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Life in the Thar Desert PDF Print E-mail

Tree in the Thar

Of all the places a development organization can work, the Thar desert is one of the most difficult. The needs of the people here are great. Health, education, and even basic resources, like water and food, remain out of reach for many.

Scorching summers, chilly winters, dry monsoon seasons, and regular dust storms are characteristic of the region. The arid Thar gets less than 200 millimeters of rain in a year, declining to as little as 100 millimeters in some parts. This meager rainfall makes aquifers hard to replenish, which means that groundwater cannot serve as a long-term source of water for drinking and irrigation.

The desert is able to support perennial vegetation due to the soil's ability to conserve moisture, even against most powerful heat and wind. The most prominent desert plant, the Khejri tree, provides pods to eat and wood for fuel. The Thar Desert is also home to some 700 species of grasses, herbs, shrubs, and trees. The over-exploitation of these plants due to the growing population of humans and livestock is a major concern. The region also has a variety of wildlife, including over 300 species of birds. In terms of its human inhabitants, the Thar Desert is the most densely populated desert ecosystem in the world, with a population greater than 23 million.

The diversity of plants and animals makes the Thar a sight to see. However, the presence of so much life in does not mean that survival is guaranteed in the future. Increasing desertification and natural degradation as well as persistent droughts have worsened the living conditions drastically in recent years. The Thar is subject to the same sort of uneven growth seen all over India, and it deserves the attention of government and the development sector before its story gets buried under the sand.


GRAVIS believes in the reconstruction of rural communities, their institutions and their environment so that villagers have ownership and control over their future.