Brahmaputra River

Brahmaputra River

Overview

The Brahmaputra also called Tsangpo-Brahmaputra, is a trans-boundary river
Trans-boundary river
A trans-boundary river is a river that crosses at least one political border, either a border within a nation or an international boundary. The country of Bangladesh has the greatest number of these rivers, almost all of which cross national boundaries....

 and one of the major river
River
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

s of Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

. It is the only Indian river that is attributed the masculine gender and thus referred to as a ' in Indo-Aryan languages and languages with Indo-Aryan influence. All other Indian rivers are referred to as '.

From its origin in southwestern Tibet
Tibet
Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...

 as the Yarlung Tsangpo River
Yarlung Zangbo River
Yarlung River is a watercourse that originates upstream from the South Tibet Valley and Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon, in Tibet. It then passes through the state of Arunachal Pradesh, India, where it is known as the Dihang....

, it flows across southern Tibet to break through the Himalayas
Himalayas
The Himalaya Range or Himalaya Mountains Sanskrit: Devanagari: हिमालय, literally "abode of snow"), usually called the Himalayas or Himalaya for short, is a mountain range in Asia, separating the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau...

 in great gorges and into Arunachal Pradesh
Arunachal Pradesh
Arunachal Pradesh is a state of India, located in the far northeast. It borders the states of Assam and Nagaland to the south, and shares international borders with Burma in the east, Bhutan in the west, and the People's Republic of China in the north. The majority of the territory is claimed by...

 (India) where it is known as Dihang.
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Encyclopedia

The Brahmaputra also called Tsangpo-Brahmaputra, is a trans-boundary river
Trans-boundary river
A trans-boundary river is a river that crosses at least one political border, either a border within a nation or an international boundary. The country of Bangladesh has the greatest number of these rivers, almost all of which cross national boundaries....

 and one of the major river
River
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

s of Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

. It is the only Indian river that is attributed the masculine gender and thus referred to as a ' in Indo-Aryan languages and languages with Indo-Aryan influence. All other Indian rivers are referred to as '.

From its origin in southwestern Tibet
Tibet
Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...

 as the Yarlung Tsangpo River
Yarlung Zangbo River
Yarlung River is a watercourse that originates upstream from the South Tibet Valley and Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon, in Tibet. It then passes through the state of Arunachal Pradesh, India, where it is known as the Dihang....

, it flows across southern Tibet to break through the Himalayas
Himalayas
The Himalaya Range or Himalaya Mountains Sanskrit: Devanagari: हिमालय, literally "abode of snow"), usually called the Himalayas or Himalaya for short, is a mountain range in Asia, separating the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau...

 in great gorges and into Arunachal Pradesh
Arunachal Pradesh
Arunachal Pradesh is a state of India, located in the far northeast. It borders the states of Assam and Nagaland to the south, and shares international borders with Burma in the east, Bhutan in the west, and the People's Republic of China in the north. The majority of the territory is claimed by...

 (India) where it is known as Dihang. It flows southwest through the Assam Valley as Brahmaputra and south through Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

 as the Jamuna (not to be mistaken with Yamuna of India). In the vast Ganges Delta
Ganges Delta
The Ganges Delta is a river delta in the South Asia region of Bengal, consisting of Bangladesh and the state of West Bengal, India. It is the world's largest delta, and empties into the Bay of Bengal...

 it merges with the Padma
Padma River
The Padma is a major trans-boundary river in Bangladesh. It is the main distributary of the Ganges , which originates in the Himalayas. The Padma enters Bangladesh from India near Chapai Nababganj...

, the main distributary
Distributary
A distributary, or a distributary channel, is a stream that branches off and flows away from a main stream channel. They are a common feature of river deltas. The phenomenon is known as river bifurcation. The opposite of a distributary is a tributary...

 of the Ganges
Ganges River
The Ganges or Ganga, , is a trans-boundary river of India and Bangladesh. The river rises in the western Himalayas in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, and flows south and east through the Gangetic Plain of North India into Bangladesh, where it empties into the Bay of Bengal. By discharge it...

, then the Meghna
Meghna River
The Meghna River is an important river in Bangladesh, one of the three that forms the Ganges Delta, the largest on earth fanning out to the Bay of Bengal. Being a part of the Surma-Meghna River System, Meghna is formed inside Bangladesh by the joining of different rivers originaing from the hilly...

, before emptying into the Bay of Bengal
Bay of Bengal
The Bay of Bengal , the largest bay in the world, forms the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean. It resembles a triangle in shape, and is bordered mostly by the Eastern Coast of India, southern coast of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to the west and Burma and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the...

.

About 1800 miles (2,896.8 km) long, the Brahmaputra is an important river for irrigation
Irrigation
Irrigation may be defined as the science of artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall...

 and transportation. The average depth of the river is 124 feet (37.8 m) and maximum depth is 380 feet (115.8 m). The river is prone to catastrophic flooding in spring when the Himalayan snows melt. The average discharge of the river is about 19300 m3/s, and floods can reach over 100000 m3/s. It is a classic example of a braided river
Braided river
A braided river is one of a number of channel types and has a channel that consists of a network of small channels separated by small and often temporary islands called braid bars or, in British usage, aits or eyots. Braided streams occur in rivers with high slope and/or large sediment load...

 and is highly susceptible to channel migration
River channel migration
River channel migration is the lateral motion of an alluvial river channel across its floodplain due to processes of erosion of and deposition on its banks and bars. In meandering streams, channel migration typically takes place by erosion of the cut bank and deposition on the point bar...

 and avulsion
Avulsion (river)
In sedimentary geology and fluvial geomorphology, avulsion is the rapid abandonment of a river channel and the formation of a new river channel. Avulsions occur as a result of channel slopes that are much lower than the slope that the river could travel if it took a new course.-Deltaic and...

. It is also one of the few rivers in the world that exhibit a tidal bore
Tidal bore
A tidal bore is a tidal phenomenon in which the leading edge of the incoming tide forms a wave of water that travel up a river or narrow bay against the direction of the river or bay's current...

. It is navigable for most of its length.

The Brahmaputra's upper course was long unknown, and its identity with the Yarlung Tsangpo was only established by exploration in 1884-86. This river is often called Tsangpo-Brahmaputra river.

The lower reaches are sacred to Hindus
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

. While most rivers on the Indian subcontinent have female names, this river has a rare male name, as it means "son of Brahma
Brahma
Brahma is the Hindu god of creation and one of the Trimurti, the others being Vishnu and Shiva. According to the Brahma Purana, he is the father of Mānu, and from Mānu all human beings are descended. In the Ramayana and the...

" in Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 (putra means "son").

Tibet


The Brahmaputra river, called Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibetan language, originates on the Angsi Glacier located on the northern side of the Himalayas in Burang County of Tibet and not Chema-Yungdung glacier, which was previously identified by geographer Swami Pranavananda in the 1930s.The river is 3,848 km long, and its drainage area is 712,035 square km according to the new findings, while previous documents showed its length varied from 2,900 to 3,350 km and its drainage area between 520,000 and 1.73 million square kms. This finding has been given by Mr. Liu Shaochuang, a researcher with the Institute of Remote Sensing Applications under the analysis using expeditions and satellite imagery from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). The above article is with reference from http://www.assamtribune.com/aug2411/at096.txt.

Assam and adjoining region



The Brahmaputra enters India in the state of Arunachal Pradesh
Arunachal Pradesh
Arunachal Pradesh is a state of India, located in the far northeast. It borders the states of Assam and Nagaland to the south, and shares international borders with Burma in the east, Bhutan in the west, and the People's Republic of China in the north. The majority of the territory is claimed by...

, where it is called Siang. It makes a very rapid descent from its original height in Tibet, and finally appears in the plains, where it is called Dihang. It flows for about 35 kilometres (21.7 mi) and is joined by the Dibang River and the Lohit River
Lohit River
Lohit River is a river in Arunachal Pradesh in India. It is a tributary to the Brahmaputra River.The lohit river rises in eastern Tibet, in the Zayal Chu range and surges through Arunachal Pradesh for two hundred kilometers,before disgorging itself in the plains of Assam...

 at the head of the Assam Valley. Below the Lohit the river is called Brahmaputra, enters the state of Assam
Assam
Assam , also, rarely, Assam Valley and formerly the Assam Province , is a northeastern state of India and is one of the most culturally and geographically distinct regions of the country...

 and becomes very wide—as wide as 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) in parts of Assam. It is joined in Sonitpur by the Kameng River
Kameng River
The Kameng River in the eastern Himalayan mountains, originates in Tawang district from the glacial lake below snow capped Gori Chen mountain , on the India-Tibet border in South Tibet and flows through Bhalukpong circle of West Kameng District, Arunachal Pradesh and Sonitpur...

 (or Jia Bhoreli).

Between Dibrugarh
Dibrugarh district
Dibrugarh is an administrative district in the state of Assam in India. The district headquarters are located at Dibrugarh city. The district occupies an area of 3381 km².-Etymology:...

 and Lakhimpur district
Lakhimpur district
Lakhimpur is an administrative district in the state of Assam in India. The district headquarters are located at North Lakhimpur.- History :...

s the river divides into two channels—the northern Kherkutia channel and the southern Brahmaputra channel. The two channels join again about 100 kilometres (62.1 mi) downstream forming the Majuli
Majuli
200px|thumb|Way To Majuli From [[Jorhat]] City Majuli or Majoli is a large river island in the Brahmaputra river, in the Indian state of Assam...

 island, the largest river island in India. At Guwahati
Guwahati
Guwahati, Pragjyotishpura in ancient Assam formerly known as Gauhati is a metropolis,the largest city of Assam in India and ancient urban area in North East India, with a population of 963,429. It is also the largest metropolitan area in north-eastern India...

, near the ancient pilgrimage center of Hajo
Hajo (India)
Hajo is an ancient pilgrimage centre for three religions: Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims. It lies on the banks of the Brahmaputra River, 24 km from the city of Guwahati in the Kamrup district of Assam, India. The area is dotted with a number of ancient temples as well as other sacred...

, the Brahmaputra cuts through the rocks of the Shillong Plateau
Shillong Plateau
The Shillong Plateau is a plateau in eastern Meghalaya state, northeastern India. The plateau's southern, northern, and western ridges form the Garo, Khasi, and Jaintia Hills respectively....

, and is at its narrowest at 1 kilometres (1,093.6 yd) bank-to-bank. Due to the river's narrow width, the Battle of Saraighat
Battle of Saraighat
The Battle of Saraighat was fought in 1671 between the Mughal empire , and the Ahom Kingdom on the Brahmaputra river at Saraighat, now in Guwahati...

 was fought here. The first rail-cum-road bridge across the Brahmaputra was opened to traffic in April 1962 at Saraighat
Saraighat
Saraighat is a place near Guwahati in Assam, on the north bank of the river Brahmaputra. Sarai was a small village where the old abandoned N.F. Railway station of Amingaon was located. The famous Battle of Saraighat was fought near this place on the river....

.

The environment of the Brahmaputra floodplain
Floodplain
A floodplain, or flood plain, is a flat or nearly flat land adjacent a stream or river that stretches from the banks of its channel to the base of the enclosing valley walls and experiences flooding during periods of high discharge...

s in Assam have been described as the Brahmaputra Valley semi-evergreen forests
Brahmaputra Valley semi-evergreen forests
The Brahmaputra Valley semi-evergreen forests is a tropical moist broadleaf forest ecoregion of eastern India and southern Bhutan.-Location and description:...

 ecoregion
Ecoregion
An ecoregion , sometimes called a bioregion, is an ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than an ecozone and larger than an ecosystem. Ecoregions cover relatively large areas of land or water, and contain characteristic, geographically distinct assemblages of natural...

.

Bangladesh




In Bangladesh, the Brahmaputra is joined by the Teesta River
Teesta River
River Teesta or Tista is said to be the lifeline of the Indian state of Sikkim, flowing for almost the entire length of the state and carving out verdant Himalayan temperate and tropical river valleys. The emerald-coloured river then forms the border between Sikkim and West Bengal before joining...

 (or Tista), one of its largest tributaries. Below the Teesta, the Brahmaputra splits into two distributary
Distributary
A distributary, or a distributary channel, is a stream that branches off and flows away from a main stream channel. They are a common feature of river deltas. The phenomenon is known as river bifurcation. The opposite of a distributary is a tributary...

 branches. The western branch, which contains the majority of the river's flow, continues due south as the Jamuna () to merge with the lower Ganges, called the Padma River
Padma River
The Padma is a major trans-boundary river in Bangladesh. It is the main distributary of the Ganges , which originates in the Himalayas. The Padma enters Bangladesh from India near Chapai Nababganj...

 (). The eastern branch, formerly the larger but now much smaller, is called the lower or old Brahmaputra (). It curves southeast to join the Meghna River
Meghna River
The Meghna River is an important river in Bangladesh, one of the three that forms the Ganges Delta, the largest on earth fanning out to the Bay of Bengal. Being a part of the Surma-Meghna River System, Meghna is formed inside Bangladesh by the joining of different rivers originaing from the hilly...

 near Dhaka
Dhaka
Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh and the principal city of Dhaka Division. Dhaka is a megacity and one of the major cities of South Asia. Located on the banks of the Buriganga River, Dhaka, along with its metropolitan area, had a population of over 15 million in 2010, making it the largest city...

. The Padma and Meghna converge near Chandpur
Chandpur District
Chandpur is a district in east-central Bangladesh. It is located at the mouth of the Meghna River. It is a part of the Chittagong Division. The town of Chandpur is terminus of a metre gauge branch of Bangladesh Railways. It also has a water terminal situated here.-Geography:Chandpur district has a...

 and flow out into the Bay of Bengal. This final part of the river is called Meghna.

In the past the course of the lower Brahmaputra was different and passed through the Jamalpur
Jamalpur District
Jamalpur is a district in Dhaka Division, Bangladesh. The main Jamalpur town consists of 12 wards and 80 mahallas. The municipality was established in 1869. The area of the town is 53.28 km². The town has a population of 116754; male 51.06%, female 48.94%. Density of population is 2191 per...

 and Mymensingh
Mymensingh
Mymensingh , pronounced moy-mon-shing-haw, is a city of Bangladesh situated on the river Brahmaputra. It is the headquarters of the administrative unit Mymensingh District. Mymensingh is the anglicized pronunciation of the original name Momenshahi, referring to a ruler called Momen Shah. The cadet...

 districts. About 250 years ago a major earthquake led to its present flow. The Ganges Delta
Ganges Delta
The Ganges Delta is a river delta in the South Asia region of Bengal, consisting of Bangladesh and the state of West Bengal, India. It is the world's largest delta, and empties into the Bay of Bengal...

, fed by the waters of numerous rivers, including the Ganges and Brahmaputra, is 59570 square kilometres (23,000.1 sq mi) large, one of the largest river delta
River delta
A delta is a landform that is formed at the mouth of a river where that river flows into an ocean, sea, estuary, lake, reservoir, flat arid area, or another river. Deltas are formed from the deposition of the sediment carried by the river as the flow leaves the mouth of the river...

s in the world.

Flooding


During the monsoon season (June–October), floods are a common occurrence. Deforestation in the Brahmaputra watershed has resulted in increased siltation levels, flash floods, and soil erosion in critical downstream habitat, such as the Kaziranga National Park
Kaziranga National Park
Kaziranga National Park is a national park in the Golaghat and Nagaon districts of the state of Assam, India. A World Heritage Site, the park hosts two-thirds of the world's Great One-horned Rhinoceroses. Kaziranga boasts the highest density of tigers among protected areas in the world and was...

 in middle Assam. Occasionally, massive flooding causes huge losses to crops, life and property. Periodic flooding is a natural phenomenon which is ecologically important because it helps maintain the lowland grasslands and associated wildlife. Periodic floods also deposit fresh alluvium replenishing the fertile soil of the Brahmaputra River Valley. Thus flooding, agriculture, and agricultural practices are closely connected.

Cooperation on the Brahmaputra


The waters of the River Brahmaputra are shared by China, India, and Bangladesh. In the 1990s and 2000s, there was repeated speculation about China building a dam at the Great Bend, with a view to divert the waters to the north of the country. This was denied by the Chinese government for many years. At the Kathmandu Workshop of Strategic Foresight Group
Strategic Foresight Group
Strategic Foresight Group is a think tank based in India that works on issues of global importance and relevance. It was established in 2002 to create new forms of intellectual capital. It identifies emerging trends across sectors at regional and global levels and enables policy-makers to respond...

 in August 2009 on Water Security in the Himalayan Region, which on a rare occasion brought together leading hydrologists from the Basin countries, the Chinese scientists argued that it was not feasible for China to undertake such a diversion. However on 22 April 2010, China confirmed that it was indeed building the Zangmu Dam
Zangmu Dam
The Zangmu Dam is a gravity dam currently under construction on the Brahmaputra River northwest of Gyaca in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. The purpose of the dam is hydroelectric power production using run-of-the-river technology. The dam is part of the Zangmu Hydropower Project and will...

 on the Brahmaputra, but assured India that the project would not have any significant effect on the downstream flow to India.

In a meeting of scientists at Dhaka at 2010, 25 leading experts from the Basin countries issued a Dhaka Declaration on Water Security calling for exchange of information in low flow period, and other means of collaboration. Even though the UN Convention on Trans-boundary Water of 1997 does not prevent any of the Basin countries from building a dam, Customary Law offers relief to the lower riparian countries. Also, there is potential for China, India and Bangladesh to develop hydroelectricity projects and transboundary water navigation.

Early history


Early accounts give its name as Dyardanes . A question in connection with the river system of Mymensingh
Mymensingh
Mymensingh , pronounced moy-mon-shing-haw, is a city of Bangladesh situated on the river Brahmaputra. It is the headquarters of the administrative unit Mymensingh District. Mymensingh is the anglicized pronunciation of the original name Momenshahi, referring to a ruler called Momen Shah. The cadet...

 is when and why the Brahmaputra changed its main channel. It is not improbable that in prehistoric times it flowed directly south more or less along its present main channel. From ancient times up to the end of the eighteenth century it flowed past Jamalpur to Mymensingh and Egarasindur. The river practically stretched from Jamalpur
Jamalpur District
Jamalpur is a district in Dhaka Division, Bangladesh. The main Jamalpur town consists of 12 wards and 80 mahallas. The municipality was established in 1869. The area of the town is 53.28 km². The town has a population of 116754; male 51.06%, female 48.94%. Density of population is 2191 per...

 to Sherour, 7 or 8 miles as the crow flies, and the present river Shiri was a part of it. As to its course through Dhaka from Egarasindur, there is some uncertainty.

It may be that the old geographers made mistakes and the fact was that it did not join the Meghna at Bhairab Blzar but struck off a mile below Egarasindur at Aralia to Lakhipur
Lakhipur
Lakhipur is a town and a Municipal Board in Cachar district in the Indian state of Assam.-Etymology:The name Lakhipur is said to be very ancient. Two schools of opinion on the origin of its name exist. According to one school of opinion, the name relates to Lakshmi, the Hindu Goddess of wealth...

 and then flowed in a south-westerly direction past Nangalband and Panchamighat to Rampal, joining the Meghna at Rajbari. The dried up bed between Aralia and Lakhiour is wrongly shown as the Lakshya in the revenue maps. This river branches off from the Brahmaputra at Lakhipur.

It has usually been assumed that the change in the course of the main waters of the Brahmaputra took place suddenly in 1787, the year of the heavy flooding of the river Tista. It is, however, well known that the Tista has always been a wandering river, sometimes joining the Ganges, sometimes being shifted westwards by the superior strength of that river and forced to join the Brahmaputra. It is now proved that the great Tibetan river Tsangpo joined the Brahmaputra about 1780, and this accession was of greater importance than the Tista floods in deciding the Brahmaputra to try a shorter way to the sea.

In the middle of the eighteenth century there Were at least three fair-sized streams flowing between the Rajshahi
Rajshahi
The city of Rajshahi is the divisional headquarters of Rajshahi division as well as the administrative district that bears its name and is one of the six metropolitan cities of Bangladesh. Often referred to as Silk City and Education City, Rajshahi is located in the north-west of the country and...

 and Dhaka
Dhaka
Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh and the principal city of Dhaka Division. Dhaka is a megacity and one of the major cities of South Asia. Located on the banks of the Buriganga River, Dhaka, along with its metropolitan area, had a population of over 15 million in 2010, making it the largest city...

 Divisions, viz., the Daokoba, a branch of the Tista, the Monash or Konai, and the Salangi. The Lahajang and the Elengjany were also important rivers. In Renault's time, the Brahmaputra as a first step towards securing a more direct course to the sea by leaving the Mahdupur Jungle to the east began to send a considerable volume of water down the Jinai or Jabuna from Jamalpur into the Monash and Salangi. These rivers gradually coalesced and kept shifting to the west till they met the Daokoba, which was showing an equally rapid tendency to cut towards the east. The junction of these rivers gave the Brahmaputra a course worthy of her immense power, and the rivers to right and left silted up. In Renault's Altas they very much resemble the rivers of Jessore, which dried up after the hundred mouthed Ganges had cut her new channel to join the Meghna at the south of the Munshiganj subdivision.

In 1809, Buchanan Hamilton wrote that the new channel between Bhawanipur and Dewanranj "was scarcely inferior to the mighty river, and threatens to sweep away the intermediate country". By 1830, the old channel had been reduced to its present insignificance. It was navigable by country boats throughout the year and by launches only during rains, but at the point as low as Jamalpur it was formidable throughout the cold weather. Similar was the position for two or three months just below Mymenensingh also.

As early as in 1830 there were resumption proceedings for chars which had formed in the new bed. Enquiries showed that many of the new formations were on the site of permanently settled villages which had been washed away by the changes in the course of the Jamuna and the Daokoba. The process has gone on ever since, and Buchanan Hamilton's remarks on the villages of Bengal are specially applicable to this area. He says that "a change in the site of a village 4 or 5 miles causes little inconvenience and is considered no more than a usual casualty, which produces on the people no effect of consequence. Even the rich never put up buildings of a durable nature."

See also



Further reading