Brahmaputra River System: North and South Bank Tributaries of Brahmaputra UPSC

By Shubhra Anand Jain|Updated : September 28th, 2022

Brahmaputra River System is one of India's important river systems, with one of the largest drainage capacities, after the Ganga river. Besides the Brahmaputra, it is also famous with the name of Yarlung Tsangpo. The Brahmaputra river originates in the lake Mansarovar near Mount Kailash in the Himalayas as river Tsangpo, which breaks into Tibet through the Himalayas, making its way through Arunachal Pradesh, Assam (as the Brahmaputra), south of Bangladesh (as Jamuna) and finally merging with the Ganges before merging to the Bay of Bengal.

The Brahmaputra River System supports the livelihood of millions of people in India and Bangladesh. Like the Ganga river, it is important for the people for various reasons like irrigation and transportation. There are many tributaries of Brahmaputra on the north and south banks which are explained in detail below.

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Brahmaputra River System

As per the latest news, the Brahmaputra River System is prone to flood. It has observed hundreds of floods in the past, but recently, it became a major concern in the news as a tragic boat mishap happened in September 2021. In this incident, several people lost their lives.

Brahmaputra River System UPSC

Below, you will learn about the important aspects of the Brahmaputra River System, including its features, tributaries, and importance.

Features of Brahmaputra River System

In a country where most rivers have female names, the Brahmaputra River stands out due to its rare male name. The Brahmaputra is a Sanskrit term for "son of Brahma." But that is not the reason behind this river assuming significance. Here are the vital features of the Brahmaputra River System that make it important for India and other countries:

  • Brahmaputra River Origin: The Brahmaputra River traces its origin to Tibet. It originates in the Chemayungdung Glacier at an elevation of 5300m in the Kailash Mountain range in the Himalayas.
  • It is identified as the Yarlung Tsangpo River in Tibet. It enters India through Arunachal Pradesh and continues its journey through the Assam Valley and Bangladesh, where it is known as Jamuna. Finally, it flows into the Bay of Bengal.
  • As per new findings, the length of the Brahmaputra river is 3969 km. It is the 15th longest river on earth.
  • Its drainage area is 712,035 km2, which is among the largest in India (1,4). The catchment area is 194413 km2.
  • The average discharge of the Brahmaputra River System is about 700,000 cubic feet per second.
  • This river has an average depth of 30 m, while its maximum depth is 135 m.
  • The river is prone to calamitous flooding and riverbank erosion in spring due to snow melting in the Himalayas.
  • The Saraighat Bridge was the first bridge built on the Brahmaputra in 1962 that supports both rail and road traffic.
  • At 9.15 km, the DholaSadiya Bridge spanning the river's Lohit tributary is India's longest bridge over water.
  • It is a braided river. Its Majuli island is the largest river island in the world.
  • The Brahmaputra river, specifically in the portions in Assam, receives the highest rainfall pattern, resulting in riverbank erosion and annual flooding.
  • The river is highly susceptible to avulsion and channel migration. It tends to abandon its river channel and form a new channel rapidly.
  • It is among the few rivers on earth that exhibit the phenomenon of a tidal bore.
  • UNESCO has recognized Majuli (district of Assam), an island, as the world's largest and one of the oldest inhabited riverine islands.
  • About 55.48% of the river basin is covered with forests.
  • Geologically, the Brahmaputra is the youngest among the major rivers on earth.

Tributaries of Brahmaputra

The Brahmaputra is joined by several tributaries on its north and south banks. These tributaries are rain-fed, and few among them foam up with rain that results in extreme floods.

North Bank Tributaries of Brahmaputra

The major tributaries on the north bank of Brahmaputra river are as follows:

  • Aie
  • Saralbhanga
  • Champamati
  • Pagladiya
  • Puthimari
  • Jaidhal
  • Sankosh
  • Manas
  • Dhansiri
  • Kameng
  • Siang
  • Subansiri

The characteristics of the north bank tributaries of Brahmaputra include:

  • They generally experience flashy floods.
  • They carry a serious slit charge and have coarse sandy beds, pebbles, and boulders.
  • They possess steep slopes.

South Bank Tributaries of Brahmaputra

Some prominent features of the south bank tributaries of Brahmaputra include the following:

  • These tributaries have a low silt charge compared to the heavy silt charge in the north bank tributaries.
  • Have flatter grades and deep winding channels from the foothills.

The south bank tributaries of the Brahmaputra River System are as follows-

  • Bhogdoi
  • Kulsi
  • Jinjiran
  • Krishnai
  • Dudhnai
  • Digaru
  • Kopili
  • Dhansiri
  • Dikhow
  • Debang
  • Buridehing
  • Noa Dehing

The south bank tributaries have deep meandering channels and flatter grades as compared to the north bank tributaries. Also, unlike north bank tributaries, they have a low slit charge. The tributaries flowing via northern West Bengal join the mainstream of the Brahmaputra. These are,

  • Jaldhaka
  • Torsa
  • Raidak-I
  • Raidak-II
  • Sankosh
  • Tista

Significance of Brahmaputra River System

About 130 million people live on the Brahmaputra delta and 600000 on the riverine islands. These people depend on annual river flooding for agricultural and marine farming. China revealed in April 2010 that they were constructing the Zangmu Dam in Tibet on the Brahmaputra. This can have a big impact on the river's flow in India. It also increases the risk of artificial floods due to mishandling the water flow.

The mighty Brahmaputra river system ensures water security, supports irrigation, and serves as a vital inland waterway in the northeast. But heavy flooding and massive erosion of river banks are its main problems. India needs to implement concrete plans for river drainage to control floods and prevent bank erosion.

Dams built on Brahmaputra River System

In states where the Brahmaputra river passes by, dams are built to produce electricity, provide drinking water to the local people, etc. Check the dams built on Brahmaputra River System across different Indian states through the following table:

Name

River

Purpose

State

Khandong Dam

Kopili

Hydroelectricity

Meghalaya

Doyang Hep Dam

Doyang

Hydroelectricity, Drinking Water Supply

Nagaland

Umiam Dam

Umiam

Hydroelectricity

Meghalaya

Rangit III Dam

Rangit

Hydroelectricity, Supply of drinking water

Sikkim

Kyrdemkulai (Umiam st-III) Dam

Umtru

Hydroelectricity, Irrigation, Drinking Water Supply

Meghalaya

Karbi Langpi Dam

Borpani

Hydroelectricity

Assam

Ranganadi Dam

Hydroelectricity

Arunachal Pradesh

Nongkhyllem Dam

Umtru

Hydroelectricity

Meghalaya

Rangpo Dam

Rongpo

Hydroelectricity

Sikkim

Rongli Dam

Rongli

Hydroelectricity

Sikkim

Subansiri Lower HE (Nhpc) Dam

Subansiri

Hydroelectricity

Arunachal Pradesh

Teesta -V (NHPC) Dam

Teesta

Hydroelectricity

Sikkim

Teesta-III Dam

Teesta

-

Sikkim

Teesta-III Lower Dam

Teesta

Hydroelectricity

West Bengal

Teesta-IV Dam

Teesta

-

Sikkim

Teesta-IV Lower Dam

Teesta

Hydroelectricity

West Bengal

Umtru Dam

Umtru

Hydroelectric, Drinking Water Supply, Irrigation

Meghalaya

Umrong Dam

Umrong

Hydroelectricity

Assam

Ganga Brahmaputra Delta

The Ganga Brahmaputra is formed by the combined water of several river systems, mainly of Brahmaputra and Ganga, and is the largest river delta in the world. Also, it is one of the most fertile lands in the world. The area is a high-risk zone for flood, and despite that, more than 100 million people live on the delta, and it is believed that the delta supports the lives of more than 300 million people. The delta has not only fertile lands but is also home to wildlife like Bengal Tiger, Elephant, Ganga river Dolphin, birds like kingfisher, eagle, woodpecker, and various others.

Brahmaputra River System UPSC

Going through these notes on the Brahmaputra River System UPSC is important for all aspirants preparing for the upcoming IAS exam. These are prepared from the exam point of view, keeping in mind the latest news, important tributaries of Brahmaputra, etc., which might be asked in the Prelims and Mains examination.

Other Important UPSC Notes
Atmanirbhar Bharat AbhiyanDeep Ocean Mission
European UnionInter-State Council
Madden Julian OscillationKaziranga National Park
Quit India MovementOrganization for Economic Cooperation and Development
Inner Line PermitRight to Information Act

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FAQs on Brahmaputra River System

  • The Brahmaputra river system is one of India's largest rivers, covering almost 6 Indian States and three neighboring countries- Bangladesh, China, and Tibet. The soil in the Tibetian region is rich in iron content. Thus, it brings out the red color of the river, which is why it is named the Red River.

  • The importance of the Brahmaputra river system is not restricted to one sector. It is responsible for providing a critical water supply to the countries. It contributes to economic growth, and it has a huge potential to generate clean power.

  • The Brahmaputra river covers six Indian states. It originates from the Kailash ranges of the Himalayas In India, it flows through the Assam Valley (in the southwest direction) as the Brahmaputra, while in the south, it passes through Bangladesh as Jamuna and covers almost 3969 km.

  • The Kangchenjunga peak standing above 8000 m, is the highest point in the basin of the Brahmaputra River System.

  • In India, the Brahmaputra River System traverses about 916 km. The Brahmaputra flows through three other countries apart from India: Bangladesh, China, and Tibet. In India, this river crosses over the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Sikkim, and Nagaland.

  • The National Waterway 2(NW2) is a stretch of the Brahmaputra River System in Assam that extends 891 km.

  • In India, there is four big infrastructures (dams) built, and these are- the Subansiri Lower Dam, Ranganadi Dam, Rangit Dam, and Dibang Dam on the Brahmaputra River System in India. Besides these four dams, nine major bridges have been built on the holy river.

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