Collision Point of Continental Plates

collision point of continental plates
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The collision point of continental plates is located near Chalt Valley on the Karakoram Highway (KKH), some 53 km north of Gilgit town. The Indian and the Eurasian continental plates collided along a line which passed through this point giving rise to the Himalayan mountain range and formed Tibetan plateau some 50 million years ago. The tremendous pressure forced the earth’s crust to produce the towering Karakoram Mountains in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan.

Historic accounts

Historically, 225 million years ago India was a large island separated from Asia by the Tethys Ocean. India started northward drift toward Asia when the super-continental Pangea began to break up some 200 million years ago. India was moving at a rate between 9 and 16 cm some 80 million years ago when it was 6,400 km south of the Asian continent. However, from 50 to 40 million years ago, the rate of northward drift slowed to around 4-6 cm per year. This pace is interpreted as the beginning of collision between the Indian and the Eurasian continental plates.

When the collision occurred, the Eurasian plate was partly crumpled and buckled up above the Indian plates causing the continental crust to thicken pushing up the Himalayan and Tibetan plateau. The continental crust here is twice the average thickness at around 75 km which marks the end of volcanic activity in the region. The Indian plate is still pushing north into the Eurasian landmass at about five centimeters a year causing the mountains to rise about seven millimeters annually.

Tourist Significance

Sadly, the geographic significance of the collision point of continental plates is a fact still even unknown to the general people of Gilgit-Baltistan. It simply failed to catch the tourist’s eye until the roadside signboards were displayed for tourist information most recently which may obviously help locals and tourists educate about its significance. However, there must be a platform for tourists to spend the time to educate themselves and enjoy the unique mountain formation in the surroundings. This site has the potential to be a prominent picnic spot.

The old silk route ran along the other side and some of the sections of the old Silk Route are still intact which can easily be seen from this point. The old Silk Route is only used by locals to take their herd to the pastures for grazing. It is in the news that the ancient Silk Route would be renovated to promote tourism.

Local legend

Locally the collision point is termed as Bidru-Kha and sometimes Chalt Xhang (Threshold). This particular site has several local legends attached to it. For instance, locals offer sacrifices to spirits by slaughtering a chicken/goat or any other animal while passing through this point with a bride and groom on the marriage day.

Likewise, there is another notion local shamans believe that this place was a pathway to the three worlds – the world inhabited by the spirits or the upper world, the material human world, and the underworld of the souls and the dead.

And finally, this site acts as a buffer zone of climate – the weather in lower parts of Hunza can be forecasted using climatic conditions right above this particular point – an overcast sky may refer to chances of rain while blue patches in the clouds mean the sky is getting clear.

Author: m@lam

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