Drainage System in India


The term drainage describes the river system of an area. The area drained by a single river is called as drainage basin. The world’s largest drainage basin is of the Amazon River.

Indian Rivers are divided into two major groups.

Ø  The Himalayan rivers; and
Ø  The Peninsular rivers

The major Himalayan Rivers are the Indus, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra.

The Indus river system: the river Indus rises in Tibet, near Mansarowar Lake. Flowing west, it enters Indian in Ladakh district of Jammu & Kashmir. The tributaries of Indus River are the Zaskar, the Nubra, the Shyok and the Hunza, join it in Kashmir region. The Satluj, the Ravi, the Beas, the Chenab and the Jhelum join together to flow into the Indus near Mithankot in Pakistan. With a total length of 2900 Km, the Indus flows into Arabian Sea, east of Karachi.

ü  According to the regulations of the Indus Water Treaty (1960), India can use only 20% of the total water carried by Indus river system.

The Ganga river system: The headwater of the Ganga, called the ‘Bhagirathi’ is fed by the ‘Gangotri’ glacier and joined by Alkanda at Dev Prayag in Utrakhand. The major tributaries of Ganga River are the Yamuna, the Ghagra, the Gandak and the Kosi. The River Yamuna rises from Yamunotri glacier in the Himalayas and meets the Ganga at Allahabad. The Ghagra, the Gandak and the Kosi rise in Nepal Himalayas. The Peninsular tributaries of Ganga are the Chambal, the Betwa and the Son. The Ganga flows eastwards till Farakka in West Bengal. This is the northernmost point of the Ganga delta. Then the river flows southward into Bangladesh and is joined by Brahmaputra. Further downstream, it is known as the ‘Meghna’ and finally flows into the Bay of Bengal. The total length of River Ganga is 2525 Km.

ü  The Delta formed by River Ganga is known as ‘Sunderban delta’. It is world’s largest and fastest growing delta. It is also known as the ‘Home of Royal Bengal Tigers’.

The Brahmaputra river system: The Brahmaputra River rises in Tibet, east of Mansarowar Lake very close to the source of the Indus and the Satluj. It flows eastwards parallel to the Himalayas. On reaching the Namcha Barwa (7757 m), it takes a ‘U’ turn and enters India in Arunachal Pradesh through a gorge. Here it is called ‘Dihang’ and it is joined by the Dibang, the Lohit and many other tributaries to form Brahmaputra in Assam. It drains into the Bay of Bengal.

ü  Brahmaputra is known as the ‘Tsang Po’ in Tibet and ‘Jamuna’ in Bangladesh.

The Peninsular Rivers: The main water divide in Peninsular India is formed by Western Ghats, which runs from North to South close to western coast.  Most of the major rivers of the Peninsula such as the Mahanadi, the Godavari, the Krishna and the Kaveri flow eastward and drain into the Bay of Bengal. The Narmada and the Tapi are the only rivers, which flow west and make estuaries.

The Narmada Basin: The Narmada rises in Amarkantak hills in Madhya Pradesh. On its way to the Bay of Bengal, the Narmada creates many picturesque locations. The ‘Marble rocks’ near Jabalpur where the Narmada flows through a deep gorge and the ‘Dhuadhar falls’ where the river plunges over steep rocks, are some of the notables ones. Its length is about 1312 Km. The Narmada basin covers parts of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. It drains into Arabian Sea.

The Tapi Basin: The Tapi rises in the Satpura ranges, in the Betul district of Madhya Pradesh. Its basin covers parts of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. It drains into Arabian Sea. The other west flowing rivers are the Sabarmati, the Mahi, the Periyar and the Bharathpuzha.

The Godavari Basin: The Godavari is the largest Peninsular River with a length of about 1465 Km. it rises from Western Ghats in Nasik district of Maharashtra. It drains into the Bay of Bengal; its drainage basin is also the largest among the peninsular rivers. The main tributaries of Godavari are the Purna, the Wardha, the Pranhita, the Manjra, the Waingangā and the Penganga. Because of its length and the area it covers, it is called as ‘Dakshin Ganga’.

The Mahanadi Basin: The Mahanadi rises in the highlands of Chhattisgarh and flows through Orissa to reach the Bay of Bengal. The length of River Mahanadi is 860 Km and its drainage basin is shared by Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.  

The Krishna Basin: Krishna River rises from a spring near Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra and flows for about 1400 Km to reach the Bay of Bengal. The main tributaries of Krishna River are the Tungabhadra, the Koyana, the Ghatprahaba, the Musi and the Bhima. Its drainage basin is shared by Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

The Kaveri Basin: The Kaveri rises in Brahmagri range of the Western Ghats and flows for about 760 Km to reach the Bay of Bengal. Its main tributaries are the Amravati, the Bhawani, the Henvati and the Kabini. Its basin drains parts of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Source: NCERT Books

Read more: India - Size, Location & Physical Features
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Author: Karun Bharmoria

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