The Ganges and its tributaries

The Ganges in Varanasi

The Ganges (Sanskrit, f, गंगा or गङ्गा, Ganga ) is over 2600 km long second largest river of India and Bangladesh ( South Asia ). It flows through the vast plain to the south of the Himalayas, which is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. The Ganges is the holiest river of the Hindus and also a very large burden caused by sewage and pollutants.

  • 2.1 water network
  • 2.2 Water Data
  • 2.3 tributaries


The Ganges and its tributaries drain the area between the main line of Himalayan peaks and the northern mountain ranges of the Deccan as Vindhyagebirge and Aravalligebirge. In the Gangetic plain rivers all pan the southeast and collect in moderately meandering permeated by sandbanks main stream. With the entry into the Ganges Delta more power arms branch off south to the Bay of Bengal, while the main stream of the Ganges, called from crossing into Bangladesh Padma, is, combined with the considerably larger Brahmaputra, here called Jamuna. The combined stream reaches, has grown into the most powerful power in Asia, as Lower Meghna also the Bay of Bengal.

Headwaters and upper reaches of the Himalayas

Unite as a source rivers Bhagirathi and the longer the greater the Alaknanda to the Ganges Still within the Himalayas. This estuary at Devprayag in the region of Garhwal is the lowest of the five sacred river mouths ( Panch Prayag ) that line up as pilgrimage down the Alaknanda. Nevertheless, the source of the Bhagirathi, Gomukh glacier snout ( " Cow's Mouth ") with the pilgrimage of Gangotri is considered, at least mythologically, as the actual source of the Ganges. There the river flows out of one of the largest glaciers of the Himalayas, the Gangotri Glacier. When the pilgrim and tourist city Rishikesh, the Ganges leaves the gorge-like valleys of the Himalayas. In a last narrow valley of the river cuts through the Siwalik foothills of the Himalayas, before it reaches the Gangetic Plain at the pilgrimage town of Haridwar.

Gangetic Plain

Upon entry into the Gangetic Plain branches since 1856 the right of the great Ganges Canal from which feeds a 6,000 -kilometer long system of irrigation canals. It is distributed mainly in the Doab, Mesopotamia between the southwestward flowing Ganga and its major tributary Yamuna ( in the apt meaning twin ), which runs about 100 kilometers to the southwest parallel. The most important city on the Upper Ganges is the industrial nature Kanpur. The mouth of both rivers at Allahabad, Triveni Sangam - " triple mouth " called ( Sangama (Sanskrit ): " mouth " ) has religious significance, since here also the mythical river Saraswati is to lead from the ground out.

In the further course of the Ganges Varanasi, the city happens to the greatest religious significance on the Ganges, and Patna, the largest city on the banks of the river; Both cities are among the oldest settlements in India. The Ganges is then given by the left more water- rich tributaries from the Himalayas.

Ganges Delta

The Ganges Delta begins with the branch of the Bhagirathi ( not to be confused with the right - source river Ganges ). It is the most important tributary of the Ganges in the delta region, continues under the name of Hugli and finally flows into the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean. On its left bank is Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). Since 1975, the Farakka barrage of leads an enlarged portion of the corridor to by a channel of the Bhagirathi and loaded so that the relationship between India and Bangladesh. Its territory reached the main line of the Ganges a little below it and subsequently hits the much larger Brahmaputra is called in the local section Jamuna.

The combined current increases as Padma still coming from the left Upper Meghna on before it reaches the Lower Meghna in a branched estuary of the Gulf of Bengal. The Ganges delta in the strict sense extending from said mouth nearly 300 kilometers to the west to the Hooghly estuary and is essentially of water flowing through that branch off from the Ganges. It is approximately 56,700 km ² as the world's largest river delta. Along the coast there are wide -scale mangrove swamps, called Sundarbans. The many waters are mainly due to the strong tides in motion. The strong population pressure has led ( outside the National Park ) to colonize even this amphibious landscape.

River system

The name Ganges in the narrower sense, only the main part of the large collecting vein of the numerous waters in the central part of the North Indian plains. But he also stands for the river system as a whole, which is characterized. Characterized by an unusually large-scale and rapid variability of the watercourses, with the result that in many cases no longer match the historically grown river names with today's main currents

Water network

Considered Gewässerkundlich the Ganges is the largest tributary of the river, whose main line in the lower part of the name Brahmaputra, Jamuna, Padma and Meghna Lower leads. At the mouth of the Ganges leads (this is already as Padma ) 12,000 m³ / s of water and above the drain to the Bhagirathi river at Farakka approximately 13,000 m³ / s The Brahmaputra ( Jamuna ), however, leads around 20,100 m³ / s Further upstream, above Allahabad, is not the Ganges, but the opening out here "creek " Yamuna hydrological main strand of the system with a larger by half medium water flow and a larger by about 250 km in length. It leads to the Ganges 2634 m³ / s. Further upstream there is then the Chambal, which is the main line at twice the water flow at the confluence with the Yamuna. The current outflows would be without the extensive derivations for irrigation, although higher, yet the relative weights of the different rivers, with few exceptions verschöben not essential.

The hydrographic network includes depending on part landscape on different characteristics.

  • In process Basin approximately parallel flow paths dominate over the large alluvial fans from the Himalayas.
  • In the Himalayas is tree-like channel networks have emerged, however, go through two conspicuous concentration lines: The main ridge of the Himalayas forms only local watersheds; many northward watercourses cut collected at intervals the line of highest peaks, then take on other tributaries of the rainy southern slopes and are again concentrated by the Vorgebirgsketten the Siwaliks few antecedent breakthrough valleys.
  • South of the Gangetic Plain, the water networks are less regular way and often foreshadowed by the rejection of the Linen Dekkanplateaus.

Water data

Due to the little unique in the delta area water system differ, the information on water supply, length and catchment area.

The characteristic water levels in the value of the station Farakka is either taken as it provides in front branch of the Bhagirathi to the highest value ( depending on the reference period 11000-17000 m³ / s), or the value of the station at the Hardinge Bridge just before the confluence of the main line Padma with the Jamuna in Bangladesh ( 10,800 m³ / s to 15,000 m³ / s). However, the runoff fluctuates during the year extreme.

The length specifications seldom refer only to the section named Ganges. Most of the extended source flux is included. Below the first division in the delta area, the data refer either to the Ganges to the confluence with the Jamuna (about 2420 km ), or they relate to the common course to the sea with a. Sometimes also the Bhagirathi / Hugli is measured down, especially since this the only Indian describes flow path (about 2620 km ).

The catchment area is usually indicated with 935,000 km ² ( Farakka ) or 975,000 km ² ( confluence with the Jamuna ). Refers to the delta area the Hugli down with one, there are about 1.08 million km ².


Apart from the most important tributary of the Yamuna flow through the water-rich tributaries of the Ganges to the left. They come from mostly the Himalayas and mitigate the lack of oxygen and contaminant concentration of the main stream. On the other hand, on its banks, the largest flood hazard area of the Ganges.

The natural river network is greatly changed by a dense network of artificial watercourses. Ganges and Yamuna therefore lose much of their volume of irrigation channels; For example, branches of the Ganges canal 295 m³ / s off and the Yamuna channel 218 m³ / s


The flow regime of the Ganges is strongly influenced by seasonal and is dominated by the rainfall of the southwest monsoon. 84% of the rainfall occurs from June to September. Despite the abmildernden influence of glacial meltwater from the Himalayas is the Farakka barrage of the mean ratio of the lowest monthly runoff of the strongest more than 1: 21

Mean Monatsabflüssel (in m³ / s ) of the hydrological station Farakka (Height: 19 m, catchment area: 833,000 km ², based on figures from 1949 to 1973 )

Origin of the Ganges basin

In the wake of the still ongoing collision of the Indian subcontinent with the Eurasian Plate, the Indian plate dive, resulting in the formation of an extended foredeep as a collision in front of the front fold mountains of the Himalayas. It is constantly replenished by the sediments from the Himalayas. The river system of the Ganges has evolved in the eastern part of the lowlands.

The valley forms the upper reaches are characterized by strong fluvial erosion because of the strong current uplift of the Himalayas and therefore are narrow valley profiles with non- endangered slopes that are in parts also a gorge. The top source streams flow in trough valleys, have left the ice age glaciers. After passing through the last gorge through the edge chains of young sedimentary rocks, the river branched out under constant displacement of the current channels and pours this extensive sand and gravel surfaces. In the further course always dominate fine-grained, agriculturally more usable sediments. Preferably, at high, stable impact shores cities have been created.

In the flat bottom part of the lowlands can also lead to significant tectonic unrest running relocations. Until the late 12th century the Bhagirathi was the main branch of the Ganges, however, was partially different from today. Then the Padma arm was significant; From the 16th century it was about equal and from the 18th century, the main stream. These shifts back as well as the slightly later shift of the Brahmaputra to the west, so on today's Jamuna for Padma is explained by tectonic uplift in the western Ganges Delta and the Old Brahmaputra, especially after an earthquake in 1782 and floods in 1787, at of the Tista has shifted its course away from the back passage to be newly forming Jamuna. Only since this young shifts the Ganges is part of a larger power system, previously he was an independent power.

Animal and plant life

The Ganges is the habitat of rare and little-explored underway dolphin and the Gangeshais about which there is also little known.

Religious significance

Most Indian religions is the Ganga, as Indians call the Ganges or its personification as a goddess, holy. The bath in it to cleanse them from sin and promises absolution. Many Hindus want if possible to the Ganges to die - preferably in Varanasi and knowledge - scattered her ashes in the river.

Economic Importance

On the Ganges, although inland navigation is possible, but it has no importance for traffic. The largest cities on the Ganges are Kanpur, Varanasi, Patna, Kolkata and Khulna.

The major cities along the Ganges refer from the river up to 70 percent of their drinking water.

Wastewater pollution

The pollution of the river is enormous: over 5.0 million cubic meters of waste water every day containing poisons often initiated alone in Calcutta 320 million liters in the Gangesarm Hugli. The burden of E. coli is 2000 times higher than allowed in India, and the water contains high concentrations of cyanide, arsenic, lead, zinc, chromium and mercury. The Fäkalabwässern are numerous body residues, both facilitated the spread of cholera and typhoid bacteria.

Moreover, few wastewater treatment plants operate effectively, so that there again mixed purified water below the plants with highly polluted water. In 1985 the Indian government a plan of action ( Ganga Action Plan), which had the aim of combating the pollution. Despite high investments, the plan is considered to be largely failed, not least because for the operation of the facilities lacked the necessary funds.