Balochistan consists of four major geographical regions: upper highlands, lower highlands, plains, and deserts.
Last Updated: 13 Jan. 2014
Balochistan is mostly an arid land of rough terrain. It consists of the Balochistan Plateau sharply divided from the Indus Plains on the east by the Sulaiman and Kirthar Mountains. The average height of the plateau is more than 610 meters, and except for a small portion, this region is covered mostly with hills and mountains which are interspersed with rivers and basins. The two most important basins in Balochistan are the Loralai-Zhob Basin and the Quetta Basin. The climate varies dramatically from harsh winters to hot summers and average precipitation is very low.
The general layout of the mountains in Balochistan resembles the letter S. On the eastern border, the Sulaiman Mountains stretch out in a north-south direction for approximately 450 km. Starting in the south and moving north, they ascend in height and then turn west along the Zhob River to meet the Toba Kakar Range. The Toba Kakar Range continues to travel down in a southwest direction and meets the Central Brahui Range near Quetta. Starting in the north and moving south, the Sulaiman Mountains descend until they meet the Marri-Bugti Hills. The Marri-Bugti Hills are just a continuation of the Sulaiman Mountains, and their direction is northwest towards Quetta. Just south of Quetta they join the Central Brahui Range. The Central Brahui Range travels in north-south direction.
After joining with the Toba Kakar Range and the Marri-Bugti Hills, the Central Brahui travels south until about the 66° E longitude when the general direction of the mountains again turns westerly. To the south of the Central Brahui lie the Kirthar and Pab Ranges; to the southwest of the Central Brahui are four nearly parallel ranges: Makran Coast Range, Central Makran Range, Siahan Range, and Ras Koh. The Chagai Hills lie west of the Central Brahui.
Balochistan can be divided into four natural regions: upper highlands, lower highlands, plains, and deserts.
Locally known as Khorasan, the upper highlands are situated between 28° N and 31° N latitude. The Sulaiman Range forms the eastern boundary while the Toba Kakar Range forms the western boundary of this region. Other ranges such as the Central Brahui, Murdar, Zarghoon, Takatu, Chiltan, and Khawaja Amran Ranges also form the upper highlands. The upper highlands can reach an elevation of approximately 3,700 meters while the valleys are situated about 1,500 meters above sea level. Parts of Zhob and Sibi Divisions, and the districts of Qilla Saifullah, Pishin, Quetta, Kalat and Mastung are home to the upper highlands.
The lower highlands include the eastern slopes of the Sulaiman Mountains, the southern ranges of Pab and Kirthar, and the western ranges of Makran Coast Range, Central Makran Range, Siahan Range, Ras Koh and Chagai Hills. The lower highlands can vary greatly in altitude ranging from 600 to 1,200 meters. They fall mainly in the districts of Khuzdar, Lasbela, Awaran, Panjgur, and Kech. They also lie on the border of Gwadar, Kharan, Washuk and Chagai Districts.
The plains of Balochistan include the Kachi Plain, Lasbela Plain, and Dasht River valley. All three areas are flat triangular-shaped plains that slowly merge into nearby mountains. Kachi Plain is located in Nasirabad Division and in the southern part of Dera Bugti district. The Lasbela Plain is located on the eastern coast of Balochistan in Lasbela District. It is an alluvial plain formed by the Porali River and its tributaries. The Dasht River valley lies along the Dasht River in Gwadar District.
The districts of Chagai, Kharan and Washuk are considered the drylands of Balochistan. The districts of Kharan and Washuk are home to the Kharan Desert. Bounded on the north by the Ras Koh Range and on the south by the Siahan Range, the Kharan Desert extends westward for 20,000 sq km eventually merging with the Iranian desert on the east. It is characterized by a sandy landscape of relatively even terrain and supports little vegetation.
The Chagai Desert is located in Chagai District and extends 500 km northwest beyond the city of Chagai. It is covered with sand dunes and small stones and is traversed by minor mountain ranges. In the west, on the border of Iran and Pakistan it is known as Dasht-i-Tahlab. From mid May to mid September this area is exposed to a north-westerly wind which blows day and night and is known as the bad-i-sad-o-bist-roz or wind of 120 days. The Chagai Desert is often used as a hunting area for Arab dignitaries. Gold, silver and copper are being extracted from this area.
The districts of Chagai, Kharan and Washuk lie outside the monsoon belt and suffer from lack of rainfall receiving barely 5.08 to 12.7 cm of annual rainfall. Topsoil erosion from winds is a continuous problem. Incidence of poverty and environmental degradation are major issues facing the locals of this area.
The Makran Desert lies along the Balochistan coastline (also known as the Makran Coast) and is crossed by the Makran Range. It is a harsh and arid landscape that remains hot year round. Cyrus the Great, and Alexander the Great both crossed this desert with their armies to disastrous results. It is estimated that only a quarter of Alexander’s men survived this journey as they marched back home.
Rafique, Muhammad, Muhammad Ali Nawaz, and Muhammad Asif. “Mammalian Fauna of the Chagai Desert and Its Adjoining Areas.” Proceedings of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences. 1st ed. Vol. 47. 19-24. Pakistan Academy of Sciences.