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The state of Jammu and Kashmir covers an area of 222,236 square kms, slightly smaller than New Zealand. The state is joined to the rest of India by a 30 km long boundary with Punjab and 300 km boundary with Himachal Pradesh. Pakistan lies in the east, Tibet lies in the north and China lies in the north east. Geographically, the region falls into three regions.

The southern region stretches from the plains to the Pir Panjal. The Vale of Kashmir, the second region, lies between the Pir Panjal and the High Himalaya, at an altitude of 1,580 metres.

It is a great syncline that contains various lakes fed by the Jhelum and other rivers.

Rising behind the Vale are the Great Himalaya which culminate in the west with Nanga Parbat. The Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi and Beas rivers that provide vital irrigation water to Punjab, cross the state. Between the Ganga plains and the Tibetan Plateau are the Trans-Himalaya, forming a rugged zone of transition. Across it runs the Indus river, rising in Tibet and running between the Zanskar range in the south and the Ladakh range in the north.

The vegetation is very thin and comprises of thorny bushes and watercourses. In contrast to Kashmir where about one third of the land area is still under forest, Ladakh has few trees. Some of these trees are the chenar tree (the giant Asian Plane Tree, Platanus orientalis), willows and a wide variety of pines

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