Rivers of West Bengal
In this module, we shall learn about the River system as an Introduction, Brahmaputra Basin Drainage System, Brief Description of Rivers under Brahmaputra Basin, Ganga Basin, Brief Description of Rivers under Ganga Basin.
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Rivers of West Bengal
Drainage systems, also known as river systems, are the patterns formed by the streams, rivers, and lakes in a particular drainage basin. They are governed by the topography of the land, whether a particular region is dominated by hard or soft rocks and the gradient of the land.
River system as an Introduction
- The Ganges enters West Bengal near Rajmahal and then flows in a south-easterly
- It divides into two near north of Dhulian in Murshidabad district.
- One branch enters Bangladesh as the Padma while the other flows through West Bengal as the Bhagirathi River and Hooghly River in a southern direction.
- The Bhagirathi is the main river in West Bengal which flows past some of the important cities like Murshidabad, Baharampur, Nabadwip, Chinsura, Chandannagar, Srirampur, Howrah, Kolkata, Diamond Harbour, and Haldia.
- It releases its water into the Bay of Bengal near Sagar Island in the South 24 Parganas.
- The Mayurakshi, Ajay, Damodar, Kangsabati, Rupnarayan and their tributaries which rise in the Western plateau and high lands flow eastwards through the different districts of West Bengal and joins the Bhagirathi on the right bank.
- The Mayurakshi, which is fed by tributaries Brahmani, Dwarka, Bakreshwar, and Kopai joins the Bhagirathi near Kalna through river Babla.
- The Ajay, which rises in the hills of Jharkhand, being joined by the Kunur, flows down the plateau fringe, marking the boundary between Bardhaman and Birbhum districts joining it near Katwa and Damodar, with its small meandering distributaries, small streams, Khari, Banka, and Behula joins the Bhagirathi near Uluberia.
- The Damodar known as the sorrow of Bengal is now controlled after the formation of the Damodar Valley Project.
- The Dwarakeswar and Shilabati rivers join to form Rupnarayan and the Kangsabati and Keleghai Rivers join to form the Haldi.
- The Rupnarayan and Haldi fall into the Bhagirathi in the Purba Medinipur
- The Subarnarekha River entering from Jharkhand and after flowing for a short distance in West Bengal re-enters into Orissa.
- These rivers carry plenty of water thus keeping the Bhagirathi River with optimum water throughout the year.
- This silting is causing great inconvenience for the Kolkata Port and often results in flooding in the years of heavy rain.
- The distributaries of the Padma River like Bhairab, Jalangi, Mathabhanga river, and their tributaries enters West Bengal and joins the Bhagirathi on its left bank.
- The Bhairab and the Jalangi meet and their joined course is known as Jalangi falls into Bhagirathi.
- The Mathabhanga divides into branches namely; Churni and Ichhamati.
- The river Churni meets the Bhagirathi while the other flows southwards and joins the Kalindi.
- The Sunderbans region is covered by numerous estuaries and streams, mainly distributaries of main rivers.
- The rivers are interconnected and are fed by tidal waters. The major rivers of the area are Hoogly, Matla, Gosaba, Saptamukhi, Haribhanga, Piyali, Thakuran/ Jamira, Raimangal, Kalindi, and Ichhamati.
- The Teesta flows cutting deep gorges from north to south in the mountainous Darjeeling district; it enters the plains at Sevoke and flows in a mighty stream on a straight line towards the southeast until it drains its water into the Brahmaputra in Bangladesh.
- Torsa, Jaldhaka, Kaljani, Raidak, Sankosh, and Mahananda rivers are in the northern hilly region which rises in the Himalayas and flows in a southerly direction through the districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, and North and South Dinajpur and enters Bangladesh.
- As most of the rivers are snow-fed, most of the rivers are perennial in nature and often floods during the rainy season.
- The entire region is made up of sand, gravel, and pebbles laid down by these rivers.
- The Mahananda rises from the Dow Hills forest, near the town of Darjeeling, and are fed by similar small rivers like Mahanadi, Balason, and Mechi and runs in a zig-zag way through the district of Malda and joins the Padma in Bangladesh.
- In the central region, the main river is the Mahananda. The Tangon, Punarbhabha, and Atrai arise in the plains, while the former two join together and flows into Mahanadi, Atrai flows into the Padma.
The state can be demarcated into three distinct drainage basins coming under the Ganga, Brahmaputra, and Subarnarekha systems respectively.
The area-wise distributions of the above main basins in the state are as under:–
- Brahmaputra Basin (11, 860 sq.km.)
- Ganga Basin including Sundarban Area (74, 732 sq.km.)
- Subarnarekha Basin (2, 160 sq. km)
Brahmaputra Basin Drainage System
- This system consists of a total area of 11, 860 sq. km. Nearly 14% of the geographical area of the state.
- This basin area is interspersed with a large number of drainage channels that join the main drainage arteries of the regions like the rivers Teesta, Torsa, Raidak, Mansai, Jaldhaka etc.
- All these rivers originate from the Himalayas in Bhutan/Sikkim and flow across the Terai region and reach the plains of West Bengal and then flow to Bangladesh joining ultimately the Brahmaputra in Bangladesh.
- The rivers feeding the river Brahmaputra have a number of tributaries as given in the following table:
|S. No.||River Basin||Catchment area in sq.km. (in West Bengal)||Tributaries|
|2||Raidak||807||Raidak-I, Raidak-II, Turturi|
|3||Torsa||3419||Kaljani, Sil-Torsa, Char-Torsa, Dolong, Sanjai, Ghargharia, Garam, Diana, Pana, Jainti, Gabur-Basra|
|4||Jaldhaka||3746||Mujnai, Murti, Diana, Sutanga, Dolong, Dharala, Ghatia, Kumlai, Gilandi, Duduya|
|5||Teesta||3716||Great Rangeet, Ramam,Rangpoo, Mechi, Leesh, Ghish, Chel, Mal, Neora, Karala.|
Brief Description of Rivers under Brahmaputra Basin
- The river Torsa originates in the Chumbi Valley of southern Tibet at an altitude of 7065 m.
- It flows through Tibet, Bhutan, West Bengal, and Bangladesh.
- Below Hasimara bridge on NH-31, it bifurcates into two channels viz. Sil-Torsa and Char-Torsa. They reunite at Patla Khowa forest.
- The river passes by the Coochbehar town and is joined by rivers Kaljani and Raidak-I.
- The combined flow outfalls into the Brahmaputra near Nageswari at Rangpur in Bangladesh.
- The river Jaldhaka has its origin at Bitang Lake in Sikkim at an altitude of 4400 M.
- It flows through Sikkim, Bhutan, West Bengal, and Bangladesh.
- After the river is joined by a number of streams and tributaries both in mountainous and sub-mountainous regions, it finally flows into river Dharala and the combined system, by the name Dharala ultimately outfalls into the Brahmaputra in Bangladesh.
- The mighty river of North Bengal originates in the glaciers of North Sikkim at an altitude of 6400 M and is formed by the union of two streams viz.
- Lachen and Lachung at Chungthung in Sikkim.
- It enters West Bengal at Rangpoo and up to Mechi; it forms the boundary between West Bengal and Sikkim.
- Two of its tributaries-Great Rangit and Rammam also serve as the natural boundary between the two states.
- The river finally outfalls into the Brahmaputra in the Rangpur district of Bangladesh.
- The two holy rivers – Bhagirathi and Alakananda originating from the glaciers of the Himalayas at an altitude of 7000 M. join at Dev Prayag and the combined stream is known as the Ganga.
- It emerges into the plains at Rishikesh in Uttaranchal.
- After flowing exclusively through Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh it receives the flow of Yamuna, the largest tributary at Allahabad.
- The Ganga forms the boundary between Uttar Pradesh and Bihar for a length of about 110 km. and the river then enters Bihar and flows more or less through the middle of the state.
- After its confluence with the Kosi, the Ganga continues its eastward flows in Bihar for about 40 km, and then it enters West Bengal.
- As it enters West Bengal, the river swings around the Rajmahal hill range and then starts flowing almost due south.
- The river then bifurcates into two arms about 40 km. below Farakka.
- The left-arm called the Padma flows eastwards into Bangladesh while the right arm called Bhagirathi continues to flow south through West Bengal.
- The stretch of the river after Nabadwip is called Hooghly and ultimately outfalls into the Bay of Bengal near Sagar Island.
- The total length of the river Ganga from its point of origin to the point where it falls into sea is about 2575 km (measured along Bhagirathi and the Hooghly), of which 1450 km lies in Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh, 110 km along with Uttar Pradesh and Bihar border, 445 km in Bihar and 570 km in West Bengal.
- The Ganga system comprises a total area of 74,732 sq. km, within the state of West Bengal.
Brief Description of Rivers under Ganga Basin
- The river Mahananda originates from Ghoom near Darjeeling town in the district of Darjeeling.
- The river bifurcates into two channels at Barsoi in Bihar.
- Out of the two branches, one flows through Bihar by the name Fulahar and the other flows through West Bengal as Mahananda.
- The river Mahananda carrying the flow of four tributaries namely, Nagar, Kalindri, Tangon, and Punarbhaba, drains into the river Ganga from the North-Western side at Godogarighat just downstream of the point where Ganga leaves the boundary of West Bengal.
- The river Jalangi originates from the right bank of the river Padma in Murshidabad district, 165 km. downstream of Farakka.
- Jalangi is dead for all purposes except during the periods of rain when it receives water from the Padma.
- The river ends its journey by finally outfalling into the river Hooghly near Nabadwip town in Nadia district in West Bengal.
- The river Bhairab starts its journey from the river Ganga in P.S. Lalbag of Murshidabad district.
- It is now almost a dead channel but during the rainy season, it receives water from the Padma.
- The river Mathabhanga originates from the mouth of the Jalangi of Padma.
- It is not an important river in this stage, as it flows mainly through Bangladesh. It flows only a few kilometers within the district of Nadia.
- At this stage, the river bifurcates into two streams – the eastern course runs a few kilometers through the districts in a south-east direction to meet Bhagirathi by the name Churni and the other course flows by the name Ichamati.
- Ichamati gets a little supply from the Padma and thrives on washout by tidal flows
- The Ganga Brahmaputra Meghna river system constitutes one of the largest river systems in the world in terms of its water resources.
- The river Ganga originating in the Himalayas in India drains a vast area. Near its deltaic head at Farakka it divides into two channels, the Bhagirathi-Hooghly and the Padma.
- The Bhagirathi-Hooghly flows through West Bengal and outfalls in the Bay of Bengal and the Padma crosses over into Bangladesh and joins the Brahmaputra at Goalundo.
- The river Bhagirathi divides the Murshidabad district into two parts. It receives three right bank tributaries namely the Bagmari-Pagla, the Mayurakshi, and the Ajoy.
- It receives the Jalangi just upstream of Nabadwip town from the left. After its confluence with the Jalangi, the Bhagirathi is known as the Hooghly.
- The Bhagirathi-Hooghly is the main river in the state and is the main drainage artery for the southern districts draining almost the entire area.
- Before the 12th century, the Ganga had its main course down Bhagirathi-Hooghly. Subsequently, the main flow was pushed to the east through the present course of Padma.
- The flow of Bhagirathi increases downstream due to the runoff and outflows receives from a number of eastern and western tributaries.
- It also forms the boundary between 24-Parganas and Hooghly districts.
- Mayurakshi originates from the high lands of Santhal Parganas.
- It is the main river of the Birbhum district. Several spill channels – the Manikarnika, Kana Mor, Gambhira, etc. take off from the Mayurakshi in its lower reaches.
- All these rivers flow into the lower pocket of Hijal Beel in the district of Murshidabad.
- From the Beel, the river Babla starts its journey finally draining into the river Bhagirathi.
- The drainage and flood level in the Hijal Beel is considerably influenced by the level ruling in the Bhagirathi.
- The river Ajoy originates from the hills near Deoghar in Jharkhand.
- The principal tributaries of the river are – Hinghlow, Kunoor, Pathro, and Jayanti.
- The river Damodar originating from Palamau hills in Jharkhand and bifurcates into two channels at Beguahana.
- The main flow passes through the Mundeswari channel and discharges into Rupnarayan.
- The other one Amta channel carries discharge during high floods and outfalls into the Hooghly.
- Dwarakeswar originates from the high lands of Purulia district.
- River Ganddheswari rising from Bankura district meets Dwarakeswar near Bankura town receiving water from streams like Arkasha, Berai, enters Hooghly district and meets Silabati to form Rupnarayan. Silabati also originates in the Purulia district.
- It traverses through the district of Midnapore.
- The river receives the water of Joypanda and meets with Dwarakeswar to form Rupnarayan. Rupnarayan is a combination of a number of streams.
- The tidal reach below the confluence of Dwarakeswar and Silabati is known as Rupnarayan.
- It outfalls into Hooghly after receiving the main flow of Damodar through Mundeswari and the branch of Kangsabati.
- The river is tidal throughout its entire course.
- The river Kangsabati originating from Purulia district is joined by Kumari in Bankura district.
- Further down, it is joined by the combined streams of Bhairab Banki and Tarafeni rivers and thereafter it flows through the Midnapore district. After a tortuous course, it bifurcates.
- The upper branch is known as old Cossye or Palaspai Khal outfalls into the Rupnarayan and the other one is known as New Cossye.
- The river Kaliaghai trickles out from Jhargram, P.S. in the Midnapore district. During the course of its journey, it is fed by the flow of its tributaries namely Kapaleswari, Baghai, and Chandia.
- This combined flow meets the other arm of Kangsabati i.e. New Cossye to form Haldi.
- The river Haldi formed by the joining of New Cossye and the combined flow of Kaliaghai outfalls into the river Hooghly. The lower portion of the river Haldi is affected by over bank spills and drainage problems during the monsoon.
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