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30/11/10  Chagai Background:

The district derives its name from "Chagai" a village on the western border of the Lora Hamun. The legend attributes the origin of the name to the numerous wells (Chahas) which are said to have formerly existed in the vicinity.

Very little is known about the ancient history of Chagai. The earliest monuments are the ruins of terraced embankments. These are found at the foot of the Ras-Koh hills; they are ascribed to the fire-worshippers, who are said to have been the inhabitants of this area more than two thousand years ago. The next traces of ancient history are the square shaped tombs in the western areas of the district, which are attributed by the local traditions to the Kianian dynasty of Iran.

Topography of Chaghi:

The district lies between 27-55' to 29-50' north latitudes and 60-45' to 66-22' east longitudes. It is located in the extreme west of Pakistan and comprises the belt which lies south of the Pakistan-Afghan boundary, from the Sarlath hills on the east to Koh-i-Malik Siah on the west, with a length of about 576 kilometres and an average breadth of 80 Kilometres. The district is bound on the north by the desert region of Afghanistan (which lies south of the Helmand river), on the east by the Sarlath hilly range and Kalat District, on the south by Kharan District and on the west by Iran. The northern boundary of the district, which separates it from Afghanistan, was demarcated in 1896 by a joint Afghan-British Commission. The western border with Iran was demarcated by a joint Pakistan-Iran Commission in 1959. The total area of the district is 50,545 sq. km.

Physical Features:

The physical features of the district vary and may be distinctly classed under three heads, i.e., the highlands, the plains and the deserts. The high-lands comprise the Chagai and Koh-i-Sultan ranges in the north, the Sarlath range in the eastern portion of the district and the Mir-Jawa, Kachau and Ras-Koh hills (the highest mountain in the district) on the south-west border.

The plain lies between Nushki and Chagai and consists mainly of alluvial soil interspersed with tracts of sand and intersected by a low range of stony hills known as the Bilau range. This range runs from east to west, from Nushki to Dalbandin. Small detached hills of black limestone, which rise abruptly from the plain are also found in many parts of this area.

The desert area lies beyond Chagai which is a waste land and consists of sandy desert and stony plains, bordered by ranges of barren limestone and shale mountains and hills of volcanic origin. Between Chah Sandan and Thratu and between Kundi and Mashki Chah, there are curious crescent shaped, moving sand-hills. The number of these hills is in hundreds. The soil of the district is moderately coarse textured, excessively drained, highly calcareous and low in fertility.

Rivers and Streams:

There are innumerable channels and hill torrents which originate from the mountains and flow during rains. Very little water, however reaches the lake basins (hamuns). The Khaiser or Joo-e-Nushki is the only stream worth the name in the district. It has a perennial flow of water which is considerably low during summer but about 5 to 6 m wide during winter. The depth normally is about 30 cm.

The Pishin Lora, known in Nushki as the Nullah-Bor, after passing through Pishin district and Shorawak emerges into the Dak plains of Nushki near Buland Wal. The other hill torrents rising in Chagai and Dalbandin hills are the Bulo, Morjan, Girdi and Gaze. On the west, the river of importance is the Tahlab, which flows into Mashkel Hamun and for some 144 Kilometres forms the boundary between Pakistan and Iran.

Climate Chaghi:

The climate of the district ranges from extreme hot in summer to severe cold in winter. The difference between day and night temperature is considerable and the climatic conditions vary from area to area. Since the district falls outside the sphere of monsoon currents, the rainfall is irregular and scanty. The annual average rainfall in the district is 104 mm measured over the years 1993 - 1995. In the same period the average minimum temperature was 2.4 0C in January and maximum temperature 42.5 0C in July.

Chagai Hills:

Prior to its May 1998 nuclear tests, it was widely reported that Pakistan's nuclear weapons test site was located in the Chagai Hills region of Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province. The Chagai Hills region is an extensive area, and no additional details were published concerning the exact location of the test site. This site is not under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The Balochistan Plateau in western Pakistan lies east of the Sulaiman and Kirthar ranges, with an average elevation of about 600 meters. Mountains spread in various directions, attaining elevations of 2,000-3,000 meters, though plateaus and basins predominate the scene. The Toba Kakar Range and Chagai hills in the north form the border of Pakistan with Afghanistan. The mountains and hills are carved by innumerable channels which contain water only after rains, though little water reaches the low-lying basins. Numerous alluvial fans are found in the Balochistan Desert. A structural depression separates the Chagai Hills and the Ras Koh Range to the south, consisting of flood plains and areas covered with thin layers of salt. Outside the monsoon zone, Balochistan receives scanty and irregular rainfall (4 inches); the temperature is very high in summer and very low in winter. Apart from the Toba Kakar Range, which has scattered juniper, tamarisk and pistachio trees, the other ranges are largely devoid of vegetation. Most of the people, therefore, lead nomadic life, raising camels, sheep and goats. The Siahan Range is in the west-central part of Balochistan, while the coastal Mekran ranges which skirts the south of Pakistan contains valuable deposits of coal, iron, gas, cromite, copper and several other minerals. Balochistan is fortunate to have considerable mineral wealth of natural gas, coal, chromite, lead, sulphur and marble.

On 28 May 1998 Pakistan announced that it had conducted five (simultaneous) nuclear weapons tests, in response to the same number of nuclear tests by India. Two days later, Pakistan conducted at least one additional underground test. Contrary to prior expectations, these tests were not conducted in the Chagai Hills, but rather at two widely separated locations to the south.



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