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Home Articles Exploring a natural wonder
Exploring a natural wonder

Exploring a natural wonder


By Sajid Qazi

Not only does Pakistan possess the second largest reserves of salt in the world, it also has a great opportunity to exploit the tourist potential of Khewra Salt Mines

SALT is a daily household item that is abundantly available and, compared to a lot of other items on the dinning table, relatively cheaper as well. That is probably because we fortunately possess the second largest reservoir of salt. Let us share some of the basic facts about this unique geological phenomenon. It may initiate our younger generation and children to some outdoor activity and trigger a desire to explore the environs and learn the country that is

The charming
Salt Range stretches from River Jhelum in the east to Kalabagh to the west upto the mighty Indus. It is huge and comprises of the richest salt fields in the world. The salt range is over 186 miles long and five to 20 miles wide with an average height of 2,200ft. Most of the range is composed of salt deposits left behind when the sea, that extended over the entire Potohar Valley receded about a million years ago.

There are many places of historical and archeological interest in the
Salt Range. It remained part of the powerful Hindu kingdom of Kashmir in the AD10. Most of the temples and forts concentrated in and around the Range date from this period. There is a temple of Hindu god Shiva, at Katas. In the local popular mythology, Katas is the most famous and venerated of the Salt Range temples.

For many centuries before the Hindu rule, this Range formed an important natural barrier between Asia and the subcontinent.

The Khewra Salt Mine is situated in the heart of the
Salt Range, at a distance of 160km from Islamabad and 260km from Lahore. It has an easy approach via the Lahore-Islamabad Motorway through Lilla or Kallar Kahar interchange.

There are various theories about the discovery of the mine. According to some, salt has been mined here from well before Alexander’s excursions in this part of the world. To others, the discovery of rock salt dates back to the days of Alexander in 326BC. Another theory suggests that salt was discovered during Alexander’s expeditions in the region. This happened only after the Greek’s horse, licked the rocks here, that led to the discovery of rock salt deposits at Khewra.

Poland, the Khewra Salt Mine is the largest in the world. It is said that the chiefs of the Janjua tribe were the first to initiate, standard mining in the AD13. However, a closer look at the Moghal period reveals that when they emerged supreme in Punjab, they took over the mine from the local Janjua tribal chief and started work on it properly. Then the British took over and they controlled the mine till 1947. Dr H.Warth, a renowned British mining engineer, laid out the main tunnel at ground level in 1872 to have an easy and direct approach to the salt deposits. The scientific mining system introduced by him, in 1872, is still in vogue. Now a days, the main tunnel at ground level, has been converted into a visitors’ gallery for public. An old electric train now pulls tourists upto a central junction inside the mine.

The tour of the mine is fascinating, being both educational as well as recreational. There is a lot to see inside the mine. A salt mosque, a big chamber called the Assembly Hall, ‘Sheesh Mahal’, rooms and pillars of rock salt of different shades and water ponds full of salt brine are most attractive areas of the mine.

The government has provided some facilities for the visitors. Small restaurants have been established inside and outside the mine. Handmade rock salt souvenirs are also available. Work is in progress to set up an asthma relief centre at the mine. This centre will offer the same salt therapy to asthma patients as is being delivered at Polish and Ukrainian salt mines.

Given the scenic nature of the Potohar and the
Salt Range Valley, and the easy access by the Motorway, even via the G.T. Road via Chakwal and Choa Syedan Shah, this place warrants many family and group visits