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THE HIMALAYAN RIVER SYSTEMS


Published on: 12/14/2020 5:57:54 AM

The rivers originating from the Himalayas consist of the following three systems:

(i) The Indus Drainage System

This system comprises of the Indus river and its five main tributaries-the Jhelum, the Chenab, the Ravi, the Beas and the Sutlej.

The Indus: It originates from a glacier near Bokhar Chu 31°15 N latitude and 81°40'E longitude in Tibetan region at an altitude of 4164 m in Kailash Mountain range. In Tibet it is known Singi Khamban' or Lion's mouth. It flows west and north-westwards and enters Indian territory in Jammu and Kashmir. The river forming a spectacular gorge in this reach pierces the Kailash range several times. It flows through Ladakh, Baltistan and Gilgit. The Indus receives a large number of the Himalayan tributaries, both on its right and left bank. The main tributaries are the Shyok, the Gilgit, the Zaskar, the Hunza, the Nubara, the Shigar etc. It finally emerges out of the hills at Attock where it receives the Kahul river on its right bank. The other important tributaries joining the right bank are the Khurram, the Tochi, the Gomal, the Viboa and the Sangar. All these tributaries originate in the Sulaiman range. The river flows south-ward and receives Punjnad a little above Mithankot. Punjnad is the name given to rivers of Punjab namely the Jhelum, the Chenab, the Ravi, the Beas and the Sutlej. It finally discharges in the Arabian Sea east of Karachi. The Indus flows in India through Jammu and Kashmir only. With a total length of 2,880 kilometres, the Indus is considered as one of the largest rivers of the world. It has a catchment area of 1,165,000 sq. km of which only 321,290 sq. km lies within India. India can utilise a total amount of 4,195 million cubic metres (only 20 per cent) out of its total discharge under the regulations of the Indus Water Treaty signed with Pakistan.

The Jhelum: It rises in a spring at Verinag situated in the south-eastern part of the Vale of Kashmir. It flows northwards from its source to Wular Lake and further down south-westwards until it enters a gorge cut by this river in the Pir Panjal Range. It turns to the north-west below Uri and to the south below Muzaffarabad and continues until Mangla is reached. Between Muzaffarabad and Mangla, it runs roughly along the Indo-Pakistan border. It joins the Chenab near Jhang in Pakistan.

The Chenab: The Chenab of Jammu and Kashmir state is known as the Chandrabhaga in Himachal Pradesh. Chandrabhaga flows north-westwards and runs parallel to the Pir Panjal Range for some distance. Near Kishtwar, it cuts a deep gorge in the Pir Panjal Range and turns southwards and flows in this direction for a short distance. Further down, it turns to the west and enters the plain area near Akhunur.

The Ravi: The source of this river lies near the Rohtang Pass. It flows to the north-west from its place of origin and drains the area lying between the south-eastern part of the Pir Panjal Range and the Dhaoladhar Range. Some distance below Chamba, it turns to the south-west, cuts a gorge in the Dhaoladhar Range and enters the Punjab Plain near Madhopur. It being a part of Indo-Pakistan boundary, the river has some strategic significance. It joins the Chenab near Multan in Pakistan. Its total length is 720 km.

The Beas: It originates from a place known as Beas Kund, near the Rohtang Pass. In its early stage, it runs from north to south past Manali and Kulu where its valley is popularly known as the Kulu Valley. It crosses the Dhaoladhar Range through a deep gorge. Further down, it turns to the west and enters the Punjab Plain near Talwara. After entering the plain, it turns to the south-west and joins the Satluj near Harike after flowing for a distance of 615 km.

The Satluj: It originates from Rakas Lake which is situated at an altitude of 4,630 metres in Tibet. This lake is connected with Manasarowar Lake by a stream. It follows north-westwards and enters Himachal Pradesh at the Shipki La Pass. Further down, it flows westwards. It cuts deep gorges where it pierces the Himalayan ranges. Before entering the Punjab Plains, it cuts a deep gorge where Bhakhra Dam has been constructed. Below Roopnagar (Rupar), it turns to the west. Beas, its right-bank tributary, joins it at Harike. Its total length is 1,440 kms. During its onward journey it receives the collective water of the Ravi, Chenab and Jhelum rivers and joins the Indus a few kilometres above Mithankot in Pakistan.

(ii) The Ganga Drainage System

This river system includes the Ganga and its tributaries like the Yamuna, the Gomti, the Ghaghara, the Gandak, the Ramganga, the Mahaganga and the Kosi, etc. All these rivers originate in the Himalayas.

The Ganga: It rises in Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand at an altitude of 6,600 metres. The river acquires its name after its head-streams-Alaknanda and Bhagirathi unite at Devaprayag. Flowing west south-westwards the Ganga debouches from the hills near Haridwar. The total length of the Ganga is 2,525 kms, out of which 2,415 km is in India. Rest of the Ganga measuring 110 km is in Bangladesh. The total area of the Ganga basin in India alone is 8,61,404 sq. kms. Beyond Farakka, it flows east-south-eastward into Bangladesh where it is known as Padma. Before falling into Bay of Bengal, the Padma receives the Brahmaputra which is known as Jamuna and Meghna here.

The Yamuna: It is the right-bank tributary of the Ganga and it takes its rise at the Yamunotri Glacier at 3,965 m. After cutting a deep gorge across the Lesser Himalaya, it flows towards the south-west and enters the Ganga Plain near Tajewala. It flows towards the south upto Agra and further down in the southeast direction till it joins the Ganga at Allahabad. The length of Yamuna from its source to Allahabad is about 1,375 kms.

The Ghaghara: The Ghaghara's head-water is the Karnali. It is of trans-Himalayan origin and crosses the western part of the Nepal Himalayas through deep and narrow gorges. It joins the Ganga near Chhapra. It often shifts its course.

The Gandak: It rises near Sino-Nepal boundary and drains the central part of Nepal. After entering Champaran district of Bihar, it turns to the south-east and joins the left bank of the Ganga at Sonpur. Like the Ghaghara, it often changes its course and is notorious for its floods.

The Kosi: It drains eastern Nepal and enters Saharsa district of Bihar in numerous channels. The river is notorious for shifting its course, depositing silt and causing floods. It joins the left bank of the Ganga at Karagola.

(iii) The Brahmaputra Drainage System

It originates from Chemayungdung Glacier located about 100 kms. south-east of Manasarowar Lake. It runs for about a distance of about 1,250 kms in the north of Himalayas in a direction parallel to it. It is known as Tsang Po in Tibet. It takes a southward turn near Namcha Barwa and enters Arunachal Pradesh as Dihang river. It flows in a westerly direction upto Dhubri. After this, it takes a southern turn and enters Bangladesh. There it joins with Ganga and forms the world's largest delta. Like the Indus, it is an example of antecedent drainage. Its total length is 2,900 kms. Several tributaries join this river. Important right bank tributaries are Sabansiri, Bhareli, Manas and left-hand tributaries are Dibang, Luhit, Buri Dihing and Dhansiri. These tributaries bring a large quantity of water and the Brahmaputra channel becomes 8 km wide during rainy season. It causes frequent floods.

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