Exploring Hydrology in India: Navigating the River Basins

In this article, we explore the significance and challenges of prominent Indian river basins like the Ganges, Godavari, Krishna, Cauvery, Indus, and Brahmaputra.

India is a country with a wide variety of landscapes and is home to an extensive network of rivers that are essential to the functioning of industry, agriculture, and life in general. India’s hydrology is closely intertwined with its river basins, each of which has its own set of difficulties. In this article, let’s explore the importance of the prominent Indian river basins and the issues they face. 

River Basins in India

India is home to several major river basins, each contributing significantly to the nation’s hydrological cycle. The Ganges, Brahmaputra, Cauvery, Godavari, Krishna, and Indus River basins are some of the largest in the land of spices. These rivers flow across many different areas, supplying water for household consumption, power, and agricultural purposes. 

Prominent River Basins in India: Significance and Issues faced

The Ganges Basin

The Ganges Basin is one of the most significant river basins in the subcontinent, providing water to millions of people and also supporting agriculture in the surrounding areas. Additionally, it has a religious prominence in India, and a large portion of the population depend on it for their daily activities like potable water etc.

Location: Northern/Eastern states of India

Challenges: Pollution is a significant issue in the Ganges, affecting its water quality. Industrial waste and agricultural runoff contribute to the pollution. Additionally, over-extraction of water for irrigation and climate change effects pose major threats to the sustainability of the Ganges Basin.

The Brahmaputra Basin

The Brahmaputra Basin is of essential importance to the northeastern states of India, providing water for both irrigation and transportation purposes. The river is susceptible to severe flooding during spring season, primarily due to the melting of snow in the Himalayas.

Location: North-Eastern states of India like Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and parts of Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Manipur.

Did you know? The third largest mountain peak in the world Kangchenjunga (8,586 m) is located within the Brahmaputra basin.

Challenges: Issues including soil erosion, flooding, and sedimentation affect the Brahmaputra. In addition, concerns regarding water flow and its effects on downstream areas in India have been raised due to the construction of dams upstream in China.

The Indus Basin

A significant portion of runoff in the Indus basin is made up of meltwater from glacial sources. Monsoonal rains combine with meltwater resulting in an average of slightly over half of the annual flow between the months of July and September. This has generally resulted in severe flooding during summer. Over 90% of the water in the Indus basin is used for irrigation. 

Location: Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and parts of Punjab.

Challenges: The Indus Basin faces several issues in connection to water-sharing disputes with Pakistan. Climate change, glacial melt, and unpredictable river flows further complicate water management in this basin.

The Godavari Basin

The Godavari Basin is the second-longest river in India and is essential for the states in the Deccan region. The agricultural sector is largely dependent on the basis for it’s functioning. Besides, more than 60 million people depend on this basin!

Location: Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and parts of Chhattisgarh and Odisha.

Did you know? Godavari has the nickname of “Dakshina Ganga” (translates to “Southern Ganges”).

Challenges: Water pollution, deforestation, and excessive water extraction for agricultural purposes have led to ecological issues. Additionally, growing demands for water resources have lead to numerous issues when it comes to water management.

Learn more about Data4Water: Data4Water is a BWI’s feasibility study (ESA BASS-funded) on continental freshwater in the Godavari basin in India. As the basin supports millions of lives and numerous sectors in the region, this project has a high significance. 

The Krishna Basin

Significance: The Krishna Basin is crucial to the Southern states because it acts as a main source of water for farming and hydropower operations.

Location: Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh.

Did you know? Krishna river basin is a rich source of deposits like iron, gold, granite, and natural gas.  

Challenges: Over-utilisation of water for agriculture, has resulted in groundwater depletion. Water scarcity and competition for resources are great concerns for the Krishna Basin. As a result, the Godavari river is linked to the Krishna river a decade ago to meet the water demands of the population.

The Cauvery Basin

The Cauvery Basin is crucial for the southern states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, supporting agriculture and providing water for domestic and industrial use. Besides, it also has a religious importance in the context of Hinduism. A majority of the metropolitan cities in Southern India are highly dependent on this basin, thanks to its location. However, this has also led to disputes between states when it comes to water sharing.

Location: Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Puducherry.

Did you know? The basin was formed in the late Jurassic period, thus being the home to several precious rocks and minerals!

Challenges: The Cauvery River water-sharing dispute between the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu has been a longstanding issue. Deforestation, pollution, and unsustainable water use further increase the challenges in the basin.

Summing it up

In conclusion, River basins have an indispensable role in the seamless functioning various sectors of the Indian economy, but as we have learned above, they also face similar issues such as pollution, over-extraction of water, and climate change. Sustainable water management practices are imperative to solve such issues and ensure the long-term sustenance of India’s river basins.

Utilising the power of River Discharge Forecasts

River discharge forecasts are invaluable in addressing the challenges faced by river basins. By analysing and predicting the flow of water in rivers, these forecasts aid in decision-making for water management, flood prevention, and optimal agricultural practices.