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Geography of Afghanistan

Afghanistan
Continent Asia
Subregion Central Asia
Geographic coordinates
Area
 - Total
 - Water
Ranked 41st
647,500 km²
0 km² (landlocked)
Coastline 0 km (0 mi)
Land boundaries 5,529 km (3436 mi)
Countries bordered Pakistan 2,430 km,
Tajikistan 1,206 km,
Iran 936 km,
Turkmenistan 744 km,
Uzbekistan 137 km,
China 76 km
Highest point Nowshak, 7,486 m / 24,560 ft
Lowest point Amu Darya, 258 m / 846 ft
Longest river Helmand River
Largest inland body of water
Land Use
 - Arable land  - Permanent
   crops  - Other

12.13% 0.21% 87.66% (2005 est.)
Irrigated Land 27,200km²
Climate: Arid to semiarid
Natural resources natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, uranium, gold, silver, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious and semiprecious stone
Natural hazards earthquakes, flooding, droughts
Environmental issues limited fresh water, soil degradation, overgrazing, deforestation, desertification, air and water pollution

Afghanistan is located in the center or middle of Asia.The country is landlocked and mountainous, containing most of the Hindu Kush. There are four major rivers in the country: the Amu Darya, the Hari River, the Kabul River and the Helmand River. The country also contains a number of smaller rivers, lakes, and streams.

Borders

Afghanistan has a total of 5529 km of borders, including the land area borders, with the longest being the 2,430 km border known as the Durand Line to the south and southeast with Pakistan followed by a 936 km border with Iran to the west. The nation is also bordered by the Central Asian states of Tajikistan (1,206 km), Turkmenistan (744 km), and Uzbekistan (137 km) in the north. It has a further 76km border with China on its far northeastern frontier.

Terrain and agriculture

Mostly rugged mountains - the Hindu Kush and connected ranges; plains in north and southwest and large areas of sandy desert near the southern border with Pakistan. Elevation extremes:
* Lowest point: Amu Darya 258 m
* Highest point: Noshaq 7,492 m Land use:
* Arable land: 12.13%
* Permanent crops: 0.22%
* Other: 87.65% (2001) Irrigated land:
23,860 km² (1998 est.) Natural hazards:
Damaging earthquakes occur in the Hindu Kush mountains; flooding and droughts in the south and south-west of the country.
Landlocked, the Hindu Kush mountains that run northeast to southwest divide the northern provinces from the rest of the country; the highest peaks are in the Wakhan (Wakhan Corridor)
See also: Afghan Turkestan

Natural resources

Afghanistan's natural resources include: natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, uranium, gold, silver, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious and semiprecious stones.

Mountain systems

The Hindu Kush reaches a height of 7485 m. / 24,557 ft. at Nowshak, Afghanistan's highest peak. Of the ranges extending southwestward from the Hindu Kush, the Koh-i-Baba reaches the greatest height (Shah Fuladi, 5,142 m /16,870 ft). The Safed Koh range, which includes the Tora Bora area, dominates the border area southeast of Kabul. Important passes include the Unai Pass across the Sanglakh Range, and the Kotal-e Salang, connecting Kabul with central and northern Afghanistan, respectively. The approaches to the Khyber Pass across the Safed Koh are in eastern Afghanistan; the summit of the pass at 1070 m. / 3,509 ft. at Landi Kotal, Pakistan is five kilometers east of the border town of Torkham. Other key passages through the mountainous Pakistan border include two from Paktika Province into Pakistan's Waziristan region: one at Angoor Ada, a village that straddles both sides of the border east of Shkin, and, further south, the Gumal River crossing, plus the Charkai River passage south of Khowst, Afghanistan, at Pakistan's Ghulam Khan village into North Waziristan. The busy Pakistan border crossing at Wesh, just northwest of Chaman, Pakistan, connecting Kandahar and Spin Boldak, Afghanistan, to Quetta, Pakistan, is in a flat, dry area, though this route involves Pakistan's Khojak Pass at 2,707 m. / 8,881 ft. just 14 km. from the border.

Climate

The variety of climate is immense, as might be expected. Taking the highlands of the country as a whole, there is no great difference between the mean temperature of Afghanistan and that of the lower Himalaya. Each may be placed at a point between 10°C and 15°C / 50°F to 60°F. But the remarkable feature of Afghan climate is its extreme range of temperature within limited periods. The least daily range in the north is during the cold weather, the greatest in the hot. For seven months of the year (from May to November) this range exceeds 17°C / 30°F daily. Waves of intense cold occur, lasting for several days, and one may have to endure a cold of minus 24°C / 12°F rising to a maximum of minus 8°C / 17°F On the other hand the summer temperature is exceedingly high, especially in the Oxus regions, where a shade maximum of 45°C to 50°C / 110°F to 120°F is not uncommon. At Kabul, and over all the northern part of the country to the descent at Gandamak, winter is rigorous, but especially so on the high Arachosian plateau. In Kabul the snow lies for two or three months; the people seldom leave their houses, and sleep close to stoves. At Ghazni the snow has been known to lie long beyond the vernal equinox; the thermometer sinks between as low as minus 25°C / minus 15°F and tradition relates the destruction of the entire population of Ghazni by snowstorms more than once.

At Jalalabad the winter and the climate generally assume an Indian character. The summer heat is great everywhere in Afghanistan, but most of all in the districts bordering on the Indus, especially Sewi, on the lower Helmund and in Seistan. All over Kandahar province the summer heat is intense, and the simoon is not unknown. The hot season throughout this part of the country is rendered more trying by frequent dust storms and fiery winds; whilst the bare rocky ridges that traverse the country, absorbing heat by day and radiating it by night, render the summer nights most oppressive. At Kabul the summer sun has great power, though the heat is tempered occasionally by cool breezes from the Hindu Kush, and the nights are usually cool. At Kandahar snow seldom falls on the plains or lower hills; when it does, it melts at once.

At Herat, though 240 m / 800 ft lower than Kandahar, the summer climate is more temperate; and, in fact, the climate altogether is far from disagreeable. From May to September the wind blows from the northwest with great force, and this extends across the country to Kandahar. The winter is tolerably mild; snow melts as it falls, and even on the mountains does not lie long. Three years out of four at Herat it does not freeze hard enough for the people to store ice; yet it was not very far from Herat, and could not have been at a greatly higher level (at Rafir Kala, near Kassan) that, in 1750, Ahmad Shah's army, retreating from Persia, is said to have lost 18,000 men from cold in a single night. In the northern Herat districts, too, records of the coldest month (February) show the mean minimum as minus 8°C / 17°F and the maximum 3°C / 38°F The eastern reaches of the Hari River are frozen hard in the winter, rapids and all, and the people travel on it as on a road.

The summer rains that accompany the southwest monsoon in India, beating along the southern slopes of the Himalaya, travel up the Kabul valley as far as Laghman, though they are more clearly felt in Bajour and Panjkora, under the high spurs of the Hindu Kush, and in the eastern branches of Safed Koh. Rain also falls at this season at the head of Kurram valley. South of this the Suliman mountains may be taken as the western limit of the monsoon's action. It is quite unfelt in the rest of Afghanistan, in which, as in all the west of Asia, the winter rains are the most considerable. The spring rain, though less copious, is more important to agriculture than the winter rain, unless where the latter falls in the form of snow. In the absence of monsoon influences there are steadier weather indications than in India. The north-west blizzards which occur in winter and spring are the most noticeable feature, and their influence is clearly felt on the Indian frontier. The cold is then intense and the force of the wind cyclonic. Speaking generally, the Afghanistan climate is a dry one. The sun shines with splendour for three-fourths of the year, and the nights are even more clear than the days. Marked characteristics are the great differences of summer and winter temperature and of day and night temperature, as well as the extent to which change of climate can be attained by slight change of place. As the emperor Baber said of Kabul, at one day's journey from it you may find a place where snow never falls, and at two hours' journey a place where snow almost never melts.the highest ever recorded temperature is 52.3°C and the lowest is -57.6

Vegetation

The characteristic distribution of vegetation on the mountains of Afghanistan is worthy of attention. The great mass of it is confined to the main ranges and their immediate off-shoots, whilst on the more distant and terminal prolongations it is almost entirely absent; in fact, these are naked rock and stone.

Take, for example, the Safed Koh. On the alpine range itself and its immediate branches, at a height of 1,800 to 3,000 m / 6000 to 10,000 ft we have abundant growth of large forest trees, among which conifers are the most noble and prominent, such as Cedrus deodara, Abies excelsa, Pinus longifolia, Pinus pinaster, Stone pine (the edible pine, although this species is probably introduced, since itis original to Spain and Portugal) and the larch. We have also the yew, the hazel, juniper, walnut, wild peach and almond. Growing under the shade of these are several varieties of rose, honeysuckle, currant, gooseberry, hawthorn, rhododendron and a luxuriant herbage, among which the ranunculus family is important for frequency and number of genera. The lemon and wild vine are also here met with, but are more common on the northern mountains. The walnut and oak (evergreen, holly-leaved and kermes) descend to the secondary heights, where they become mixed with alder, ash, khinjak, Arbor-vitae, juniper, with species of Astragalus, &c. Here also are Indigoferae rind dwarf laburnum.

Lower again, and down to 1,000 m / 3,000 ft there are wild olive, species of rock-rose, wild privet, acacias and mimosas, barberry and Zizyphus; and in the eastern ramifications of the chain, Chamaerops humilis (which is applied to a variety of useful purposes, and which it is also introduced since it is original to Western Mediterranean), Bignonia or trumpet flower, sissu, Salvadora persica, verbena, acanthus, varieties of Gesnerae.

The lowest terminal ridges, especially towards the west, are, as it has been said, naked in aspect. Their scanty vegetation is almost wholly herbal; shrubs are only occasional; trees almost non-existent. Labiate, composite and umbelliferous plants are most common. Ferns and mosses are almost confined to the higher ranges.

In the low brushwood scattered over portions of the dreary plains of the Kandahar tablelands, it is possible to find leguminous thorny plants of the papilionaceous suborder, such as camel-thorn (Hedysarum alhagi), Astragalus in several varieties, spiny rest-harrow (Ononis spinosa), the fibrous roots of which often serve as a tooth-brush; plants of the sub-order Mimosae, as the sensitive mimosa; a plant of the rue family, called by the natives lipad; the common wormwood; also certain orchids, and several species of Salsola. The rue and wormwood are in general use as domestic medicines—the former for rheumatism and neuralgia; the latter in fever, debility and dyspepsia, as well as for a vermifuge. The lipad, owing to its heavy nauseous odour, is believed to keep off evil spirits. In some places, occupying the sides and hollows of ravines, it is found the Rose Bay, called in Persian khar-zarah, or ass-bane, the wild laburnum and various Indigoferae.

In cultivated districts the chief trees seen are mulberry, willow, poplar, ash, and occasionally the plane; but these are because of man's planting.

Afghanistan may be facing a serious environmental crisis. A huge percent of Afghanistan's land could be subject to soil erosion and desertification.

See also

Notes

Further reading

External links

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