Geography of DarjeelingDarjeeling, located in the lap of Eastern Himalayas, is formed out of comparatively new rock structure.
As has been pointed out, the word new is rather comparative because the continental collusion that has resulted in the formation of these hills may have taken place nearly seventy million years ago.
Darjeeling Himalayan Hill RegionHowever, before we go into details, we should mention that the hills in and around Darjeeling town is known as Darjeeling Himalayan Hill Region. In fact, this region consists of whole of the Darjeeling District except the Siliguri subdivision. The region is divided into two parts by the River Tista. The area east to the River Tista is known as the Chola range and Kalimpong is one of the main towns here. The western part is divided into two ranges, the Singalila range and the Darjeeling-Kurseong range. Darjeeling town along with Kurseong and Ghoom, falls in the Darjeeling-Kurseong range.
Darjeeling-Kurseong Hill Range
Darjeeling town is located on the Darjeeling-Jalapahar Range, which is actually an offshoot of this Darjeeling-Kurseong Range. These hills are made out of uplifted sedimentary and metamorphic rocks covered by thick vegetation. Their average elevation is more or less 6010 ft (or 2050m) and slope from south to north.
The Darjeeling-Jalapahar Range starts from the south of Ghoom. It then bifurcates into two sub-ranges, one diverging towards the Observatory Hill near the Chourasta Mall and the other going down to culminate into the spur near Lebong. Thus, we can see that the topography of Darjeeling hills is more like the letter Y.
Climate of DarjeelingDarjeeling has temperate type of climate. One can witness five distinct seasons here; namely – summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and spring. The summer, which lasts from May to June, is mild. The monsoon (from June to September) is characterized by heavy torrential rain; landslides are regular features of this season . Spring in the hills is a beautiful season, although it may seem a little bit too cold for tourists from the plains.
Even today, one can witness dense forests of both deciduous and evergreen trees in and around Darjeeling town. Apart from deciduous trees such as sal, birch, oak, and elm, many wet alpine trees are also grown here and if one is on the lookout he/she can also find rare orchids growing wildly in these forests. Rhododendron too is a common site in these hills.
Flora and Fauna of Darjeeling
Moreover, these hilly slopes are home to many medicinal plants such as Aconitum ferox , Adhatoda vasica , Artemisia vulgaris, Berginia ciliata , Hedychium spicatum, Sapindus mukorossi, Taxus baccata, Zingiber cassumunar etc. Sadly, deforestation due to rapid urbanization is now eating away the green cover. However, it must be said that government is doing its level best to preserve the flora of the Darjeeling hills.
Darjeeling is also the home to varied types of birds such as woodpeckers, orioles, sunbirds, flycatchers, finches etc. During the migrating season, one can also witness a varied numbers of migratory birds making their way to and from the plains. Other than birds, one can also find number of small mammals such as civets, mongoose and badgers in this part of the hills.
The soil in these hills is mostly composed of sandstone and other conglomerate formations. However, in most areas the soil is not properly consolidated and hence the area is not only unsuitable for agriculture, but it is also prone to landslides. Although heavy rainfall during the monsoon is held responsible for such disasters geolithology of the area is indeed an important aspect. Elevation as well as degree of the hill slope and lack of green coverage too can also be held responsible for such rampant landslides.
Landslides and types of soil in Darjeeling
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