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Resources of water in India: A brief overview.
In this article, I will let you know how India derive lots of water from different rivers like Ganga, Yamuna, Tapi, Indus, Brahmaputra, Narmada, Godavari, Mahanadi, Krishna, Kaveri etc. By human activities these rivers are continuously getting polluted so I have also mentioned some measures how to prevent these rivers from being polluted.
If we look back into our history, we will realize that all the major civilizations arose near the rivers. Even Today Rivers play an important role by providing water for drinking, irrigation and transportation. They also help in generating electricity. On the basis of origin, the rivers of India can be divided into Himalayan Rivers and Peninsular rivers.
These are perennial rivers which are fed by melting of ice and rainfall. All the Himalayan Rivers form large basins and deep valleys. The intensity of erosion by this river is high. They also form features like food plains, river cliffs and levees. In the plains they tend to form meanders.
Well known as one of the longest rivers in the world, the Indus is 2900 km long and rises near Lake Mansarowar in Tibet and drains in the Arabian Sea. The Major tributaries of the Indus are the Jhelum, the Chenab, the Ravi, the Beas the Sutlej. A major part of the Indus basin lies in Pakistan and only a small part lies in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. According to the Indus Water Treaty (1960), India can only utilize 20 per cent of the Indus River system.
The Ganga is one of the most important rivers of India. It originates from the Gangotri Glacier, flows through the states of north and finally drains into Bay of Bengal. It is more than 2500 km long. The tributaries which join the Ganga from north are the Yamuna, the Gandak, the Ghagra and the Kosi. The tributaries which join the Ganga from peninsular India are the Chambal, the Betwa and the Son. Among all these, the Yamuna is the most important tributary of the Ganga which is fed by the Yamunotri Glacier.
The Brahmaputra is fed by Mansarowar Lake in Tibet, close to the source of the Indus and the Sutlej. It is comparatively longer than the Indus and flows parallel to the Himalayas. It takes a u-turn at Namcha Barwa to enter India through Arunachal Pradesh. The tributaries of Brahmaputra are the Dibang, the Lohit, the kenula, etc.
In Bangladesh, the Ganga, the Meghan and the Brahmaputra from the delta known as Sunder ban delta. Every year during monsoon the Brahmaputra overflows leading to devastating floods in Assam and Bangladesh.
Peninsular rivers are non perennial or seasonal or seasonal rivers which depend upon rainfall. They flow through shallow valleys. Erosion is comparatively less and rivers do not form any significant meanders. These rivers do not form large basins. The important peninsular rivers are the Narmada, the Tapi, the Krishna, the Kaveri, the Godavari and the Mahanadi.
The Narmada rises from the Amarkantak Hills in Madhya Pradesh. It from east to west and forms marble rocks near Jabalpur. It finally empties into the Arabian Sea in the Bharuch District of Gujarat. The Narmada is also considered sacred in Hindu mythology and has many cities on its bank like Onkareshwar. According to Hindu mythology, Narmada is the daughter of Lord Shiva and the Ganga.
The Tapi rises from the Satpura ranges, in Madhya Pradesh. It is approximately 724 km long and flows from east to west. It flows. Parallel to the Narmada but is shorter than the Narmada. It flows through Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and finally empties in the Arabian Sea in Gujarat.
The Purna, the Girma, the Panzara, the Bori, the Waghur and the Aner are main tributaries of the Tapi.
Well Known as the Dakshin Ganga, the Godavari is probably the largest peninsular river. It rises form Nasik District of Maharashtra and is around 1500 km long. The Godawari river basin covers Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa. The famous Hirakund Dam is built on this river.
It rises from the Satpura ranges of Central India and flows through Orissa to drain in the Bay of Bengal. It is around 860 km long and flows through Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa. The famous Hirakund Dam is built on this river.
The Krishna originates from a spring, near Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra and empties in the Bay of Bengal, in Andhra Pradesh. It is around 1400 km long. It flows through Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Its tributaries are the Tungabhadra, the Koyna, the Bhima, the Dindi, the Musi, the Warna, etc. The Tungabhadra is the most important tributary of the river Krishna.
The Kaveri rises from the Western Ghats range of Karnataka and finally empties into the Bay of Bengal, in Tamil Nadu. It Flows through Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It is approximately 760 km long and its principal tributaries are the Shimsa, the Hemavati, the Kapila, the Kabini, the Bhavani, the Noyyal and the Amaravati.
Legends Associated with River Ganga
The Ganga is one of the most sacred and highly venerated rivers in India. This river has become a symbol of India's culture and civilization. In other words this river is a part and part and parcel of our culture and history.
There are many stories in Hindu mythology regarding how the Ganga was born. According one story, Lord Vishnu was so enchanted and enthralled by listening to the flute played by Lord Shiva that he started melting. Lord Brahma quickly caught it in a pot and thus the river Ganga was born. That is way, the Ganga is also known as Vishnupadi or one who was born out of Vishnu's feet.
There is another legend, how the Ganga was brought to the earth. Once upon a time there was a famous ruler known as King Sagara. He had sixty thousand sons. King Sagara performed a ritual for the welfare of kingdom and was about to release the horse but it was stolen by Indra. King Sagara sent all his sons to search for the horse. They found the horse and insulted him badly. The rishi got disturbed form his meditation, opened his eyes and looked at the sons of Sagara. His very glance burnt all the sons of Sagara. However, there a souls kept wandering and could not attain salvation.
When Bhagirathi, son of king Dilip and the descendant of King Sagara became aware of the fate of his ancestors, he decided to pray to bring the river Ganga on the earth for the salvation of the souls of his ancestors. Just like his grandfather and father he prayed to Brahma for several years and finally he was able to please him. Lord Brahma agreed and ordered the Ganga to go down to the earth.
Ganga was proud of herself and so felt insulted. She decided to sweep the earth as she was falling from heaven. In order to break the descent of the Ganga, Lord Shiva caught her in his hair and released her in a small stream she travelled, sanctified the souls of Bhagirathi's ancestors and other unfortunate souls there. Thus, the Ganga is also known as Bhagirathi because of Bhagirathi's effort to bring the Ganga on the earth.
It is believed that a dip in the river washes all the sins. In fact people immerse the ashes of people in the Ganga with a belief that the souls will attain salvation.
There are several other legends associated with the Ganga. The Gang's reference is also there in Mahabharata. It is said King Shantanu fell in love with the Ganga and married her. Their son came to be known as Bhishma as he had vowed to remain bachelor throughout his life.
Floods in Ganga
Flooding of tributaries of the Ganga namely Gandak, Ghagra and Kosi cause large scale destruction in U.P and Bihar. Floods of 1964, 1967, 1971, 1972, etc. had resulted in large scale submergence of land and damage of embankments.
South Bengal was badly affected by floods of 1978 and 2000. In 2000 flood about 24,000 km areas with a population of about 21.8 million were affected. In 1972 Ganga Flood Control Commission was set up for preparing comprehensive flood control plan and for and monitoring of flood control projects.
Dams on the Ganga
There are no dams on the Ganga but there are two barrages on the Ganga. One barrage at Haridwar diverts the water of the Ganga into the Upper Ganga Canal, built by the Britishers in 1854 for irrigation purpose. However, this has led to the deterioration of the water flow of the Ganga and is also a cause of its decay as a inland waterway. The other one is popularly known as Farakka barrage, close to the border of Bangladesh. Try to locate it in the map showing the tributaries of the Ganga. It was links it to Hooghly.
There are dams on the tributaries of the Ganga. The Tehri Dam on the Bhagirathi is surrounded by controversy. Scientists say that it is built in an earthquake prone are and the structure of dam is not strong enough to withstand a very powerful earthquake.
Features formed by the Ganga
As the river Ganga flows down from the Gangotri it erodes rocks, forms valleys and waterfalls at several places. As the Ganga enters the plains, the water speed decreases and it becomes a useful source of irrigation and transportation. At Haridwar, the north to eastern to eastern India, parts of Pakistan and almost entire Bangladesh.
Crops like rice, wheat, maize, sugar cane and cotton are grown in the Indo-Gangetic plains. Flooding of the river helps in deposition of rich, fertile alluvium on the agricultural areas and replenishes irrigation channels. This in turn helps in increasing agricultural productivity.
In the lower course, the flow of river further reduces. As the river enters Bangladesh, it bifurcates and is joined by the Brahmaputra. Together with the Meghna, they form the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta. It is believed that more than 300 million people are supported by the Gangetic Delta.
Some of the benefits of the Ganga are mentioned as follows:-
- It is the home of several species of aquatic plant and animals.
- It is an important source of irrigation.
- The rich and fertile soil of the Gangetic basin helps in agriculture. Several crops like rice, wheat, maize, potatoes, and lentils are cultivated here. Swamp and marshy areas along the banks provide fertile areas for growing legumes, mustard and jute.
- It serves as a cheap source of transport.
- Generation of electricity is also possible through building of dams.
- Towns near the banks of the Ganga attract thousands of pilgrims. It helps in generation of income through tourism. Popular holy towns are Rishikesh, Haridwar, Allahabad and Varanasi.
- Estuaries provide ideal places for fishing as there is mixing of freshwater and salt water.
Problems associated with the Ganga
It is ironical that the river which is considered as the symbol of sacredness, tradition and synthesis is being polluted. Increasing indoctrination, urbanization and growth of population have resulted in increasing amounted of waste which is being disposed of into rivers and other water bodies. WWF has intact listed the Ganga as one of the ten major dying rivers in the world.
The causes of the pollution of the Ganga are listed below:-
- The leather industries along the Ganga produce large amounts of toxic pollutants like chromium. Tanneries also generate tones of highly toxic solid wastes which are disposed of into the Ganga untreated.
- The Ganga passes along 29 cities with population above 1, 00,000,23cities with population between 50,000 and 1, 00,000 and 48 towns with population of less than 50,000. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) estimates that the main sources of pollution along the reach of the river are sewage, induction liquid waste, large scale bathing of cattle and surface run off from solid waste landfills, dumpsites and industrial solid waste landfills.
- Religious activities like throwing of remains of dead bodies in the river, immersion of idols after puja, immersion of ashes, etc. cause large scale pollution of the river.
- Excessive pesticides and fertilizers run off into water.
- Industries like sugar and paper mills, cloth, woolen, cotton, ordinance factories, thermal power plants, steel factories and fertilizer industries discharge highly toxic effluents with BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand) concentration of more than 100mg per litre into the river. In fact in 1995 CPCB recognized 191 such industries in Uttar Pradesh, 6 in Bihar and 67 in West Bengal.
Methods of Conservation
- In order to clean the river Ganga, a project called Ganga Action Plan was initiated. Under this project central Ganga Authority was established in 1985. While launching GAP, Rajeev Gandhi tried to explain the necessity of keeping the Ganga clean. He said that the Ganga was a symbol of our spirituality, tradition, tolerance and synthesis. But it was the most polluted river with sewage and waste from industries and cities thrown into it. From now, we should put a stop to all this. He also said that the plan was not meant for Public Works Department but for the people of India. Under this project sewers and pump houses were constructed away from river, crematoria were installed and low cost sanitation systems were implemented. There was monitoring of water quality. Research programmes were also initiated.
- Highly polluting industries should be located away from the water bodies.
- Wastewater treatment plants should be set up so that industrial wastewater can be treated before discharging.
- Modern techniques of waste reduction should be utilized for reducing the solid wastes.
- More and more NGOs should be involved in cleaning of the Ganga.
- Public awareness programmes should be started so that people can be sensitized on the importance of natural resources and the need to conserve them.
Sharing of Water
The Indo-Bangladesh Joint River Commission was established in 1972 with a view to ensure maximum benefits from the common river system through combined efforts. On 12 December 1996, India and Bangladesh signed a treaty on sharing of the Ganga water at Farakka. This treaty has resulted in peaceful sharing of the Ganga water during lean period. Besides, cooperation on water sharing, India has provided Bangladesh information on flood forecasting at free of cast. This enabled the authorities in Bangladesh to shift the population from flood prone areas well in time.
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