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Indian Geography / Indian River System

Himalayan Drainage System of India


    River system in India can be classified into Himalayan as well as Peninsular drainage systems. The Himalayan drainage system of India consists of the rivers Ganga, Brahmaputra, Indus and their Himalayan tributaries. These are perennial rivers because their sources are mainly glaciers. Generally, the Himalayan rivers are called antecedent rivers because their courses are formed first and the mountains are formed later. These are young rivers having straight passages. The volume of inflows is more in these rivers. Damming these rivers is somewhat difficult.

    India is regarded as "Land Of Rivers" because more than 38000 small and big rivers flow across India. Most of the rivers in India are of open drainage system type because most of them flow into the seas. In inland drainage system, rivers or streams do not reach the seas or oceans and such kind of rivers are mainly found in Rajasthan, e.g. Luni river.

    Ganga River System

    • River Ganga is formed by the merger of two rivers namely, Alaknanda and Bhagirathi at Devprayag. River Bhagirathi originates at Gangotri glacier and Alaknanda originates in Garhwal Himalayas. The length of river Ganga in India is around 2525 km.
    • The main left bank tributaries of Ganga are Yamuna, Ramganga, Gandak, Gomti, Ghaghara, Kosi, Mahananda, etc. The main right bank tributaries of Ganga are Son, Damodar, etc.
    • The mainstream Ganga river flows through Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. River Ganga is known as Padma river in Bangladesh.
    • The Ramganga river originates in Kumaon Himalayas and flows into Ganga near Kalagarh. The river Gandak originates near Tibet-Nepal border and merges with Ganga at Sonpur. The river Kosi originates near Sikkim, Nepal and Tibet border and meets Ganga near Bhagalpur. The river Ghaghara or Karnali is the second largest tributary of Ganga and it originates in Tibetan Plateau and merges with Ganga in Chhapra.
    • River Son originates from Amarkantak plateau and meets Ganga near Ramnagar. River Damodar, also called Sorrow of Bengal, rises in Chotanagpur plateau near Tori and merges with river Hooghly, which is one distributary of River Ganga. Near Giria, in West Bengal, Ganga splits into Hooghly and Padma rivers.
    • River Yamuna, the largest tributary of Ganga, originates in Yamunotri glacier and merges with Ganga at Prayagraj or Allahabad. Rivers like Chambal, Betwa, Sindh and Ken are the tributaries of river Yamuna.

    Brahmaputra River System

    • The source of river Brahmaputra is Manasarovar lake in Kailash ranges in Tibet and it flows for around 1200 km in Tibet. It is being called Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet. It is called Siang or Dihang in Arunachal Pradesh.
    • Just west of Sadiya town, Dihang river joins with Dibang and Lohit rivers and becomes Brahmaputra after entering Assam plains. The Brahmaputra enters the Bangladesh plains after turning southwards near Dhubri in Assam.
    • The Brahmaputra river splits in Bangladesh into two distributaries namely Jamuna and Old Brahmaputra. Jamuna river merges with Padma river and Old Brahmaputra river merges with Meghna river. Rivers Padma, Jamuna and Meghna form a composite delta in Bangadesh.
    • The main left bank tributaries of Brahmaputra are Lohit, Dibang, Dhansiri and Kolong rivers. The main right bank tributaries are Kameng, Manas, Teesta, Sankosh and Subansiri rivers.

    Indus River System

    • River Indus rises from a glacier very near to Bokhar Chu in the Kailash mountain range in the Tibetan region. It leaves the Himalayan hills at Attock, where it joins with Kabul river on it right bank.
    • Shyok, Gilgit, Shigar, Nubra, Hunza, Zaskar, Gasting, Dras are its Himalayan tributaries. Kurram, Tochi, Gomal and Sangar rivers are its right bank tributaries and most of the right bank tributaries originate in the Sulaiman ranges.
    • 80% of Indus basin is in Pakistan and only 20% of it is in India. Indus river acts as a boundary between India and Pakistan in some regions.
    • Chenab or Chandrabhaga is the largest tributary of Indus and is one of its left bank tributaries. It is formed by Chandra and Bhaga, which join together at Tandi near Keylong in Himachal Pradesh.
    • The other major left bank tributary rivers are (i) Beas, which joins Sutlej at Harike and which entirely lies within India, (ii) Ravi, (iii) Jhelum, which originates at Verinag and (iv) Sutlej, which originates at Rakshastal in Kailash Range and enters India through a Pass called Shipki La pass.
    • Sutlej comprises major Indus system in India. Bhakra and Nangal dams are on Sutlej river. The Indira Gandhi Canal starts out from Harike Barrage.
    • According to 1960 Indus Water Treaty, Pakistan has absolute rights on Indus, Jhelum and Chenab and India has absolute rights on Ravi, Beas and Sutlej. Baglihar project lies on Chenab river and the controversial Tulbul navigation project is on Jhelum river.