The Natural Drainage System of India

India is a land of rivers. Both the 400 small and big rivers found here are divided into 200 small and 23 large river basins. In both the river systems there are differences in water levels and the drainage patterns. The water in India drains in two directions. While ninety percent of the water flows into the Bay of Bengal, the rest of it drains into the Arabian Sea.

The 3 categories of the Indian Drainage system are:

  • Major River basin:

There are 13 major river basins in area with a catchment area up to 20000 sq. km and more. Of the total run off, among all the rivers, it accounts for about 83%.

  • Medium River Basin

There are 45 medium river basins in India with catchment area of 2000-20000 and more. Of the total run off among all the rivers, it accounts for 8%.

  • Minor River Basin

 There are 55 minor river basins in India. Of the total run off among all the rivers it accounts for 9%.

The Indian drainage system can be noted as the peninsular drainage and the Himalayan drainage on the basis of physiographic origin. Comprising the river basin areas of the Brahmaputra, the Ganga and the Indus, is the Himalayan drainage system. They are V shaped valleys, perennial and have depositional features similar to the Deltas.

Most of the rivers in the Himalayas are ancient as compared to Himalayas itself. They cut across the Himalayas. In comparison, the Peninsular Rivers are much older and include a number of rivers which follow the fault valley or gradient and are superimposed in nature. Unlike the Himalayan drainage, their course is fixed and is meander free.

The Brahmaputra, a trans-boundary river also called the Tsangpo, flows through Bangladesh, India and Tibet. Along with Ganga it forms the world’s largest delta. The River Brahmaputra is called Jamuna in Bangladesh and Sikiang in Arunachal Pradesh. Important tributaries of the Brahmaputra are Manas, Subansiri, Dhansiri, Teesta, Kameng, Lohit, Dibang, etc.

The River Indus flows through the Zaskar and Ladakh range. The right bank tributary of Indus is Gilgit.

The River Ganga makes an entry at Haridwar, into the plains. In the Avadh Plain, the river has more tributaries while in the Rohilkhand Plain it has lesser tributaries. The Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers, meet this river at Devprayag after which it takes the name of River Ganga.

In Pensinsular India, the Cauvery, Mahanadi, Krishna and Godavari rivers flow towards the East. The Kalinadi, Narmada, Mahi, Tapi and other small rivers flow towards the West.

The Cauvery River is the only Indian perennial river connecting Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. A quadrilateral delta is formed by this river at its mouth.

The Mahanadi River emerges from Sihawa North foot hills of Dandakarnaya. The Godavari emerges near Nashik from the Trimbak Plateau of North Sahyadri. It makes a boundary between Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

The Krishna River rises in the Western Ghat from the North of Mahabaleshwar. It forms the second largest Indian delta, along with the Godavari. The Koleru Lake is located in this delta.

Narmada and Tapi, the West flowing rivers, flow though rift valleys. Narmada flows between the Satpura and Vindhya range, while the Tapi emerges in the Betul Plateau near Multai and flow between Ajanta-Satamala and Satpura hills. Medha, Luni, Rupnarain, Ghaggar rivers etc have inland drainage.

2.Drainage Patterns

When water flows through a well-defined channel, it is termed as Drainage. A drainage system is a network of various well-defined channels. Pattern of drainage in a particular area is determined by nature, slope, geological time period, topography, structure of rocks, etc.

History of the world has been shaped by major role played by Rivers. It was in the river valleys that civilizations during the early years came up. The most significant aids in development and growth of civilizations and culture in the Indian subcontinent have been rivers. From the point of view of trade and religious instruction, a huge number of cities came up on river banks. Water for growing crops for trade as well as for consumption was used from the rivers. Fertility of plains developed with new soil brought down by the rivers, year after year. A huge number of industrial towns and trade centers developed along the banks of rivers besides which they proved to be a vital route for water transport.

Two main systems are followed by rivers of India, namely the rivers of the Peninsular India and rivers of the Northern Plain. In the Northern Plains, the rivers emerge in the Himalayas and further. Rivers in the Northern Plains do not rely on the monsoons for their water flow. Snow melts in the Himalayas during the summer season and keep the rivers flowing.

The Indus River System

Five rivers, the Ravi, Jhelum, Satluj, Beas and Chenab comprise the Indus river system. The Indus River emerges from beyond the Himalayan middle range. It flows in a north-westerly direction, through Tibet. It gets its water from the five rivers, after which it joins the Arabian Sea.

India and Pakistan had a conflict about the sharing of rivers waters, during the partition of India. An agreement was arrived at to share waters of the Sutlej, Chenab and Jhelum.

The Ganga River System

The 2500 km long Ganga River System emerges in the Himalayas from the Gangotri glacier at a height of about 6000 meters. More water is carried by the system as compared to the 6 peninsular rivers in combination. It flows past terrains in mountains after which it enters the Haridwar plains. Presence of the canal network and the river system has made Punjab agriculturally prosperous. A number of tributaries join the Ganga during its flow eastwards, thus making it swell. One of the most important tributary is the Yamuna rising from the Yamunotri glacier in the Himalayas. The Yamuna and Ganga join at Allahabad. To the north of the Ganga are important tributaries namely the Kosi, Gomti, Gandak and Ghagra. The tributaries of Yamuna, which is Betwa and Chambal provide water to the Ganga. Ganga flows from the Farakka Barrage downstream, to join the Bay of Bengal. The mainstream of Ganga is formed by five headstreams, Alaknanda, Pindar, Bhagirathi, Dhauliganga and Mandakini.

The Brahmaputra River System

The Brahmaputra River emerges from a glacier located southeast of the Mansarovar on the Western side of Tibet. Better known as Tsangpo it then turns southwards into the territory of India. It joins Ganga’s eastern most branch in Bangladesh. No other river in India has greater discharge than the Brahmaputra River. It is 1.5 km wide in Assam at Guwahati and the level of water rises by 5 meters during the monsoons.

In Peninsular India, the rivers are grouped into 3 main systems of drainage. Rivers Sone, Batwa and Chambal flow towards the Northern Plain. Rivers Kaveri, Mahanadi, Krishna and Godavari flow into the Bay of Bengal and Rivers Tapti and Narmada flow into the Arabian Sea.

Few rivers in Western Rajasthan have no outlet into the sea and hence are short lived. They move towards the individual salt lakes and basins. Some rivers get lost in the sands. River Loni is one exception that flows into the Rann of Kutch.

3.River Basins of India

While developing and planning water resources the basic hydrological unit is the river basin. There are a number of small and large river basins / draining area in India. Out of these there are 13 major river basins in India having a catchment area of 20000 km2 and above. There rivers have a catchment area of 25.3 lakh km2.

Glaciers in the Himalayas in India are broadly divided into 3 river basins namely the Ganga, Indus and Brahmaputra. Glaciers in largest numbers amounting to 3500 are present in the Indus basin. The Brahmaputra and Ganga basins have around 660 to 1000 glaciers respectively.

The largest river basin is the Ganga basin which is a part of the Ganges-Brahmaputra basin. This basin drains in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Tibet to about 1086,000 square kilometers. The Ganges-Brahmaputra divide is formed by the lower parallel ranges or Himalaya, to the north. The Aravalli ridge and Indus Basin is bordered by the Ganges Basin on the west. Chota Nagpur Plateau and the Vindhyas are the Southern limits. Through a multiplex system of distributaries in the Bay of Bengal, the Brahmaputra and Ganges merge on the east. Catchment of the Ganges basin lies in Bhutan, Uttar Pradesh, Nepal, Madhya Pradesh, the whole of Bangladesh, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and West Bengal. This basin is the most populated across the world, with a population of more than five hundred million.

The basin comprises of mountains with thick forests, semi arid valleys, fertile Gangetic Plains and the Shiwalik foothills. Towards south of the Gangetic Plains are the Central highlands having mountains, hills and plateaus with river plains and valleys intersecting them. Clay, silty clay, loam, sandy loam, sand etc are various soils found in the Ganges Basin. Due to low and high flows both, the basin faces issues related to water.

The Indus Basin

The Indus River originates in Tibet from Mount Kailash and is the one of the longest and mightiest rivers across the globe. This river with a length of 3,199 km and catchment area of 1,65,500 km2 bisects Pakistan’s physical territory longitudinally. It is called the Upper Indus from its origin to the Guddu Barrage in Pakistan. It is known as the Lower Indus downstream from the Barrage. On the north the basin is bound by the Haramosh and Karakoram ranges, on the west by the Kirthar and Sulaiman ranges, on the east by the Himalayas and on the south by the Arabian Sea. Afghanistan, Tibet, Pakistan and India are countries under this river. In India its drainage area is 321,289 km2, in Pakistan it is 692,700 km2 and in China and Afghanistan it is 15,100 km2.

In India the Indus Basin lies in the Rajasthan, Union Territory of Chandigarh, States of Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. The Indus River travels for about 2880 km and falls into the Arabian Sea. In India its length is 1114 km. In this region the rainfall is not very high and falls only from July to September in the monsoon season. Main input for the river is the glacier and snow melt water. The Indus has a number of channels and is braided as it reaches lower. Through the arid plains the level of evaporation is high where it flows slowly. It concludes in a delta which includes many mangroves which are a vital resource for fishermen, in maintaining biodiversity and for wild life.

The Brahmaputra Basin

The Brahmaputra Basin is made up of parts of Bangladesh, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and India. It consists of the Brahmaputra and the Ganges and emerges from the Barak River in India and Tibet and flows for a distance of 1800 miles. The rivers join as the Meghna River in Bangladesh and then flow into the Bay of Bengal. Starting in Tibet as the Tsangpo River, it flows 704 miles eastwards. It bends at the Shuomatan Point and crosses the Assam Valley to enter India. It flows south to exit through Bangladesh at the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta and ends into the Bay of Bengal.

Millions of people including farmers depend on the Brahmaputra Basin for their animals and crops. Economy in the regions where this river flows is to a large extent agricultural based.

4.The Multiple River Theory

As per a theory it is assumed by E.H. Pascoe that a huge river called the Indo-Brahm flowed to Punjab and Sind, from Assam. It is thought that the Brahmaputra and Indus as of today are split parts of this huge river. E.G. Pilgrim named this river as the Shiwalik River. As per his assumption, the Shiwalik hills in present day times are occupied by the primitive river. In 1919, based on the assumption that deposition of the Shiwalik occurred along this huge river, a comprehensive and elaborate hypothesis was presented by Pilgrim and Pascoe.

During the Tertiary period movements took place in the earth, leading to the existence of the river. It is a belief that this river is a descendant of the Himalayan Sea. A gulf extended to Afghanistan from Sind, in the Eocene Epoch after which through Kohat, it extended both eastwards and south-eastwards and through Punjab and Kohat to the vicinity of Nainital.

This great master stream got its place in this gulf. Part of the Brahmaputra was its headwater and flowed first westward along Himlayan foothills and then north-westward towards western Punjab. Then it moved southward along the modern Indus river coast and then flowed into the Arabian Sea.

As per the theory, thereon, this great river partitioned into systems and sub-systems, including the Indus, the 5 tributaries of the Indus in Punjab, the Ganga and its tributaries in the Himalayas and Brahmaputra stretch in Assam and its Himalayan tributaries.

Two events resulted in the partitioning. One event was that the tributaries of the Indobrahma River eroded head-wards and the other was turbulence, the Potwar Platueau in the Pleistocene age and in the western Himalayas. This act of dividing or partiioning, led to the existence of the Indus and its tributaries, the Indobrahma River, the Brahmaputra and its tributaries and the Ganga and its tributaries. It is assumed that the tributary of Indus was the Yamuna.

Origin Of Rivers In The Himalayas

Lengthy perennial rivers originate from the Himalayas in Northern India. The sources of water for these rivers are snow melt as well as rainfall. However the rivers have one common feature and that variation in their water-flow depending upon seasons.

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The Ganga, the Indus and the Brahmaputra are the three major and important Himalayan Rivers. Numerous cities and towns have settled along their river banks.

Glaciers up on the mountains melt down to form these rivers. It is from the Gangotri Glacier, in Uttarkhand that the Ganga or the Ganges, originates. Water vapors at the Himalayan Mountains freeze into ice due to high atmospheric pressure. In summer the ice melts due to heat, becomes water and flows down as rivers into plain areas.

5.River Systems Of The Himalayan Drainage

Existence of a number of rivers in the Himalayas is seen much before the Himalayan ranges were uplifted. Origin of the rivers is seen beyond the Himalayas, in Tibet. Geological history of the drainage system in the Himalayas is long. The drainage system of the Himalayan range includes the Ganga River, the Brahmaputra River and the Indus. Deep gorges were caused by the rivers, including gorges of the Kosi, Indus, Gandak, Alakhnanda, Satluj and many more. The rivers can be termed as antecedent rivers as they prove to be older than the Himalayan Mountains.

How the Drainage system in the Himalayas evolved

Million years ago, during the Miocene period, the Indo-Brahma, also called Shiwalik was a huge river that made its journey along the whole longitudinal length of the Himalayas. It flowed right from Assam to Punjab, then Sind and then dispensed near lower Punjab into the Gulf of Sind.

This viewpoint is supported by the lacustrine origin of the Shiwalik and its exceptional continuity and deposits of alluvial soil containing conglomerates, different types of sand, boulders, clay and silt.

Dismembering of the Himalayan Rivers took place into 3 main systems, namely the Ganga River system, the Indus River system and the Brahmaputra River system. The Pleistocene upheaval caused the uplifting of the Delhi Ridge also called the Potwar Plateau as well as the dismemberment in the western part of the Himalayas. This dismemberment acted as the water divide between the Ganga and the Indus drainage systems.

During the mid-Pleistocene period the area between the Meghalaya Plateau and the Rajmahal hills called the Malda gap, after a down-thrust rerouted the Brahmaputra and the Ganga River systems to flow down towards the Bay of Bengal.

Characteristics of the Rivers

Rivers of the Ganga, Indus and Brahmaputra River systems are perennial and fed by precipitation and melting snow, both.

Floodplains, deltas, flat valleys, braided channels and ox-box lakes are the depositional features formed by these rivers, near the river mouth while entering the plains. In their mountainous path, they also form waterfalls, rapids and V-shaped valleys, besides deep gorges. Along with the Himalayan uplift the rivers flow through huge gorges that are carved out by the activity of erosion.

The rivers become extremely twisty and curvy in the Himalayan reaches. However a tendency of strong meandering is displayed by them over the plains and frequency of shifting courses also increases.

The Indus River system with a total length of 2900 km. comprises of the river itself and its five tributaries including the Satluj, Saraswati, Chenab, Beas, Ravi and Jhelum.

The 2525 km. long Ganga River system comprises of the river itself and its tributaries, the Yamuna, the Chambal, the Sharda, the Gomti, the Ramganga, the Gandak, the Son, the Damodar, the Kosi, the Ghaghra and the Mahananda.

The 2700 kms long Brahmaputra River System comprises of the river itself and its tributaries, including the Dihing, the Tista, the Buri, the Subansiri, the Dhansiri, the Manas and the Barali.

6.Main Rivers of Peninsular India

Peninsular India has a number of main rivers, including the Indus River, Ganga, Brahmaputra, Narmada, Yamuna, Godavari, Tapi, Kaveri, Krishna and Mahanadi.

The Indus River

The Indus River originates in Tibet and flows in a north-westerly course near Lake Manasarovar Lake in the northern slopes of the Kailash range. In Jammu and Kashmir it enters India forming one of the most impressive ravines. In Kashmir a number of tributaries including the Hunza, Zaskar, Nubra and Shyok join it. Both in Pakistan and India, the Indus has many tributaries. Total length of the river is 2897 km right from Karachi, its source and flows into the Arabian Sea. The Chenab, Jhelum, Beas, Sutlej and Ravi and the main tributaries of the Indus.

The Ganga River

The Ganga River originates at a height of around 4100 meters above sea level in the Garhwal Himalayas rising from the Gangotri Glacier. At the point of confluence, at Dev Prayag, the Alakhnanda and Mandakini the other two streams join. Ganga River is the combination of this combined stream. The Gomati, Sapt Kosi, Yamuna, Damodar, Ram Ganga, Son and Ghaghara are main tributaries of the Ganga. Right from its source, Ganga River flows a distance of 2525 km and flows into the Bay of Bengal.

The Brahmaputra River

The Brahmaputra, a source of the Satulu and Indus, originates in Lake Manasarovar. As compared to the Indus it is a bit longer, flows parallel to the Himalayas, eastwards. It takes a U-turn at Namcha Barwa and makes an entry as Dihang in Arunachal Pradesh. Many tributaries join this river which flows through Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

The 1289 km long Narmada River is a major river in central India and is also called the Nerbudda. It originates in Madhya Pradesh in the Amarkantak summit and forms a traditional boundary between South India and North India. It runs from east to west and flows first among the Mandla Hills, then Jabalpur, then the Narmada Valley between the Satpura and Vindhya ranges after which it continues its course to the Gulf of Cambay. It empties itself into the Arabian Sea in Gujarat in Bharuch district.

The Yamuna River

The 6387 km Yamuna River originates in Uttarkhand and extends to the states of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and the entire union territory of Delhi. Ken, Hindon, Betwa, Sind and Chambal are the main tributaries joining this river.

The Godavari River

The 1450 km Godavari River is also called the Dakshin Ganga or the Vriddh Ganga. Within India it is one river having the second largest course. It rises near Nashik in Trimbakeshwar in Maharashtra, flows through states of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Karnataka and then into the Bay of Bengal. Splitting into 2 streams at Rajahmundry it then forms a fertile delta. Sabari, Indravati, Bindusara and Manjira are some of its tributaries.

Tapi River

The Tapi with a length of 724 km. runs from east to west in Central India. It originates in Madhya Pradesh in the eastern Satpura Range, flows westwards to the east Vidharbha, Khandesh, northwest side of the Deccan Plateau and South Gujarat and then flows into the Arabian Sea at the Gulf of Cambay.

The Cauveri River

Also called the Dakshin Ganga, the Cauveri River has its headwaters in the Western Ghats of Karnataka, then flows through Tamil Nadu and into the Bay of Bengal. For centuries, this river has supported agriculture, irrigation in modern cities and ancient kingdoms in Southern India. Amaravati, Shimsha, Noyyal, Hemavati, Bhavani, Arkavathy, Lakshmana Tirtha, Lokapavani, Kabini, Kapila, and Honnuhole are its many tributaries.

The Krishna River

The Krishna River with a length of about 1300 km originates in Maharashtra near Mahabaleshwar. It flows through Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and meets the sea in the Bay of Bengal. Besides Tungabhadra River, its most important tributary, its other tributaries are Yerla, Dudhganga, Koyna Musi, Bhima, Dindi, Mallaprabha, Warna and Ghataprabha rivers.

The Mahanadi River

The Mahanadi River with a length of 851 km. is the third largest river in India. It originates in the Bastar Hills close to the Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh boundary and flows through the Eastern Ghats, the adjoining areas after which it flows into different branches into the Bay of Bengal. Nuagarh (Devi estuary) and Paradip are 2 main branches of this river.

 7.Easterly Rivers of the Peninsular Region

The Mahanadi, Krishna and Godavari are the 3 main easterly flowing rivers of Peninsular India.

The Mahanadi River

The Mahanadi River originates in Raipur District of Chhattisgarh in the northern foothills of the Dandakaranya. It is surrounded on the south by the Eastern Ghats, to the north by the Central India hills and on the west by the Maikala range. With a length of 900 kms, it expands over Odisha, Chattisgarh and smaller regions of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Jharkhand. Agricultural land covers a major part of this basin. In India this river is most active in depositing silt. On entering Odisha near Cuttack it then flows into the Bay of Bengal. The right bank tributaries of the Mahanadi River include the Jonk, Tel and Ong, while the left bank tributaries include the Ib, Mand, Hasdeo and Seonath. Important industries in this river basin are aluminum factories, paper mills, iron and steel plants and textile and sugar mills. Other industrial activities are mining of manganese, iron and coal.\

The Godavari River

India’s largest river system is the Godavari, extending over Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and smaller regions of Union territory of Puducherry, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. Also called the Dakshina Ganga, this        1465 km long river originates in Nashik district of Maharashtra at Trimbakeshwar. It is surrounded on the north by the Mahadeo hills and the Ajanta range, the Satmala hills, on the west by the Western Ghats and on the south by the Eastern Ghats.

Right bank tributaries of the Godavari are Maner, Pravara, Peddavagu, Manjira and Mula. Left bank tributaries of the river include Indravati, Dharna, Sabari, Penganga, Wardha, Kanhan, Wainganga, Pench and Pranahita. This river basin is enriched in metallic minerals, granites, phyllites, amphiboles, quartzites and sediments. Automobile, oil and sugar extraction, rice milling, weaving, engineering and cement and cotton spinning are some of the major industries in the Godavari basin. Due to flat topography, drainage congestion is faced by delta areas here. While Marathwada is a drought prone area in Maharashtra, the coastal areas are prone to cyclones.

The Krishna River

The Krishna River originates near Jor village in Satara, Maharashtra and has its outfall into the Bay of Bengal. India’s second largest east flowing river with a length of 1400 km, is the Krishna River. Bound on the east and south by the Eastern Ghats, on the north by the Balaghat range and on the west by the Western Ghats, it extends over Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. Agricultural land covers most part of this river basin.

Left bank tributaries of the river include the Munneru, Musi and Bhima, while the right bank tributaries are the Tungabhadra, Malprabha and Ghatprabha. The Krishna basin is rich in mineral deposits and oil. Rice milling, extraction of sugar cane vegetable oil, cement and iron and steel are some of the important industries flourishing here. Some parts of the basin are drought prone while others face cyclonic rainfall and flooding.

8. Shifting Courses of the Rivers

In the drainage area in the Himalaya, one phenomenon that is typical and common is the shifting of river courses and river capturing. In the Himalayan hilly range, a common feature is the head-ward erosion of rivers. In this process the river joins a neighboring stream and captures its water. Mild slope and topography of the Great Plains cause rivers to meander or change their courses. An important role is also played by movements of the earth in river shifting.

A typical example of shifting rivers is the ancient Saraswati river. In its initial course it descended from the Himalayas, passed Churu and shifted towards the west gradually, only to join the Satluj near Ahmadpur. A tributary of the Ganga River captured its upper course later, leading to dryness in its lower course and birth of the Yamuna River. In Rajasthan, Saraswati River’s dry valley is seen even today.

During the historical past, shifting of rivers has also been seen in Punjab. Records indicate that the Indus River flowed more than 130 km east of the course it presently flows. Gradually the Indus River shifted towards the west and continues this course till today.

The Jhelum and Chenab joined the Indus near Ouch during Akbar’s reign. However, presently the confluence of these rivers is around 100 km downstream of the old place, near Mithankot.

In Assam and Bengal too there are a number of examples of rivers shifting their courses. Along the Ganga river bank was located the city of Gaur which flourished for 7 centuries as capital of the Pala dynasty of Kings. During its course, it took a westerly shift, leaving the city deserted.

Another example is of the Multan River which earlier was located alongside the Ravi River, but as of today it is located 60 km south of its convergence with the Chenab River.

The Ganga River has shifted its course in the Bengal Delta. It was through the Hugli River that its main current flowed and then at Sagar Island, it met the sea. As of today it passes Bangladesh, joins the Meghna and Jamuna River later on to merge with the Bay of Bengal.

The Beas River is known to have changed its course two and a half centuries ago, traces of which are found between the Multan and Montgomery River after which it joined the Satluj River near Sultanpur.

The Brahmaputra River, around two and a half centuries ago flowed through the Mymensingh and released waters into the Meghna River. However it straightened its course in due time, joined the Ganga River and formed Jamuna, a new stream. Along the old course a weak channel of the Brahmaputra still flows. Between 172—1830 AD a 30m rise took place causing this change in course of the river.

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The Jamuna River appears to have shifted its course southwards in the middle and upper Ganga Plain as evident by the development of many ox box lakes north of its left bank. Frequent changes are seen it North Bengal’s Tista River.

9.Saraswati – The Mystery of a Lost River

The Saraswati River has extraordinary significance for India. In India, in the months of January – February, Saraswati Pooja is performed during Basant Panchami. The beautiful idol of Saraswati, the goddess of learning knowledge is decorated and worshipped in India.

Economy bustled during the Indus-Saraswati Civilization in Harappa, Mohen-jo-daro and Lothal. Principles of prosperity and democracy were followed in this urban society during earliest times. Industries flourished especially the jewelry industry and jewelry with intricate designs was exported to faraway lands. Good drainage and water supply systems, along with around 60-80 thousand skilled jewelry makers thrived in each and every city in the region. However this civilization died out around 4000 years ago. Researchers indicated that a tectonic movement of earth layers or a huge earthquake took place making the Saraswati River change its path towards the east. Due to this, some of the waters pooled into lakes in Gujarat state or vanished into the Rajasthan deserts and into the Rann of Kutch. The civilization which depended upon water for living and trade, moved to the Yamuna and Ganga River’s fertile plains. In place of an industrial community it became an agricultural community.

Intermittent pools and streams and ancient basins of the Saraswati River that flowed to Gulf of Cambay, from the Himalayas, have been tracked by researchers and archeologists. Remains of water canals have been re-dug and excavations done, besides satellite tracking of Saraswati River’s underground waters and streams that remain have been done by researchers.

Many facts about the river have been brought to light. Saraswats, a highly cultured community lived on the banks of Saraswati River. After the vanishing of the river, the community spread to different states, including Goa, Bengal, Kerala, Kashmir, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. This community still worships the lost rivers as their goddess of wisdom, learning and knowledge as part of their ancient culture.

It is a well known fact that waters of the Saraswati, Yamuna and Ganga River join in Prayag, to make the holy Triveni Sangam. It was in the Himalayas in the Yamdhar Glacier that the Saraswati River rose, around 5 kms from the sources of the Ganga and Yamuna. It flowed in the Doon Valley as a beautiful stream, then through Uttaranchal, Haryana and Sirsa and Anupgarh, Suratgarh and Hanumangarh in Rajasthan. After passing through Kutch, south west Rajasthan and south-east Pakistan’s border, the river’s left arm flowed through Gujarat, to empty into the Gulf of Cambay.

Though, the Saraswati is lost today, it has been the key to India’s golden age culture, holding together the beads of the country’s civilization and culture.

No wonder Saraswati River is called the mother of prosperity, ‘River Dharini’and the ‘Mother of Indian Culture’.

10.Types of Lakes

A lake is a vast water body surrounded by land. Classification of lakes depends upon water quality (saltwater or freshwater) or the way they were formed. No life exists in saltiest lakes. As compared to rivers, the freshwater present in lakes, is four times more. However if freshwater is not continuously present in lakes, then through the process of sediment accumulation or desiccation, they could disappear.

Floods are prevented by rivers by river flow regulation. Even flow of a river is maintained by a lake during dry seasons. Hydel power is also generated with the help of lakes.

In India, different, lakes of different types, characteristics and sizes are found. While some of the lakes contain water during the monsoon season only, other lakes are permanent ones. Some lakes are created by activities of humans while many others are formed by the action of ice sheets and glaciers. Lakes are also formed by the action of rivers and wind.

Freshwater Or Natural Lakes

Fresh water lakes are also called Glacial lakes. Many of the freshwater lakes of glacier origin are found in the Himalayan region. When glaciers dig out a basin, they are filled in later with snow melt, in the process to form freshwater lakes. In India, the largest freshwater lake is the Wular Lake located in Jammu and Kashmir. Bhimtal, Barapani, Dal, Loktak and Nainital are the other freshwater lakes.

Salt Water Lakes

Salt water lakes or lagoons like the Kolleru Lake, Pulicat Lake and Chilika Lake are formed by spit and bars. At times, inland drainage is also another way in which salt water lakes are formed. The Sambhar Lake in Rajasthan is one such lake formed by inland drainage. Salt is produced from water of this lake.

Man-Made Or Artificial Lakes

Hydel power is generated by damming rivers which has also led to creation of lakes. During floods, the unrestricted water from rivers is drained into these lakes and during the dry season, the water is added to the rivers. Nizam Sagar, Rana Pratap Sagar, Guru Gobind Sagar (Bhakra Nangal Project) and Nagarjuna Sagar are some of the man-made lakes.

Ox-bow Lakes

When a serpentine river gets cut off from the mainstream, it forms a lake called the ox-bow lake. Shape of the river has resemblance to an ox-bow giving them the name Ox-bow lakes.

In most cases, lakes are not part of the ocean and lie on land. This makes them distinct from shallow water bodies like lagoons which are separated by barrier reefs or islands from a larger water body. As compared to ponds, lakes are deeper and larger.

Whether lakes are artificial or natural, they are of great value to human beings. They help in influencing climatic conditions in the surrounding region, promotes agriculture, prevents flooding, regulates river flow, maintains aquatic ecosystem, provides water for domestic purposes, maintain even water flow during dry season, besides providing recreation, developing tourism and enhancing natural beauty.

11. Main Lakes of India

The whole landscape of India is covered with some of the most stunning lakes. Indian lakes are divided into freshwater and brackish (natural) lakes and manmade lakes. Right from Rajasthan’s desert land in the west, to Assam in the east, and from the Kashmir in the north to the Malabar Coast in the south, a number of lakes are found in India. Prime features of these lakes include serene natural surroundings and tranquility, making them a popular attraction for tourists for birth watching, boating, fishing and more.

In India the largest inland salt lake is the Sambhar Salt Lake in Rajasthan. Sambhar Lake is mentioned in the Mahabharata as a part of the demon king Brishparva’s kingdom.

The biggest reservoir lake is Indira Sagar Lake

Popular freshwater lakes in India are the Dal Lake in Kashmir and the Sasthamkotta Lake in Kerala. Both these lakes have surroundings that can enchant anyone. Prime attraction of the Dal Lake in Kashmir is the houseboat stay. The Dal Lake is known as ‘Srinagar’s Jewel’ or ‘Jewel in the crown of Kashmir’. Tulip garden, the largest garden in Asia, besides Nishat Bagh, Shalimar Bagh and Mughal Gardens is located on the banks of Dal Lake.

Located in Jammu Kashmir is the Wular Lake basin which was formed by tectonic activity. This Jhelum River feeds this river.

The Pichola Lake in Udaipur with its placid waters offers beautiful views during sunset and boat riding opportunities.

Some of the most beautiful lakes in India are the Cholamu Lake in Sikkim and the Pangong Lake in Ladakh. The lakes are not only beautiful but offer the most serene ambience.

The Pulicat Lake located at the border of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, offers bird watching opportunities to visitors. Sriharikota, a barrier island in the shape of a spindle, separates it from the Bay of Bengal.

Another lake popular for watching colorful avifauna species is the Kolleru Lake (located between the Godavari and Krishna Delta) in western region of Ahmedabad and in Andhra Pradesh and the Vembanad Lake (Kumarakom).

The largest and beautiful U-shaped freshwater Lake in Asia is the Kabar Taal Lake in Bihar.

In Manipur is located the mesmerizing and larges freshwater lake, the Loktak Lake. The only floating national park, KeibulLamjao floats over it and is home to a huge range of marine wildlife and endangered species, including the Manipur brow-antlered deer or the Sangai.

One of the highest lakes in the world, well known for its scenic beauty is the Gurudongmar Lake, located in Sikkim. Its sacred value makes it popular as well.

The Pushkar Lake is located in Rajasthan in Ajmer district. The Hindus consider this a sacred lake.

The Chilka Lake in Odisha is not only India’s largest coastal lagoon but also the second largest lagoon in the world. Migratory birds are regular visitors of this largest wintering ground on the Indian sub-continent.

The Sasthamcotta Lake in Kerala is the largest fresh water lake in India. The lake provides pure drinking water, thanks to the larva called cavaborus, present in huge number which consumes all bacteria present in the water of the lake.

12.The Inter-State Water Disputes

With increasing demand for water, disputes for water continue between states within India. Availability of water is gradually decreasing with increasing pollution, rise in sea levels, melting of glaciers, increasing temperatures, changes in patterns of the monsoon season etc. Matters further get complicated with agenda of the government for interlinking rivers. One interstate water dispute is the ongoing Cauvery Water Dispute. This dispute seems to have no solution and there is less likelihood for resolving matters with the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal Award recommended by the Cauvery Management Board, dominated by engineers.

Some of the Inter-state water disputes are as follows:

  • The Cauvery water dispute between Puduchery, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka
  • The Ravi Beas Tribunal between Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana
  • The Vansadhara water dispute between Andhra Pradesh and Odisha
  • The Krishna water dispute between Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana and Karnataka
  • The ongoing water dispute is the Mahadayi water dispute between Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa.

Tribunals set up for all these water disputes are under the Inter State Water Disputes Act of 1956. The tribunals continue to be functioning and are in office. While in some of the cases, no activity seems to occur, in other cases discussions seem to be ongoing. The Union Ministry of Water Resources does set aside a budget and provision for various existing Tribunals.

Some of the past Tribunals include the Godavari Krishna Disputes Tribunal Award, announced in the year 1980, the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal Award announced in 2010 and the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award in 1979. None of the tribunals seem to be functioning any longer, with the exception of the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal. The issue about water distribution has been referred to, after the bifurcation of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh hence it is functioning again.

After the Tribunal Further Award in 1979, the water dispute between Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat continued on for a number of years. Issues did not get resolved in the case of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal award. Petitions were filed as the struggling and affected people were not heard by the Tribunal. People of Kutch, a dry region asked for bigger share in the Narmada waters at the Supreme Court, where the case is being reviewed. In turn the states find it important to gear up for the next round of fight.

A number of litigations and disputes continue to remain pending in the case of decision of the Godavari Tribunal, where the Polavaram dam is under construction.

The Krishna basin disputes see a requirement of another tribunal, accordingly the work is ongoing.

All this indicates that conflicts related to water sharing are not yet resolved permanently by the tribunals.

One example of successful resolution on the water sharing dispute is the Indus treaty between Pakistan and India. However as per the treaty the six rivers between the states are divided in a way that both get the authority to utilize waters of Sutlej, Ravi and Beas by India and many of the rights to Pakistan over waters of the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. Rights of India are limited over the 3 western rivers and remain to be fully used however Pakistan challenges a number of projects on these rivers.

 13.International Agreements for Surface Water Resources

India shares many different river waters with countries in the neighborhood and accordingly has reached a number of agreements with them. The Indus Water Treaty is one such International agreement for surface water resources, which was signed on September 19, 1960 by Pakistan and India. The treaty was regarding sharing of waters of the Indus River and its tributaries. It was through the mediation of the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development that the agreement was reached upon. As per the Treaty an Indus Commission was to be set up to take care of any kind of disagreement between Pakistan and India. The principle of equitable allocation of waters of the Indus River system between the riparian states of Lower Pakistan and Upper India was accepted by India so that good relations could be maintained with neighboring countries.

The Harmon Doctrine in the year 1895 was one thing which India could have insisted upon. Exclusive right was given to India under the agreement to utilize the waters of Ravi, Satluj and Beas, the three eastern rivers. However 3 rivers, including the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab were left to Pakistan. Water requirements of Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian state had also to be taken into account,

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One outstanding example of cooperation between two nations is the agreement between Pakistan and India of the Salal Dam. Besides, this on December 12, 1996, an agreement pending for 3 decades, was arrived at between Bangladesh and India for sharing waters of the Ganga. As per the agreement, 35000 cusecs of water would alternately be shared by Bangladesh and India from 1st March to 10th May so as to fulfill their needs for water. Another agreement of similar kind was finalized between Nepal and India to share the river waters. A number of river valley projects have been executed by Nepal with India’s help as well. A joint venture between Nepal and India was arrived at for the Mahakali Project.

Bhutan and India also came to a mutual agreement to harness waters of the international rivers that affected these nations. A sub-regional plan was joined by the king of Bhutan to share power and waters with Bangladesh and India. Bhutan has showed willingness to redirect 12000 cusecs water to the Tista, from the Sankosh River and to Farakka barrage from Tista so as to share the water between Bangladesh and India. India has initiated plans to buy hydel power up to 4000 megawat from Bhutan so that its National Power Grid would be strengthened and need for power for the north-eastern region would also be met.

14.National Water Grid

To prevent water crisis in future, there occurred a need for India to build a National Water Grid, to reduce or eliminate problems related to floods and drought. Droughts and floods each year not only cause loss to lives of animals and humans, but huge financial loss as well. Rain water is precious and should not be wasted. Hence it is most essential to save and store rain water.

Precious rain water can be prevented from running into the sea by constructing a network of rivers all around the internal perimeter / periphery of India. Rivers full of water all the year round are very helpful in protecting the borders of India.

A network of rivers constructed all around the internal perimeter of the nation and across borders can help connect all the existing Indian rivers. Accordingly utilization of river water can be made for drinking, farming and other purposes. A major role is played by rivers in this developing nation, India. With the help of an expert committee, feasibility of needs are best to check or else in future, there could be differences or trouble between states related to the river water issue.

In order to increase export and import of goods to and fro to South Asia, a plan was proposed by Arthur Cotton, an engineer (during the British colonial rule) in the 19th century to have major rivers in India, interlinked. The plan also addressed droughts and shortages of water in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, in Southeastern India.

Suggestions have been made by the Rajya Sabha in November 2007 for a National Water Grid, in an effort to transfer water to areas not having enough water from regions rich in water. Dr.K.L.Rao’s National Water Grid put forth in the seventies has attracted great attention. The concerns were repeated annual flooding in the North and severe water shortage in the South. The proposal was to divert surplus water from the Ganga and Brahmaputra basins to the deficit areas in south India. Since the proposals failed to be techno-economically feasible, the Government did not pursue them further.

Depending upon the level of agreements and cooperation between the concerned States and nations in the neighborhood, the inter-linking of rivers can be implemented.

Freshwater is available in limited quantities all over the globe. Estimates are that millions of people may have to survive in conditions of acute shortage of water. Water deficit and water surplus regions are formed as per natural water resource distribution. In terms of socio-economic development, imbalances occur within regions, due to scarcity of water, which in turn has an impact on human rights and sustainable development. Water can be allocated efficiently by promoting water transfers and encourage economic growth. The Inter-linking of River Programme is being pursued by the Government of India so that the long pending goal of the National Water Grid can be accomplished.


15.Ground Water Resources of India

In India an important source of water is groundwater. Climatic nature in India is highly variable, due to which ground water has become a popular replacement for domestic use and irrigation purposes. When it becomes difficult to easily tap water during the disruptive flows in the west season and low levels in surface water during the dry season, it becomes very necessary to rely on ground water. In most areas in India the quality of ground water is good proving to be safe source for drinking water in both the urban and rural areas.

Changes in prevailing climatic conditions, subsurface geology and topography in the region, great variations are seen in availability and presence of water. While in some areas water is stored near the surface area, in other places, ground water is present in deep aquifers. Vulnerability to overuse and pollution as well as recharge rate of the aquifers is affected by their location.

Sufficient infiltration becomes difficult in the hilly and mountainous regions in the west and north, due to which groundwater is restricted mostly to lower lying regions and valleys. As major part of India is peninsular, the formation of big continuous aquifers is limited to the latent geology. Hence wherever not very deep depressions exist near the surface or sufficient storage is permitted in fissures, groundwater is generally found. Hence in such regions the overall yield potential is not very high. Depending upon the hydrogeology in specific regions medium to high potential can be seen.

As terrain is largely alluvial in coastal regions, groundwater is abundant there. However due to over-pumping, the aquifers face the risk of getting contaminated easily by entry of saltwater. In India, the best potential for extracting groundwater is seen in northern and central India extending over the Gangetic plain’s alluvial tract. Characteristics for the recharge and storage of groundwater are highly favorable in these large areas. In major part of the region, the estimated groundwater yield is moderate to high.

Not much uniformity has been seen in groundwater development in various regions of India. Some of the areas, the development of ground water is highly intensive which has resulted in over exploitation of ground water. This has resulted in the intrusion of sea water and reduction of groundwater levels in coastal regions of India. Growth in overused and dry areas of the country seems to be continuous.

The CGWB – Central Ground Water Board and various states, from time to time, jointly carry out an assessment of ground water. Accordingly, the units assessed are categorized semi-critical, critical or over-exploited depending upon the declining trend of water levels over the long term and stages of development of ground water. List of these categories is forwarded to the Ministry of Environment and Forests and State Pollution Control Boards. Accordingly, for obtaining permission, new projects and industries, coming up in such areas are referred to the CGWA.

16.The National Water Policy

The Ministry of Water Resources of the Government of India has formulated the National Water Policy. Main aim of the policy is manage and regulate the development and planning of water resources and utilize them to the optimum. It was in September 1987 that the first National Water Policy was put into place. In the year 2002 and again later in 2012, the policy was reviewed and updated.

Around 4 percent of the water resources of the world are available in India. Linking rivers proves to be the best solution to resolve water woes of the nation. So far, live success has been attained by the nation to create live and adequate storage capacity of water. Accordingly taken into consideration are ecological requirement of rivers.

Under the National Water Policy, a number of provisions have been made.

  • Recycling and planning of water resources to provide availability to the maximum.
  • Setting up priorities for allocating water, including water for consumption, irrigation, hydropower, navigation, industrial and other purposes.
  • Using a network of data bases and data banks, for establishing a standardized system of information at national level.
  • Synchronizing groundwater exploitation
  • Emphasis on project impact on environment and human settlements.
  • Formulating guidelines for the safety of water related structures and storage dams
  • Rationalization of water rates for ground water and surface water should be done with regard to the benefit of marginal and small farmers.

Erosion, participation of voluntary agencies and farmers, management of drought and floods, quality of water, flood, water conservation, zoning of water etc is also dealt with by the National Water Policy.

Considering water as an economic good is the special thrust of the National Water Policy 2012. Promoting efficient use and conservation of water is the claim made by the ministry. The policy has received criticism from different quarters for privatization of services related to water delivery.

On January 31, 2012, draft of the National Water Policy 2012 was uploaded. To authorize establishing of authorities of river basins with suitable powers to regulate, manage and plan water resources at the level of river basins, a law for water framework was called upon by the draft of the National Water Policy.

A decade back the last water policy framed stated that as and when needed, periodic revision may be done in the policy. The policy also notes that more strain is put on availability of utilizable water with a supposition that in future, conflicts would just keep on increasing. With uncertainty in changes in climate, the rising population growth and increasing needs of developing India, the policy looks forward to address these areas in future. As per the National Water Policy objective, the current situation is to be taken into cognizance and a framework is to be proposed to create a structure of a comprehensive system of institutions and laws. With a unified perspective towards the country, steps towards and appropriate plan of action can be taken.

17.Main Waterfalls of India

India is well known for its man-made beauty, historical monuments, beaches, snowy lands, Kerala’s backwaters and their mesmerizing natural beauty. The waterfalls in India can give any other waterfall across the world a run for their money. Waterfalls in India are truly amazing and in the monsoon season, they are in full swing.

Some of the most stunning waterfalls in India are :

1. Iruppu Falls, Coorg

Located close to the Nagarhole National Park, are the Iruppu Falls at Coorg. Natural beauty of these falls, attract people in thousands each year, especially during Shivratri, Lord Shiva’s festival to cleanse themselves of sins.

2. Jang Falls, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

Arunachal Pradesh has one of the most beautiful waterfalls, in India, the Jang Falls. Not only is it a source of electricity, for the people living in Andhra Pradesh, but it also a great attraction for tourists.

3. Dudhsagar Falls, Goa

The Dudhsagar Falls in Goa, pack quite a force and are nothing short of milky water. At Mollem, Goa the water falls down at a height of 310 meters.

4. Bhimlat Falls, Rajasthan

Rajasthan’s one secret that has been preserved well, are the Bhimlat Falls. The sheer fact that they are located in Rajasthan with rugged terrain, sand dunes and hot afternoons, makes them worthy of the list.

5. Nohkalikai Falls, Meghalaya

The amazing and spectacular Nohkalikai Falls in Meghlaya flow all through the year almost and have the tallest plunge in India. Meghalaya is the wettest state in India receiving rains in plenty all through the year.

6. Athirapally Falls, Thrissur, Kerala

The Athirapally Falls are a gem of Thrissur District. During the rainy season they are seen in full flow and are a sight to behold definitely.

7. Hogenakkal Falls, Tamil Nadu

Also termed as the ‘Niagara of India’, the Hogenakkal Falls, in Tamil Nadu are also one of the most beautiful waterfalls in India. Besides being a major attraction in Tamil Nadu, the water is known for its properties to cure diseases.

8. Kune Falls, Maharashtra

During the monsoon season, the beautiful Kune Falls, in Maharashtra, stand out amongst the rest. These 3 tiered waterfalls are a sight unto themselves as they fall from a 200 meter height. Their sheer beauty can amaze almost anyone.

9. Shivasamudram Falls, Karnataka

One state called the ‘State of Waterfalls in India’ is Karnataka, where the Shivasamudram Falls stand out for their sheer volume. During the monsoons, around 19 million liters of water is discharged each second. During the dry months, this waterfall is a sight to behold.

10. Jog Falls, Shimoga, Karnataka.

Some of the highest waterfalls in India are found in Karnataka. One spectacular waterfall, that takes the second highest plunge, are the Jog Falls. Force of this waterfall can be felt against the rocks, as it falls from a height of 253 meters, down the cliff. In the monsoons, every second there is a waterfall in tons, coming down the cliff.