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Wakhan Afghanistan and Tajikistan PM00000020000004030 7, 2008

Posted by Mыsofer in wakhan.
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The Wakhan from Yamchun (www.pamir.org)

The Wakhan is a narrow panhandle of valleys and high mountains that stretches eastward from the province of Badakhshan in northeastern Afghanistan following the head waters of the Amu Daria to its sources in the Pamir mountains. It borders Tajikistan to the north, Pakistan to the south, and China to the east. Between Eshkashem and the easternmost point of Afghanistan, the distance is approximately 350 km. The corridor is widest (65 km) in the middle, where it includes the Nicholas Range; it is narrowest along its western third, where the width is 13-25 km except for a breadth of 30 km at the headwaters of the north-flowing Ishtragh River. At the western entrance, the corridor is 18 km wide.

The Wakhan was established as an imperial buffer zone between the Russian and British empires in the late 19th century. The Wakhan and Pamir are an area of unique interest both from the point of view of its natural environment and biodiversity as well as its human population of settled Wakhi farmers and transhumance herders, the yurt-dwelling Kirghiz.
The main Wakhan is comprised of a narrow strip of riverine terrace along the left bank of the Panj River, flanked to the south by the easternmost spurs of the Hindu Kush mountains and crossed by many stony fans and flood washes issuing from these ranges. It is about 180 km long from east to west (Eshkashem to Sarhad-e-Boroghil, including 110 km for the Wakhan Corridor, Eshkashem to Qala-e-Panj) and seldom more than about 20 km broad between the Tajikistan and Pakistan frontiers in the Corridor.

The mountains, which form an almost impassable barrier along the southern frontier, rise to snow-covered peaks and ridges of 6 000 meters and above, with glaciers and deep, steep, rocky valleys, which occasionally give access through to Chitral on the Pakistan side. These valleys are used as summer grazing for livestock belonging to the villagers living along the line of the river, and are also home to mountain ungulates such as ibex and urial and their main predators, the snow leopard and wolf. Red fox, lynx, various small wildcats, and martens also occur here as well as their prey, the cape hare, marmots, pikas and a variety of small rodents voles and mice.

This area is inhabited by Wakhi-speaking farmers cultivating heat, barley, pulses, and a little millet and potatoes. Barley becomes the main-indeed the sole-crop in the middle-altitude aylaq (summer camp) between 3 400 and 3 600 m. Wheat is the dominant cereal crop up to 3 400 m. with barley above this altitude.

The Wakhan River flows through this stretch of highly glaciated valley in an ever-changing bed characterized by vast and spectacular expanses of gravel flats and stony washes. The mountains on either side rise for the most part rather precipitously until reaching Sarhad, which lies at the end of a broad basin where the river enters from the Little Pamir out of a series of deep gorges. The broad Boroghil Valley enters here from the south, leading up and over the Boroghil Pass (3 798 m) to Chitral. This was the pass that haunted the late 19th century Imperial Britons as being the one through which they feared the Imperial Russian Cossacks, equipped with cavalry and artillery, would come on their way to invade India. It is the only pass in this area where this would have been possible and which was a compelling strategic consideration for British control of Chitral.

More detail at source: http://www.juldu.com/Pamir/index_pamir.html

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