The Rann of Kutch: White Desert of India

The Rann of Kutch is located mostly in Gujarat (primarily the Kutch district), India can look drastically different depending on the time of year. During the summer season, the district’s northern salt deserts are hot, dusty plains. While in monsoon season, rains turn those barrens into wetlands with teeming wildlife.

Rann of Kutch
April 7, 2021

The photographs on this page show the Kutch district on (above), and on October 7, 2020 (below), near the end of monsoon season. These false-color photographs, taken with the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellite, use a sequence of visible and infrared light (bands 7-2-1) to make it simpler to identify several characteristics. Vegetation appears bright green; Water is navy blue and black; the white and cyan are bright surfaces and clouds, most likely salt pans.

The Rann of Kutch, located in the Kutch district is one of the largest salt deserts in the world. (Rann means desert in Hindi.) Although the major part of the desert is largely in India’s Gujarat state, some parts stretch into the Sindh region of Pakistan. Covering around 26,000 square kilometers (10,000 square miles), the Rann was a shallow arm of the Arabian Sea thousands of years ago. Due to centuries of silting it emerged into an inclusive saline mudflat. In the dry season, the annual evaporation rate of kutch is the highest.

Rann of Kutch
October 7, 2020

With more than 50 percent of salt workers located in Gujarat, it is the largest salt-producing state in India. The monsoon season in Gujrat lasts from June to September, during this period the Arabian Sea floods Rann with seawater. When the water recedes around October, salt farmers dig wells and pump salty groundwater into rectilinear fields where white salt crystals are normally evaporated out.

The shallow wetland is separated into two parts: the Little Rann of Kutch and the Great Rann of Kutch. The Little Rann lies between Gujarat in India and the Sindh province in Pakistanis known for its wildlife. it is one of the few places to find the Indian onager. The region is also a well-known birdwatching place where visitors can flamingos, sea eagles, cranes, and more. The Great Rann known for its white, snowy look, is a vast span of salt and which also makes it a popular filming place for Bollywood movies. 

During extremely wet years, the wetlands can spread to the Gulf of Kutch. Aligned with small islands and mudflats, the Gulf of Kutch divides the Kutch district from the Kathiawar peninsula to the south. The gulf also adds the first marine conservatory in India: the Marine Sanctuary and Marine National Park. The park comprises 42 islands, as well as sandy beaches, coral reefs, and diverse marine life.

NASA Earth Observatory images by Lauren Dauphin, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS LANCE and GIBS/Worldview

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