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Ganga & Yamuna River May 6, 2010

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The Ganga System India’s most important river system, it covers more than a fourth of the country’s total surface. The upper course of the Ganga is popularly known as Bhagirathi. The Gangotri glacier or Gomukh is considered as the source of this river. Another stream from the Alaka glaciers flowing southward is known as Alaknanda. The Ganga is formed by these two head streams when they meet at Devaprayag. The basin of the Ganga measuring about 838,200 sq km is the largest river basin in the country. The river flows for 2,510 km and drains 9,51,600 sq km. It has numerous large and small tributaries. The Ram Ganga, the Ghaghra, the Gandak and the Kosi are its major left bank tributaries while the Yamuna and the Son form the major right bank tributaries.

The Yamuna The Yamuna rises at the Yamunotri glacier, which is to the west of the Ganga source, at a height of 6,315 m. It flows towards the south up to Agra and farther down towards the south-east direction till it joins the Ganga at Allahabad. The Chambal, Sind, Betwa and Ken are its important tributaries. The length of the Yamuna is 1,376 km from its source to Allahabad. It drains 3,59,000 sq km of area. The Chambal rises near Mhow in the Vindhyan range and flows up to Kota towards north. After reaching Pinahat, it turns to the east and joins Yamuna river
in the southern part of the Etawah district. It has a length I
of 1,050 km. Its important left bank tributary is the Banas. I
The Sind, the Betwa and the Ken flow towards the north I and form many ravines in the Ganga plain.


The Beas, The Sutlej and The Saraswati April 15, 2010

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The Beas (Sanskrit name: Vipasa or Argikiya) It rises on the southern face of the Rohtang Pass in Kulu Hills not far from the source of the Ravi at a height of 4000 m. Barely 10 km from its source it passes through a gorge at Koti, which is a chasm about 6 m wide and 275 m long. It cuts through the Dhauladhar range by another gorge near Larji and then flows through Kulu, Mandi and Kangra. It finally passes Kapurthala and Amritsar and joins the ~utlej in the south-west corner of Kapurthala. It has a total length of 470 km and drains an area of 25,900 sq km.

The Sutlej (Sanskrit name: Satadru or Satudri) The most important of the Indus tributaries in India, the Sutlej rises from the Rakas lake in Tibet at a height of 4,630 m. Its name in Tibet is Langchen Khambab and it rises in the glacial springs of Dulchu Khambab, 35 km west of Parkha which is an important trading centre between Kailas and Mansarovar. In Tibet it has a very narrow basin .between the Giri river on the east and the Beas on the west whose beds are however at’ an elevation of 180 m to 215 m above the level of the Sutlej. The main tributary of the Sutlej is the Spiti river which drains a large area beyond the Central Himalayan Range. It also cuts deep into the rocks in the regions of Himachal Pradesh through which it flows. Even the Sutlej crosses the Dhauladhar range near Rampur through a narrow gorge. The river joins the Beas in the south-west corner of Kapurthala and the combined river joins the Indus near Mithankot. The total length of the Sutlej is about 1,050 km in India. The area drained by the river in India is 24,087 sq km.

The Saraswati The Saraswati rises in the Siwalik Hills of Sirmur on the borders of the Ambala district and enters the plains of Adhbadri. It disappears in the sands after passing by Bhawanipur and Balchhapar but reappears after a short distance, flowing through Karnal. The Ghaggar which also rises in the same region joins it at Rasula in Patiala after a course of 175 km. Farther on, the river is called the Hakra or Sotar. The Saraswati has been described in Vedic literature as a river greater even than the Indus and the Ganges.

Jhelum, The Chenab and Ravi April 8, 2010

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The Jhelum (Sanskrit: Vitasta) Rising in a spring of deep blue water at Seshanag at the head of its Lidar tributary, it flows for 110 km in a north-west direction and enters the Wular Lake. Its basin lies between the Great Himalayan Range and the Pir Panjal. Below Srinagar it is joined by the Sind river. From Baramula it flows through a narrow defile known as Basmangal, 2,130 m deep with very steep sides. After emerging from Jammu it flows past Pind Dadankheru and Bhera and is joined by the Chenab at Trimmu. The total length of the river is 725 km. 28,490 sq km of its total drainage area is in India. The Jhelum is an important river in Kashmir for it is the main waterway.

The Chenab (Sanskrit name: Asikni or Chandrabhaga) The largest of the Indus tributaries, its two tributaries at the source are Chandra and Bhaga which rise on the opposite sides of Baralacha Pass (4,880 m) in Lahul. The Chandra is a stream of good size though it flows through a snow- clad, barren, uninhabited country. The Bhaga is a precipitous stream. They join at Tandi and then flow through Chamba in a north-westerly direction for 160 km in the trough between the Great Himalaya and the Pir Panjal. Cutting a deep gorge in the Pir Panjal, it turns southwards and later to the west to enter the plains near Akhnur. The Chenab has a total length of 1,800 km in India. It drains an area of 26,755 sq km in India.

The Ravi (Sanskrit name: Parushni or lravati) The smallest river of the Punjab and well-known as the river of Lahore, it rises near Rohtang Pass in the Kulu hills of Himachal Pradesh. It drains the northern slopes of the Dhauladhar range and the southern slopes of Pir Panjal. It leaves the basin through an inaccessible gorge with perpendicular sides and flows through Chamba in a north­westerly direction parallel to the Dhauladhar range, cutting through that range a few kilometres to the north-west of Dalhousie. It leaves the mountains at Basaoli after a course of 210 km during which it drops by 4,570 m in altitude (22 m per km). It finally joins the Chenab in Pakistan. Its total length is 725 km. Its drainage spreads over 5,957 sq km in India.

The Indus System April 8, 2010

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The Indus System It is one of the world’s largest river systems. It comprises the following rivers.
The Indus (Sanskrit name: Sindhu) The Indus is the westernmost of the Himalayan rivers. It is one of the mightiest rivers of the world draining the glaciers and mountain slopes of many famous peaks like Masherbrum (7,821 m), Nanga Parbat (7,114 m), Rakaposhi (7,788 m), Tirich Mir (7,690 m) and receiving various great rivers as its tributaries. It has’ a total length of over 2,900 km (709 km in India) and the drainage basin is estimated to have an area of 117,884 sq km in India.

Rising in Tibet at a height of 5,000 m, it flows for about 290 km over a flat country along the inner (northern) flank of the Ladakh Range. Then it cuts across that range at Thangra and flows along the outer flank fur another 480 km. Near Skardu (altitude 2,610 m), it cuts the Ladakh Range again, resuming the general trend of its course on the other side. After circling round the Nanga Parbat (8,114 m) it flows south-west through Hazara towards the plains of the Punjab. It passes through Gut in Chitral and then traverses 200 km of the wild territory of Kohistan entering the North West Frontier Province near Darband. At Attock, 1,385 km from. the source and 1,515 km from the mouth, it receives the Kabul tributary flowing in from Afghanistan and then flows due south. Below Attock, the Haroh and Sohan (Soan) rivers join the Indus. It falls into the Arabian Sea near Karachi.

The chief tributaries of the Indus are the Zanskar which rises on the Zanskar Range and joins the Indus below Leh; the Dras River which comes from the northern side of Zojila Pass and the plains of Deosai; the Shyok which rises on the northern side of the Karakoram range and cuts across to the south and joins the Indus near Kiris; the Shigar which drains the southern slopes of K2 and the Biafo and Baltoro glaciers; and the Gilgit which rises behind and cuts through the Karakoram range


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1. Nile (Africa): The longest river, 6690 km; White Nile originates from Lake Albert in Uganda and Blue Nile from Ethiopia; the two join together at Khartoum in Sudan to form River Nile. After flowing through Egypt (the river’s longest course), it falls into the Mediterranean Sea near Alexandria.

2. Amazon (South America): Originates from the Andes Mountain in Peru; tributaries come from Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela; the river flows mainly through Brazil and falls into the Atlantic Ocean.

3. Yangtze Kiang (Asia): Rises in north-east Tibet; and flows mainly through China, draining into the East China Sea.

4. Mississippi-Missouri (North America): Mississippi rises in Lake Itasca in Minnesota state of USA; Missouri joins it at Saint Louis; together, they flow into the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans.

5. Mackenzie (North America): Rising in Great Slave Lake, it flows through Canada to Mackenzie Bay in the Arctic Ocean.

6. Mekong (Asia): Rises in Tibet, enters China through which it flows and later forms, for some distance, the borders between Thailand and Laos and falls into the South China Sea.

7. Niger (Africa): Rising near Sierra Leone, it crosses Niger and flows mainly through Nigeria and enters the Atlantic Ocean at the Gulf of Guinea.

8. Murray-Darling (Australia): Murray rises in the Australian Alps; Darling, its biggest tributary, joins it in the state of New South Wales. Both empty into the Indian Ocean at Encounter Bay.

9. Volga (Europe): Rises in Valdai Plateau north-west of Moscow, Russia, and enters the Caspian Sea at Astra khan.

10. Danube (Europe): Rises near Baden in Germany, flows through Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, crosses Romania and enters the Black Sea.

Rivers and Lakes March 31, 2010

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A river is a large stream of fresh water flowing downhill within a channel to enter another river or a lake or sea. All rivers ultimately receive their water from precipitation, though this relation is not a very simple one. The flow of a river depends upon three main factors: the amount and intensity of rainfall, governed by climatic factors; the permeability of the surface on which it is flowing; and the morphological properties of the drainage basin. The nature of the vegetation cover also plays an important role. When water flows in a stream, it is subject to two basic forces: gravity, aimed downstream and causing the flow; and frictional resistance between the water and the river bed. The effect of friction ensures an uneven velocity of water flow in the river. Thus, water near the centre moves the fastest while it is slow near the banks.


The place at which the river begins to flow is called its source. It may be in the melt waters of a glacier, e.g., the Rhone (France), or in a lake, e.g., the Nile (Africa), or in a spring, e.g., the Thames (England), or in a region of steady rainfall, e.g., the Zaire (Africa). The place where the river ends is called a river’s mouth. It is usually in the sea, e.g., the Indus (Arabian Sea) and the Amazon (Atlantic), although it may be in a lake, e.g., the Volga (Caspian), or in a salt swamp, e.g., the Chari River (Lake Chad) and the Tarim River (Lap Nor).

A mature river has three sections: (i) the upper course representing the stage of youth of a river, called the torrent stage; (ii) the middle course, representing the state of maturing called the valley stage, and (Hi) the lower course, representing the stage of old age and called the plain stage. In the stage of youth, the river flows turbulently in a narrow steep-sided valley whose floor is broken by (a) ‘potholes’ or circular depressions in the river bed, caused by pebbles,
(b) waterfalls, occurring where the bed of the river becomes suddenly steepened. Some deep and narrow valleys having very steep sides are called gorges. These are formed where a waterfall retreats upstream. The head waters of the Ganga have cut deep gorges in the Himalayas. The Indus Gorge in Kashmir is 5180 metres. Canyons are large gorges, formed in dry regions where large rivers are actively eroding vertically. A canyon is a deep valley with steep, near vertical sides. River Colorado has cut a gorg~ 1.6 km (1 mile) deep and 480 km (300 miles) long into the Colorado plateau (USA).

As the valley widens, meanders are formed. A meander is a loop. in the course of a river channel. Water flows in corkscrew manner, causing erosion on the concave bank and deposition on the convex bank.
In the mature stage form the flood plains-low lying land composed of deposits of sediment (alluvium). Mean­ders migrating downstream cause widening of the valley. Ox-bow lakes are produced by cut-offs in a meander during floods.

Reaching old age, the river deposits its load into the sea or lake into which it flows. The deposited load some­times collects in the river mouth, where it builds up into a low-lying swampy plain called a delta. The river divide~ into several channels due to the depositions at its mouth, called distributaries. Arcuate deltas are formed by coarse sediments like gravel and sand and are triangular in shape, having many distributaries, e.g., in Rivers Ganga, Indus, Nile, Niger, Hwang-Ho. Bird’s foot deltas are composed of very fine sediments, having few distributaries with clearly defined channels, like the Mississippi delta. An estuarine delta develops in the mouth of a submerged river, e.g., deltas of Elbe (Germany) and Ob (Russia).

A river does three types of work: it erodes, and most erosion takes place in the upper course; it transports: a process dominant in the middle course; and it deposits: depositional process is dominant in the lower course of the river. A river’s ability to work, Le., to erode and transport material, depends upon its energy. Potential energy is provided by weight and the elevation of water. This is converted into downflow by gravity and thus into kinetic energy. However, about 95 per cent of this energy is lost due to frictional resistance.