The Terai (Hindi: तराई, Urdu: ترائی, translation: "moist land" or "foothill" [originally from Persian]), is a belt of marshy grasslands, savannas, and forests at the base of the Himalaya range in India, Nepal, and Bhutan, from the Yamuna River in the west to the Brahmaputra River in the east. Above the Terai belt lies the Bhabhar, a forested belt of permeable rock, gravel, and soil eroded from the Himalayas where the water table lies from 5 to 37 meters deep. The Terai zone lies below the Bhabhar. It is composed of less permeable layers of clay and sand that brings groundwater nearer the surface so there are many springs and wetlands. The Terai zone is inundated yearly by the monsoon-swollen rivers of the Himalaya. Below the Terai lies the great alluvial plain of the Yamuna, Ganges, Brahmaputra, and their tributaries. East of Nepal in Bengal, Bhutan and Assam this ecoregion is also called the Dooars.
In Nepal, Terai is differentiated into "outer" and "inner" Terai.
Outer Terai begins at the alluvial, generally forested and often marshy zone along the southern edge of the ~700 metre Siwalik Range -- the first and lowest range of Himalayan foothills. In Nepalese usage Terai extends to the border with India and includes drier, mostly cleared agricultural land below the marshes. Indian usage is more tied to hydrology and ecology. In some places the wetter ecoregion extends kilometers south of the Nepal border into India.
Most of the local population is ethnically Indian, natively speaking Hindi and dialects such as Awadhi, Bhojpuri and Maithili. They were largely disenfranchised during the Shah and Rana regimes that were largely administered by and for Paharis. This discrimination gave rise to political movements seeking greater representation.
Major towns of the Outer Terai (east to west):
Inner Terai refers to elongated valleys lying between the Siwalik Range and the 2-3,000 metre Mahabharat Range further north. In India these valleys are called "Duns", e.g. Dehra Dun. Most of these valleys extend east-west or SSE-WNW parallel to enclosing ranges. They are five to ten kilometers wide and up to a hundred kilometers long.
Inner Terai valleys historically were agriculturally productive but extremely malarial. Indigenous Tharu people had a degree of inherited resistance and populated these areas. A malaria eradication campaign opened the Inner Terai to settlers from the "hills" to the north and from neighbouring India, to the detriment of indigenous peoples.
Important towns in the Inner Terai are:
Wetter, more malarial parts of the Terai were left forested by official decree during the Rana dynasty as a defensive perimeter called Char Kose Jhadi (four kos forest, one kos equalling about three km or two miles).
Mahendra Highway crosses the Nepal Terai from Kakarbhitta on the eastern border in Jhapa District, Mechi Zone to Mahendranagar near the western border in Kanchanpur District, Mahakali Zone. It is the only motor road spanning the country from east to west.
The Terai is the most productive region in Nepal with the majority of industries located here. Agriculture is the main economic stake of the region. Main crops are paddy, wheat, pulses, moong, sugarcane, jute, tobacco, and maize. Many agro-based industries like jute factories, sugar mills, rice mills and tobacco factories are established throughout the region.
Major cities like Bharatpur, Biratnagar, Bhairawa, Birgunj are well connected with airports. The most interesting places to visit are
Tarai is the name for the southern lowland of Nepal.
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