All About Ganga River System

By Vivek Chauhan|Updated : July 13th, 2022

The Ganges is a trans-boundary river of Asia which flows through India and Bangladesh. The 2,525 km (1,569 mi) river rises in the western Himalayas in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. The main stem of the Ganges begins at the town of Devprayag, at the confluence of the Alaknanda, which is the source stream in hydrology on account of its greater length, and the Bhagirathi, which is considered the source stream in Hindu mythology.

Ganga River

  • Ganga River also known as Ganges is the second greatest river in the Indian subcontinent.
  • In Uttrakhand Ganga is known as Bhagirathi.
  • The Ganga is the most important river of India both from the point of view of its basin and cultural significance.
  • The Ganga river system is the largest in India having a number of perennial and non-perennial rivers originating in the Himalayas in the north and the Peninsula in the south.
  • The Ganga enters the plains at Haridwar where it flows first to the south, then to the south-east and east before splitting into two distributaries, namely the Bhagirathi and the Hugli.

River Basin

  1. The Ganges Basin drains 1,000,000-square-kilometre (390,000 sq mi) and supports one of the world's highest densities of humans.
  2. The Ganga River Basin is one of the largest living river systems in the world & supports 11 states in India.
  3. The Ganga basin covers about 8.6 lakh sq. km area in India alone.
  4. The combined Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin (abbreviated GBM or GMB) drainage basin is spread across Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and China.
  5. Nepal - 140,000 km2 (54,000 sq mi) (13%),
  6. Bangladesh - 46,000 km2 (18,000 sq mi) (4%)
  7. China - 33,000 km2 (13,000 sq mi) (3%)

river system


The term Ganga means Ganga Jamuni tehzeeb, this term is used to describe the culture of the central plains in northern India, especially the doab region of Ganga & Yamuna River which is also regarded as fusion of Hindu & Muslim elements.

The birth of Ganga took place when lord Vishnu appeared on earth during the period of Asura king Mahabali. Then in order to measure the universe he kept his foot to the end of the universe and pierced a hole in its covering with the nail of his big toe from that hole the pure water appeared which entered this universe as Ganga River.

Many religious people take bath in this river as it is believed that it cleans the body as well as the mind (from sins) and make them divine. This is the reason why people sling the corpses of the deceased into the Ganga.

Kumbh Mela is also a part in which Hindus gather at the Ganga River for bathing at the banks of the river.

  • The normal Kumbh Mela is celebrated every 3 years,
  • The Ardh (half) Kumbh is celebrated every six years at Haridwar and Prayag,
  • The Purna (complete) Kumbh takes place every twelve years at four places (Prayag (Allahabad), Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nashik).
  • The Maha (great) Kumbh Mela which comes after 12 'Purna Kumbh Melas', or 144 years, is held at Prayag.


Is Ganga Polluted?

Yes, Ganga River has become polluted because of the many reasons:

  1. Urbanisation is a major problem, people bath in the river, washes clothes in the same, throwing garbage in the river has led to water pollution of Ganga.
  2. Industries is another concern as the waste come out of power plants is toxic in nature & is led in the rivers which makes the water polluted as well as harmful.
  • People practising religious cultures & social practice also makes the rivers polluted.

Effects: As we know, Ganga is the largest river in the world & it provides water to almost 40% of population across 11 states. If Ganga gets polluted lives of around 500 million will be affected. Polluted Ganga will lead to death threat for the life-line.

Process to clean: To clean Ganga River ZLD (Zero Liquid discharge) is a process taken up. It is a water treatment process in which all wasted water is purified & recycled which can be used again but it is a time taking process.

Prof. G. D. Agrawal

Dr G. D. Agrawal is an environment activist and patron of Ganga Mahasabha (An organization founded by Madan Mohan Malviya in 1905, demanding removal of dams on Ganga) who has been on a fast for 107 days protesting for a cleaner Ganga. Because of support from other social activists like Anna Hazare, the then Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh agreed to Prof. Agrawal's demands. Accordingly, he called for a National River Ganga Basin Authority (NRGBA) meeting and urged the authorities to utilize the ₹26 billion (US$520M) sanctioned "for creating sewer networks, sewage treatment plants, sewage pumping stations, electric crematoria, community toilets and development of river fronts.


Origin of Ganga

The river Ganga originates from the Gangotri glacier near Gaumukh, Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand.

Depth of Ganga

The average depth of Ganga is 52 feet & maximum depth is 100 feet.

Length of Ganga

The total length of Ganga River is 2525 km.

  • Uttarakhand (110 km)
  • Uttar Pradesh (1,450 km)
  • Bihar (445 km)
  • West Bengal (520 km)

Ganga Basin: More than one million sq. km

Drainage area: 861,404 sq. km

Position: East longitudes 7330 and 890, North longitudes 2230 and 3130.

Ending & starting point of Ganga

Ganga River flows Gangotri glacier & finally falls in Bay of Bengal near the Sagar Island.

Tributaries of Ganga

Left: Ramganga, the Gomati, the Ghaghara, the Gandak, the Kosi and the Mahananda

Right: Yamuna, Son, Mahananda

Route of Ganga River

State: Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand & West Bengal


Cities: Rishikesh, Haridwar, Farrukhabad, Kanpur, Jajmau, Allahabad, Mirzapur, Varanasi, Ghazipur, Buxar, Ballia, Patna, Hajipur, Munger & Bhagalpur.

Uttrakhand: Ganga River in uttrakhand is a holy place for hindus. It plays a vital role economically, socially, cultural & environmental issues. Khumbh mela is also celebrated in hardiwar.

Uttar Pradesh: In Uttar Pardesh Ganga is the main source for irrigating large areas. Khumb Mela is celebrated after every 5 years in Allahabad.

Bihar: River Ganga enriches the plains of the landlocked state and contributes to the fertility of lands.

Jharkhand: Ganga is one of the important rivers in Jharkhand & has acquired the status of the longest river.

West Bengal: In Durga Puja sculptures are collected from the banks of a river, preferably the Ganges.

Island on Ganga

Sagar Island is an island in the Ganges delta, lying on the continental shelf of Bay of Bengal about 100 km south of Kolkata.

This island, also known as Gangasagar or Sagardwip, is a place of Hindu pilgrimage. Every year on the day of Makar Sankranti (14 January), hundreds of thousands of Hindus gather to take a holy dip at the confluence of river Ganges and Bay of Bengal and offer prayers (puja) in the Kapil Muni Temple.


Bridges on Ganga

  1. Arrah–Chhapra Bridge: This Bridge connects Arrah and Chhapra in Bhojpur and Saran districts in Bihar.

Length: 4350m

Width: 24m

  1. Bakhtiyarpur–Tajpur Bridge: The Bridge connects Bakhtiyarpur in Patna and Tajpur in Samastipur in Bihar.

Length: 5575m

Width: 15m

  1. Digha–Sonpur Bridge: This is a road bridge or Ganga rail across river Ganges, connecting Digha Ghat in Patna and Pahleja Ghat in Sonpur, Saran district in Bihar. It was opened on 2nd February 2016.

Length: 4556m

Width: 10m

  1. Ganges Barrage: Also Known as Lav Khush Barrage across the Ganga Azad Nagar-Nawabganj in Kanpur. It was opened in May 2000.

Length: 621m

  1. Hardinge Bridge: This is a Steel Railway Bridge over the Padma at paksey in western Bangladesh & was opened on 4th March 1915.

Length: 1798m

  1. Kacchi Dargah–Bidupur Bridge: This Bridge connects Kacchi Dargah in Patna and Bidupur in Hajipur in Bihar.

Length: 9760m

  1. Lakshman Jhula: This is an Iron Bridge in tehri garhwal in Uttrakhand & was opened in 1939.

Length: 137.16m

Width: 1.82m

  1. Lalon Shah Bridge: This is a road bridge also known as paksey in Bangladesh situated between Ishwardi Upazila of Pabna on the east, and Bheramara Upazila of Kushtia on the west & was opened in 2004.

Length: 1800m

Width: 18m

  1. Mahatma Gandhi Setu: This Bridge connects the Patna to the south to hajipur in Bihar & was opened in May 1982. It is considered to be the longest river bridge in India.

Length: 5750m

Width: 25m

  1. Malviya Bridge: This is a double decker bridge at Varanasi. It has rail track on its lower deck & road on upper deck & was opened in 1887.

Length: 1048m 

  1. Munger Ganga Bridge: This is again a double decker bridge at Munder in Bihar & was opened on 12th March 2016.

Length: 3692m

Width: 12m

  1. Rajendra Setu: This is the first Bridge which links north Bihar & south Bihar & also a double decker road. It was opened in 1959.

Length: 2000m

  1. Ram Jhula: It is an iron bridge at muni ki reti at tehri, garhwal in uttrakhand & was opened in 1986.

Length: 230m

Width: 1.9m

  1. Vikramshila Setu: This Bridge is near Bhagalpur in Bihar & is named after ancient Mahavihara of Vikramshila which was established by King Dharmapala. Vikramshila Setu is 3rd longest bridge over water in India & was opened in 2001.

Length: 4700m


Ganga Delta

  • The Ganga delta is known to be the largest delta in the world, it is in triangular shape & said to be the accurate delta. This delta is also known as Sunderban delta, Bengal delta or the Brahmaputra delta, also known as The Green Delta due to its most fertile region. The delta spread from the Hugli River & acrosses Bay of Bengal. The delta almost lies in India & Bangladesh but supported by the rivers from China, Bhutan & Nepal.
  • This delta lies on three tectonic plates the Indian Plate, the Eurasian Plate, and the Burma Plate. The delta is covered with 3 terrestrial Eco regions. The endangered species are believed to be inhabit the sunderban. Trees, birds, animals & also two types of dolphins are also found in the delta. The Ganges Delta, formed, at about 59,000 km2 (23,000 sq mi). It stretches 322 km (200 mi) along the Bay of Bengal
  • Around 130 million people lives on this delta despite the risk of flood causes during monsoon season. Approximately two-thirds of the Bangladesh people work in agriculture, and grow crops on the fertile floodplains of the delta. The major crops that are grown in the Ganges Delta are jute, tea, and rice. Fishing is also an important activity in the delta region, with fish being a major source of food for many of the people in the area.


Railway Lines

  1. Digha–Sonpur Railway Bridge
  2. Malviya Railway Bridge
  3. Munger Ganga Railway Bridge
  4. Rajendra Setu Railway Bridge

Dams on Ganga

Farakka Barrage: This barrage is across the Ganga river located in west Bengal & it is about 16.5 Km from the border with Bangladesh. The construction of this barrage was started in 1961 & was completed in 1975 with a cost of Rs. 156.49 crore. Length of this barrage is 2240m.

The purpose of this barrage is to divert 1100 cubic metres per second of water from the Ganges to the Hugli River for flushing out the sediment deposition from the Kolkata harbour without the need of regular mechanical dredging.


Inland Waterways Authority

The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) came into existence on 27th October 1986 for development and regulation of inland waterways for shipping and navigation. The Authority primarily undertakes projects for development and maintenance of IWT infrastructure on national waterways through grant received from Ministry of Shipping.

 The head office of the Authority is at Noida. The Authority also has its regional offices at Patna, Kolkata, Guwahati and Kochi and sub-offices at Allahabad, Varanasi, Bhaglapur, Farakka, Hemnagar, Dibrugarh (Assam), Kollam, Chennai, Bhubaneswar  and Vijayawada(A.P.). India has about 14,500 km of navigable waterways which comprise of rivers, canals, backwaters, creeks, etc.


The Ganga - Bhagirathi - Hooghly river system between Haldia (Sagar) & Allahabad (1620 km) was declared as National Waterway No.1 (NW-1) in 1986. Since then IWAI is carrying out various developmental works on the waterway for improvement of its navigability  and development & maintenance of other infrastructure such as terminals and navigation aids as laid down in the IWAI Act, 1985 (82 of 1985).  As per Act, IWAI is interalia responsible to develop and regulate the national waterways for navigation. During 2013-14, IWAI had been maintaining a Least Available Depth (LAD) of 3.0 meters between Haldia (Sagar) & Farakka (560 km), 2.5 meters in Farakka - Barh (400 km), 2.0 meters in Barh - Ghazipur (290 km) and 1.2 to 1.5 meters in Chunar - Allahabad sector (370 km).

Indo-Bangladesh Ganga Water Treaty

The 35 years dispute was in the headlines regarding the sharing of Ganga water in India & Bangladesh. The Ganga River forms a boundary of 129 Km Between India & Bangladesh & flows 113 Km in bangladesh. The treaty was signed on March 19, 1972.

Ganga Expressway

This project aims to construct a 1047 Km access control eight lane expressway running along the Ganga river, this project was launched by the uttar pardesh chief minister mayawati in 2007. This expressway will connect greater Noida to Ballia in Bulandshahr. Major cities connected with this expressway are Varanasi, Mirzapur, Allahabad, Pratapgarh, Rae Bareli, Unnao, Kanpur, Kannauj, Hardoi, Farrukhabad, Shahjahanpur, Badaun, Bulandshahr. The expressway is divided into 4 sectors.

table 2


The Ganga Basin has very fertile alluvial soil & the chief crops cultivated in the area are rice, sugarcane, lentils, oil seeds, potatoes, and wheat.

Along the banks of the river, the presence of swamps and lakes provide a rich growing area for crops such as legumes, chillies, mustard, sesame, sugarcane, and jute.

There are also many fishing opportunities along the river, though it remains highly polluted.



  • National Mission for Clean Ganga: National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) is the implementation wing of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA). It is a registered society originally formed by Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on 12th August 2011 under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. As per the 306th amendment in the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961, both NGRBA and NMCG are allocated to the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation (MoWR,RD &GR).

 The area of operation of NMCG shall be the Ganga River Basin, including the states through which Ganga flows, as well as the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The area of operation may be extended, varied or altered in future, by the Governing Council to such other states through which major tributaries of the river Ganga flow.

  • National Ganga River Basin Authority: National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) on 20th February 2009 under Section 3(3) of the Environment (Protection Act, 1986. The NGRBA is a planning, financing, monitoring and coordinating body of the centre and the states. The objective of the NGRBA is to ensure effective abatement of pollution and conservation of the river Ganga by adopting a river basin approach for comprehensive planning and management

To rejuvenate the Ganga River, World Bank is supporting the Government of India with $1 billion on National Ganga River Basin Project which will be helping the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) to build institutional capacity for rejuvenating the river. This investment will head in five states which are Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

  • Namami Gange Project: This project is launched by the union government & various projects being launched under this project for cleaning the Ganga River. This project is launched at over 103 locations in 7 states for cleaning the river Ganga.
  • Smart Ganga City scheme: This scheme is launched specifically for the rejuvenation of the banks of Ganga River. The main aim of this scheme is to ensure the effective abatement of pollution & development of river Ganga & is launched in cities.
  • Ganga Action Plan: The Ganga action plan was, launched by Shri Rajeev Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India on 14 Jan. 1986 with the main objective of pollution abatement, to improve the water quality by Interception, Diversion and treatment of domestic sewage and present toxic and industrial chemical wastes from identified grossly polluting units entering in to the river. The ultimate objective of the GAP is to have an approach of integrated river basin management considering the various dynamic inter-actions between abiotic and biotic eco-system.
  • National River Conservation Plan: The river conservation programme in the country was initiated with the launching of the Ganga Action Plan (GAP) in 1985. The Ganga Action Plan was expanded to cover other rivers under National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) in the year 1995.  NRCP, excluding the GAP-I, GAP-II and National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) programme presently covers polluted stretches of 40 rivers in 121 towns spread over 19 States.
  • Ganga gram yojna: Under the “Namami Gange” Programme, the government plans to develop the villages located along the main stem of river Ganga which have historic, cultural, and religious and/or tourist importance. Works related to Ganga Grams will encompass comprehensive rural sanitation, development of water bodies and river ghats, construction/ modernization of crematoria etc.

As per the approved cabinet note of Namami Gange, a provision of Rs.1750 Crores has been kept for rural sanitation scheme contemplated for improving sanitation and civic amenities in identified villages on the banks of River Ganga and to develop them as ‘Ganga Grams”.

  • Save Ganga Movement: Also known as Ganga calling, It is a Gandhian non-violent movement supported all over India by social activists, Pune based national women organisation, saints & Ganga seva abhiyan for free Ganga.

Sankat Mochan Foundation

This is a non-governing Organization also known as “Swatcha Ganga abhiyan” devoted to clean the pollution of Ganga. This foundation was founded in 1982 as a non-profit organization under the societies act of the government of India by pandit Mishra.

Hydroelectric projects

  1. Garhwal Rishikesh Chilla Hydroelectric Project: This project is in Uttrakhand, Pauri district with north hydroelectric region & total installed capacity of 144 MW.
  2. Mohammudpur Hydroelectric Project: This project is in Uttrakhand, Pauri district with north hydroelectric region & total installed capacity of 9 MW.
  3. Patheri Hydroelectric Project: This project is in Uttrakhand, Pauri district with north hydroelectric region & total installed capacity of 20 MW.


Current status

  1. Uma Bharti says in order to fast track execution of Namami Gange programme, the Centre will come out with 'Ganga Act' in near future even as it will launch 222 projects including those of ghat constructions and STP installations.
  2. To encourage fuel-efficient cargo transportation and minimise pollution, the government started taking efforts on to ensure LNG barges commence navigation on National Waterway-1.
  3. Concerned over pollution in country's rivers, for the sacred Ganga, BJP leader L K Advani has asked the chemical industry to find innovative and cost effective ways to stop environmental degradation.
  4. The National Green Tribunal issued the notice to the Chief Executive Officers of five municipal councils in Uttar Pradesh to show the cause why environmental compensation is not imposed on them for their failure to comply with “statutory obligations" on discharge of untreated sewage water in Ganga.
  5. The National Green Tribunal calls the meeting of all the stakeholders in cleaning of river to make river pollution free.
  6. New norms for reduction of pollution and stringent action against the violators helped bring down wastes from industrial units flowing into the Ganga by nearly 35% over the past 1 year.
  7. The Cabinet approves the outlet of Namami Ganga Programme with a budget of 20,000 crore for the next 5 years.


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