kangri in the Karakoram. Its frozen landscape is miraculous while its clear skies with glaring sun are welcome. Shooting stars are visible quite often in the area while silence and tranquility reign the area. There are wizened faces and rosy cheeks, and the dragons and Zen adorn every other human inhabitation, making Ladakh a quite place to visit. Also known as 'The Last Shangrila', 'Moonscape' and 'Little Tibet', the land is full of surprises.

Drass Valley - An enchanting valley formed by the Drass River that has its origin in the Machoi glacier near the famous Zozila Pass. River Shigar flowing in from the north drains a bordering part of the Drass Valley. In summers, due to the melting of snow, the volume of the river rises considerably. It meets the Suru River near Kharul, a short distance away from Kargil.The area is rocky with an occasional green patch formed by willow and groves. The short summer season in the Drass Valley begins in May, when the snows begin to melt. Inhabited by Brokpas who probably migrated to this tract from Gilgit several centuries ago, the chief occupation of the natives is growing mainly barley and other coarse cereals, as there is a lack of irrigation facilities in many parts of Drass. The soil is poor and unproductive and the agricultural production is also poor. As a result, food grains have to be imported from the Kashmir Valley while the scarcity of fuel causes it to be brought in from across the Zozila Pass.

Suru Valley - The average height of the Suru valley is 3,000 m. In the winters starting from mid-November and usually continuing till May, almost all parts of the valley is covered with a thick layer of snow. Formed by the catchments of the Suru River, that rises from the Panzella glacier and joins the Indus River at Nurla and the Dras River at Kharul, the general topography of the valley is as rugged and mountainous as most of Ladakh. However, it is relatively more fertile and extends from the Panzella glacier to south of Kargil town, where the Suru River merges with the Botkul River rising from the Botkul glacier. Agriculture is the chief occupation of the valley people, which are blessed with a relatively longer summer, which begins in May. The main crops of the region are wheat, barley and millets along with the vegetables such as turnip, radish, peas and black peas. Grapes, apricots and melons are produced in fairly large quantities at Darchik and Garkoon along the lower course of the Indus through Ladakh that find a ready market in Kargil. Liquor is made from grapes.
Nubra Valley - Yellow and pink wild roses cover Nubra during early summers till August when a carpet of wild lavender enwraps it. A relatively warmer valley in Ladakh, it yields better crops and fruits, thus, earning the nickname of the Ldumra or the orchard of Ladakh.

Diskit, one of the larger villages in the region, is dotted with apricot plantations and is renowned for housing the 350 year-old Diskit Gompa, which is the oldest and the largest monastery in the Nubra Valley. The road between Diskit and the pretty little Hunder Village winds through a gorgeous stretch of sand dunes. In Hunder, one can see the double-humped camels as one goes to visit the Hunder Gompa having some old frescos and a statue of Buddha. This monastery is also the best place in the village to catch a view of the setting sun.

Salt Lake Valley - One of the widest open areas in Rupshu, it has a length of about 20 km and a maximum width of about 7 km. The average height of the region is 5,000 m and can be approached from Leh across the Tanglang La pass. The main settlement of the valley is Thuggi while the two lakes here are - the fresh water Panluk Lake and the salt-water Tsokar Lake, which is 5 times the area of the former one. Named so because of the deposits of impure salt that occur on the northern shore of the Tsokar Lake, Changpas collect it and use it to barter goods from other parts of Ladakh.

Shyok Valley - The valley of the Shyok River or the river of death, it was called so by the Central Asian traders who ventured on this treacherous route for centuries and perished. Rising from the Khumdang glacier, Nubra and Changchenmo rivers fill the waters of Shylok River. The river freezes in winters forming an easy access between the Khaplu and the Nubra valleys while in summers, as the snow melts in the uplands, the river overflows its banks and create a vast marsh. During this period, the Shyok River has to be crossed on rafts of inflated skin.