Salt pans of Little Rann of Kutch

There is so much to share about Little Rann of Kutch that one post couldn’t do justice to it. In my last post – A weekend in Little Rann of Kutch, I talked about the thriving wildlife in the arid land which is situated 130 kms from Ahmedabad, India. In the current post I will share about humans surviving here since centuries and running a business for generations together in the salt pans.

The history of the Little Rann of Kutch is – Centuries ago it was part of the sea until an earthquake turned it into an arid land. Water, however exists 30 feet below the hard, sun baked crust. Centuries ago a community called Agariyas (Salt farmers) noticed that water below ground level was brine water and concentrated enough to produce salt. And hence a business was born on which the economy of the area has kept afloat all these years.

Mudflats in little rann of kutch
I happened to visit these salt farms which literally existed in the middle of nowhere. It was impossible to imagine that in the beige coloured monotony of cracked mudflats, a thriving salt farm would be booming. Intrigued to know the process and how much profit they make, I met 2 men working in their family salt pans and asked a lot of questions.

Salt farmers in salt pans

Excerpt from my conversation:

  • Once the monsoon waters recede in month of October, these farmers walk in the swamp; which still has about 1 feet of water to mark the borders of the salt pan. These swamps are 1-2 kms from mainland and due to the slippery nature takes over an hour to reach here. Farmers carry their food and drinking water everyday.
  • The borders of the square shaped salt pans are made by basic farm tools and hand.
  • By the month of November when the water dries up the brine water is pumped to the surface using diesel pumps and spread out in salt pans. The pumped out brine water is directed into square-shaped salt pans where the natural process of evaporation begins. The Agariyas live here on salt pan with their family in a makeshift shanty.

Pumping brine water in salt pans

Brine water pumping in salt pans

  • The brine water concentration is about 4% in the first salt pan which needs to be further concentrated upto 28% in order to harvest the salt. So it passes from one salt pan to next seven times.

Salt pans with brine water

  • The salt layer is continously scraped with heavy wooden rakes so as to develop smaller salt crystals.

Raking of salt pans

  • It is then piled up on the sides of the pans to be collected later.
  • Each salt pan produces approximately 400 ton of salt. A family of 4-5 people is able to produce about 800 ton salt in peak season.

A shanty in salt pans

  • The harvest season comes to an end around June with the monsoon setting in. The families pack up their stuff and return to villages to spend next 4 months doing odd jobs. The monsoons come and wash their salt fields away, turning the desert into sea.

All this hardship and I was sure that they would be earning handsome amount of money. Who in their right mind would spend 10 hours of day in the scorching 45 degrees, right? That’s when they informed me they are paid Rs. 80 per ton ( US$1.25) and earn about Rs. 64000/year (US$1000) for 800 tons after working for 1800 hours. To put it into perspective it is a return airline fare from Sydney, Australia to New York. All those complaining about life being hard, trust me you have something to think about!

Salt from salt pans

Once back home, I read a couple of articles about their health issues and other social problems and a statement which shook me was: Salt pan workers suffer an ignoble fate: their hands and feet are difficult to burn during cremation because of the salt content.

It is good that there are many NGOs coming forward to help these farmers by providing solar panels. This has reduced their burden of diesel consumption. NGOs are also giving basic education and health facilities. My heart goes out to these salt workers and I feel I should complain less about my job!

No sustainable tips this time!

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Salt pans of Little rann of kutch

31 thoughts on “Salt pans of Little Rann of Kutch

    1. Sewa NGO is the one working with these farmers. I guess one can volunteer to educate their children during the peak period.

  1. Oh wow! What a fascinating article. I would love to see this expanse of salt pans and I had no idea how much work goes into it. It would have been visually stunning but “salt pan workers suffer an ignoble fate: their hands and feet are difficult to burn during cremation because of the salt content.” breaks my heart……

  2. This is really interesting and at the same time makes you appreciate that you should feel thankful for the life you had. As you mentioned on your post they earn around $1000 a year, whilst other people are complaining about how hard life is when they are able to sleep on a bed, eat three times a day and have water to drink. Great post

  3. This is interesting article about reading workers of salt Pans.They struggle hard to survive and earn less,we people complains about less money still they teach lesson to be happy with less money and not complaining about what we have with us.

  4. It’s my first time to read about people from this side of the world, and I must say, it’s quite interesting yet eye-opening to the many sufferings out there while in our comfort, we still cry of insufficiency. Good to know there are NGOs taking up their cases to prevent them from the dangers of the business and thumbs up to you for this exposure!

  5. What a tough life! Even before I got to the earning part, I knew they made very low because I could buy a 26-oz. salt for less than a dollar. I’m glad the NGO has come to the rescue, by providing them with solar panel and giving them basic education and health facilities.

  6. So interesting to read. I love salt-flats as a natural landscape – fell in love with the Camargue. To read about the health issues with their feet and hands was fascinating. Thanks for sharing. Kx

  7. Thanks for this informative post. Definitely not something we think about a whole lot and I love that you’ve highlighted it here!

  8. What an incredible amount of work for so little return. I had no idea about how the process of salt farming worked or that it was even possible. Thanks for explaining the process and helping educate readers about this exhausting work.

  9. I have passed by salt pans or flats but have never stopped. I have to say they are beautiful and unique places. Now, I cannot imagine how hard it is to work on an area like. I was thinking about the health effects on a body and then was bit shocked when I read the last part of your post. Hope the people who subsist from the salt pans can work on a more efficient way.

  10. I have learned so much new stuff about India since I started reading travel blogs! I’ve never been to a salt flat, and really didn’t have much idea of how it was harvested. It must have been really interested to visit here!

  11. I have never even wondered how salt was harvested. This was so insightful. Thanks for shedding light on this technique and the farmers who work entirely too hard for too little.

  12. What a fascinating article! The process for harvesting the salt is quite difficult. Scary to read about the impact of the salt on the workers feet and hands. Glad to know that NGO’s are providing support!

  13. This is so fascinating! I love learning about where every-day items come from. I think its really important to look at the things we have and use regularly (like salt!) and have an understanding of the work it takes to put it in our hands. Cool read 😀

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