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Drainage System of India

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Drainage refers to the flow of water through well-defined channels and the network of such channels is known as a “drainage system”. The drainage system of a given area is the outcome of the geological time period, nature and structure of rocks, topography, slope, amount of water flow, and periodicity of flow. The area drained by a single river system is known as its drainage basin and an elevated area that separates two drainage basins is known as the “Water Divide”.

Here are important terms used in understanding the drainage and drainage systems:

  • The geological time period, type, and structure of rocks, terrain, slope, and other factors all influence an area’s drainage pattern.
  • A river drain is a specified region that is known as the river’s catchment area.
  • A drainage basin is an area drained by a river and its tributaries.
  • The watershed area is the borderline that separates one drainage basin from another.
  • When the water bodies are combined with any river are known as tributaries.
  • When any river comes out from that river is known as a Distributaries.
Drainage system of India

Drainage System of India

Types of Drainage Patterns

 The following are the major drainage patterns:

  1. Dendritic – Where the river channels follow the sloping topography, dendritic patterns emerge. The creek and its tributaries resemble tree branches, hence the name dendritic. e.g. The rivers of the northern plains; Indus, Ganga, and Brahmaputra.
  2. Trellis – A trellis pattern is formed when a river and its tributaries are linked at nearly right angles. A pattern like a trellis. Hard and soft rocks exist parallel to each other, forming a trellis drainage pattern. e.g. The rivers in the upper part of the Himalayan region; Indus, Ganga, and Brahmaputra.
  3. Rectangle – On a stubbornly jointed rocky surface, a rectangular drainage pattern forms. e.g. Streams found in the Vindhya mountain range; Chambal, Betwa, and Ken.
  4. Radial – When a watercourse runs in multiple directions from a central peak or dome-like structure, a radial pattern emerges. e.g. The rivers originating from the Amarkantak range; Narmada and Son.
  5. Parallel – It grows in areas with parallel, elongated landforms and a significant slope to the surface. Following the slope of the surface, tributary streams tend to expand out in a parallel-like pattern. e.g. The rivers originating in the Western Ghats; Godavari, Kaveri, Krishna, and Tungabhadra.
  6. Centripetal – As streams travel toward a central depression, it is the polar opposite of the radial. These streams feed ephemeral lakes that evaporate during dry spells throughout the wetter parts of the year. e.g. Loktak lake.

Drainage System of India

There are numerous small and large rivers in India’s drainage system. It is the result of the three major physiographic units’ evolutionary process, as well as the nature and characteristics of hustle. The Ganga, Indus, and Brahmaputra river basins are all part of the Himalayan drainage system. The Narmada, Tapi, Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri all drain the peninsular plateau. 

The Bay of Bengal receives 90% of India’s total surface water, while the Arabian Sea receives the remaining 10%. A water divide separates the drainage systems that run into the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, which spans the Western Ghats, Aravallis, and Yamuna Sutlej divide. There are numerous minor and large drainage systems in India. It’s influenced by the physical features of the subcontinent.

The Indian drainage system is divided into two categories based on its origin, nature, and features.

  1. The Himalayan drainage
  2. The Peninsular drainage

The Himalayan Drainage System (Himalayan Rivers)

The Indus, Gangas, and Brahmaputra rivers make up the Himalayan rivers. This system’s rivers are supplied by both snowmelt and precipitation, making them perpetual. In their rugged journey, these rivers create V-shaped valleys, rapids, and waterfalls. They generate depositional features such as flat valleys, oxbow lakes, flood plains, braided channels, and deltas near the river mouth when they enter the plains. 

As these three rivers of the globe are lengthy and are linked by many huge tributaries they form river systems. Following are the river systems included in the Himalayan Drainage System:

The Indus River System 

  • It is one of the world’s largest rivers, rising in Tibet near Lake Mansarovar and entering India through the Ladakh region of Jammu & Kashmir.
  • It joins the Zaskar, Nubra, Shyok, and Hunza rivers in Kashmir and flows through Baltistan, Gilgit, and other parts of Pakistan before reaching the Arabian Sea east of Karachi.
  • The slope of the Indus plain is fairly gradual. With a total length of 2900 km, it is the longest river in the world. Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Punjab are all part of the Indus basin.

The Ganga River System 

  • It forms the world’s largest delta, the Sundarbans delta, and the Ganga is 2,500 km long.
  • The Ganga begins in Gangotri, which is located in Bhagirathi’s Glacier. This is known as ‘Bhagirathi’ from the point of origin to the point where it meets Alaknanda in Devaprayag.
  • The Ganga comes from the mountains and flows through the plains at Haridwar.
  • The Yamuna, the Ghaghara, the Gandak, and the Kosi are all prominent tributaries.

The Brahmaputra River System

  • Its origins are in Tibet. It runs parallel to Tibet’s Himalayan ranges. It runs eastwards in a line parallel to the Himalayas.
  • It does a U-turn at Namcha Barwa and enters Arunachal Pradesh, India. It is known as the ‘Dihang,’ and it is joined by the Dibang, Lohit, and many other tributaries that flow into the Brahmaputra in Assam.
  • Unlike the other northern rivers, Brahmaputra forms huge deposits of silt on its bed, causing the river bed to rise.

The Peninsular Drainage System (Peninsular Rivers) 

Several rivers flow through the peninsular plateau. The Narmada and Tapi rivers rise in the central Indian hills. They flow westward till they meet the Arabian Sea. Between the Vindhyas in the north and the Satpura ranges in the south, the Narmada flows through a narrow valley. In the south, the Tapi runs south of the Satpura hills. The Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri are the other major rivers that travel eastward and join the Bay of Bengal, with the Godavari being the longest peninsular river.

The Mahanadi Basin

  • In the hills of Chhattisgarh, the Mahanadi rises. To reach the Bay of Bengal, it passes through Odisha. The river stretches for around 860 km.
  • Seonath, Hasdeo, Mand, Jonking, and Tel rivers are major tributaries.
  • Its basin is bordered on the north by the Central India hills, on the south and east by the Eastern Ghats, and on the west by the Maikala range.

The Tapi Basin

  • It runs parallel to the Narmada in a rift valley but is significantly less in length.
  • The river has a length of approximately 724 km. Nearly 79 percent of the basin lies in Maharashtra, 15 percent in Madhya Pradesh, and the remaining 6 percent in Gujarat.
  • Parts of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Maharashtra are included in its basin.

The Godavari Basin

  • The Godavari is the Peninsular’s largest river.
  • It originates in Maharashtra’s Nasik area and empties into the Bay of Bengal. The length of the river is 1,465 km.
  • Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh share the drainage of the river.
  • Its main tributaries are the Penganga, Indravati, Pranhita, and Manjra.

The Narmada Basin

  • It rises in Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh, at a height of 1,057 m and runs west across the rift valley.
  • The length of the river is 1,312 km.
  • It flows in the rift valley towards the west between the Vindhyan range in the north and the Satpura range in the south.
  • The “Marble rocks” near Jabalpur and “Dhuandhar Falls”, Jabalpur are some notable picturesque scenes.
  • Hiran, Orsang, Barna, and Kolar are the river’s major tributaries.
  • Parts of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Gujarat are included in the Narmada basin.

The Kaveri/CauveryBasin 

  • The Kaveri River rises in the Brahmagiri highlands of Karnataka’s Kodagu district.
  • Arkavathi, Hemavathi, Bhavani, Kabini, and Amravati are some of its major tributaries.
  • The length of the river is about 800 km. It runs southeast through the states of Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, eventually draining into the Bay of Bengal via Pondicherry.
  • River Kaveri makes the second biggest waterfall in India known as Shivasamudram Falls.
  • Drainage of the river receives rainfall in both summer monsoon as well as retreating monsoon, hence river carries water throughout the year with fewer fluctuations than other peninsular rivers.

The Krishna Basin 

  • The Krishna River, which rises near Mahabaleshwar in Sahyadri, is the second biggest east-flowing Peninsular river.
  • Its main tributaries are the Koyna, Tungabhadra, and Bhima rivers.
  • Its length is 1,401 km. Before flowing into the Bay of Bengal, it passes through the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh.

Role of Rivers in Economy

Rivers play a very important role in the economy and society and their use is very diversified. Rivers are used for irrigation, navigation, commerce, hydropower generation, and many other important infrastructural developments. In agriculturally dependent countries like India, rivers play a very vital role, and thus, the drainage system of India is a basic natural resource of water.

River Pollution

The growing needs and demand for water have affected the quality as well as quantity of water in rivers. Water is removed from rivers on a continuous basis reducing its volume and another side, a lot of sewage, and waste materials are added to water in rivers, affecting its quality. The importance and essence of the rivers and drainage system of India should be realized and actions should be taken accordingly.

FAQs on Drainage System

Question 1: What is a Drainage System?

Answer:

A drainage system refers to the patterns formed by streams, rivers, and lakes in a particular drainage basin. They are mostly governed by the topography of the land, the types of rocks present, and the gradient of the land.

Question 2: What is the drainage system of India?

Answer:

Around 77 percent of the drainage is oriented towards the Bay of Bengal and 23 percent is towards the Arabian sea. Based on origin, nature, and characteristics, the Indian drainage system can be classified into Himalayan and Peninsular drainage.

Question 3: Classify the drainage system of India based on origin.

Answer:

Based on origin, the drainage system of India is classified into

  • Himalayan river system
  • Peninsular river system

Question 4: Mention some major characteristics of the Peninsular rivers and the Himalayan rivers.

Answer:

Characteristics of the Himalayan rivers are:

  • This system’s rivers are supplied by both snowmelt and precipitation, making them perpetual.
  • In their rugged journey, these rivers create V-shaped valleys, rapids, and waterfalls.
  • They generate depositional features such as flat valleys, oxbow lakes, flood plains, braided channels, and deltas near the river mouth when they enter the plains.

Characteristics of the Peninsular rivers are:

  • These rivers originate from the Peninsular plateau and central highland.
  • They are Seasonal and dependent on monsoon rainfall.
  • They are Old rivers with graded profile and have almost reached their base levels.

Question 5: What is the Ganga drainage system?

Answer:

Ganga forms the world’s largest delta, the Sundarbans delta, and the Ganga is 2,500 km long. The Ganga begins in Gangotri, which is located in Bhagirathi’s Glacier. This is known as ‘Bhagirathi’ from the point of origin to the point where it meets Alaknanda in Devaprayag. The Ganga comes from the mountains and flows through the plains at Haridwar. The Yamuna, the Ghaghara, the Gandak, and the Kosi are all prominent tributaries.



Last Updated : 16 Aug, 2023
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