The tributary Yamuna rises from the Yamunotri and meets the holy Ganga at Prayag (Allahabad). It is sight worth seeing the muddy waters of Ganges meeting the blue waters of Jamuna forming a clearly demarcated line. This is the meeting point also known as Sangam, one of the most pious places for salvation of sins according to Hindu mythology. It is believed that the Saraswati River also meets at the other two at the Sangam but it has become invisible or gone underground. Satellite photographs have proved the existence of an underground riverine. Early civilizations were always found around or on the banks of mighty rivers and the towns on both sides of Ganges and the Yamuna river.
After meeting at Allahabad the river flows on through the states of Bihar and Bengal forming an isothermics at its meeting point at the Bay of Bengal with the mighty Brahmaputra and its tributary Padma, now Bangladesh. The ganges is 2640 km. long.
The Himalayas are supposed to be the youngest and highest of mountain ranges in the world and the crown of India and from here also starts the mighty Brahamaputra. Starting from the holiest of holy Manasarovar Lake in western Tibet, the Brahamaputra meanders its way mostly through India. It is about 2688 km. long and is 28th in position regarding length amongst the rivers of our planet.
The Indus river again has its inception from a holy and revered lake in Mount Kailas in Tibet which together with its tributaries Sutlej, Beas, Ravi, Chenab and Jhelum falls into the Arabian sea. It is 2900 km. in length and placed 26th in the world. But now flows as Sindhu, mostly in Pakistan. Three of these tributaries flow through India before joining Sindhu in Pakistan whilst the other two, Jhelum and Chenab, mostly flow through Pakistan after they leave Jammu and Kashmir.
These perennial snow fed rivers o the Himalayas system are generally flooded during the rainy season and carry 70% of the total discharge into the sea. Amongst the availability of the total inflow of river water in the country 70% of this is supplied by the Himalayan Rivers. With the availability of so much sweet water, there should be no dearth of potable water in the country but as stated earlier, the discharge of waste and industrial effluents into these rivers have drastically reduced the quantity of water for human consumption
Even the official machinery turns the Nelson’s eye towards this pollution, the after the Central government has instituted the Central Ganga Authority. The effluents of IDPL and BHEL are discharged into the Ganges at Rishikesh whilst every other city on the banks discharges their sewage into the river. Kanpur is again infamous for polluting the river so much so that it turns into sludge at places.
Similarly in Bihar and Bengal the discharge is reaching its nadir. Yamuna faces the same fate in the 48 kilogram around Delhi it receives about 9000 kilogram of solid, chemical and metallic wastes from the industries there. This under the very nose of the Delhi and Central governments. Just creating River Authorities would not suffice unless steps and stringent actions taken against such discharges.
By the time the Yamuna reaches the holy city of Mathura, it is not fit for even washing clothes leave aside bathing.
However if care is taken, these river of Northern India are very useful and more important than that of the Lower Peninsula. They are supplying water throughout the year and can be utilized for irrigation of fields for agricultural purposes.
They flow through broad flat plains providing alluvial soil which is highly fertile and productive. The broad waterways which are now getting silted had always been used for transport of goods from one place to another. Even today with a little bit of care they can serve as convenient and uncluttered waterways for transportations. Efforts are now being made to use the Ganges especially from Allahabad to Calcutta for the purpose.
Another every important uses of these rivers are the waterfalls and downward slpes as they come down from the mountains to the plains. They can serve as an excellent source of hydroelectric power. In act the harnessing has already begun and this factor has already been advanced to several projects.
We have the Beas Project in Punjab where the dam has opened up about 4 lakh hectares for irrigation in Punjab and Rajasthan together with the bonus of 1000 Mw of power. A system of canals has merged the waters of Beas with Sutlej flowing into the Govind Sagar lake of Bhakra complex.
We also have the Bhakra Nangal project which is a joint venture between Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. It is one of the highest straight gravity dams in the world being about 740 feet of height. It irrigates over 5.86 million acres of land in the three states together with supplying 1,100 megawatts of power.
The indira Gandhi Canal in Rajasthan has a projected irrigation capacity of 10,000 square miles with a Canal length of 700 kilometers.
The Damodar Valley Project is another useful project comprising of four storage dams and power houses having a total capacity of 1.04 lakh kilowatts with three other thermal power stations at Bokaro, Durgapur and Chandrapura having a capacity of 6.25 lakh kilowatts. The railway electrification from Howrah to Mugalsari was possible only due to this project.
The Farakka dam across the Ganges in West Bengal is an example of proper utility. It reduces the salinity from the waters of River Hooghly and has helped in improving Calcutta’s water supply, the consumption of which is enormous.
Then there are the Gandak Projects of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh from which both states and Nepal get benefit for the irrigation facilities together with the production of hydel power. The Haldia Project has helped in creating a subsidiary part to Calcutta reducing congestion and is one of the successful projects of West Bengal.
Besides the Himalayan System of rivers, we also have the Deccan System which carries about 30% of the total discharge of Indian rivers. The important amongst them are the Godavari, Krishna and Cavery having their inception in the Western Ghats. They are about 1450, 1290 and 760 kilometers in length respectively and flow into the Bay of Bengal.
We have the Mahanadi and Damodar from the northwest portions of the Deccan Plateau and the Narmada and Tapti from the northern-most portion of the Deccan Plateau. The Mahanadi and Damodar flow into Bay of Bengal whilst the latter flows into the Arabian Sea.
The Godavari is the largest river system in peninsular India and Cavery in the southern-most. Dams for utilization of the potential are constructed and are also in progress.
With the creation of the National Thermal Power Corporation, the power scenario in India has totally changed with emphasis on Super Thermal Plants.
However the scenario regarding pollution of river waters in South are as bad as in the North if not worse. The fate of Cavery in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are indeed deplaorable. The Godavari receives 4500 gallons of waste from Andhra Paper Mills alone. In certain areas where the Rivers Cavery and Chambal flow, we find villages situated on both banks, there villagers are badly affected from skin diseases. The Indian Oil Corporation, a Public Sector Undertaking and a fertilizer factory in Gujarat have had the honor of polluting the rivers there to an extent where lakhs of tones of fish, thousands of heads of cattle and even elephants have succumbed to the pollution. Need we say more?