River Systems of India


  • It is believed that blood circulates in the human body while oil circulates all around the earth and serves the lifeblood of a nation. 
  • India is blessed with a network of rivers that has contributed a lot to geographical features, culture and economical structure of the country. It is impossible to mention these river systems without thinking how important they are for agriculture, for industries, for growth of the nation’s urban centers, as well as for hundreds and probably thousands of species of fish, amphibians, birds, mammals, and plants that inhabit and depend on these unique pieces of landscape. 

Major River Systems 

  • The river systems of India can be classified as major eight with different features of significance. 
  • Ganges River System is the largest and the most sacred river system in India comprising Ganges, Yamuna and Brahmaputra river that flows into the Bay of Bengal. 
  • The rivers that make up the Indus River System which is the Indus, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, and Sultlej rivers empty themselves into the Arabian Sea. 
  • The discarnate Brahmaputra and the system of tributaries finds its way to the Bay of Bengal. 
  • Krishna River System, Godavari River System, Mahandi River System, Narmada River System, Tapti River System are some other river systems in India. 


  • It is therefore wise to make distinction of the Indian river system with reference to their length, volume of water, adequate tributaries and proportionate watershed. 
  • The longest is the Ganges River with the length of 2525 km and the largest by the volume of discharge – the Brahmaputra River with 629 km³ per year on average. 
  • The Ganges River is associated with the greater number of tributaries, 200 + rivers discharge into this river while the Indus River has the biggest drainage basin spanning over one million sq. km. 


  • Indian river systems are used in irrigational activities such as agriculture, industrial uses such as mega city support and habitherent to numerous aquatic and terrestrial life forms. 
  • They are the main providers of water for irrigation, domestic uses, and generation of hydroelectricity. 
  • They provide routes for navigation, transportation and communication through roots and canals in the rivers. 
  • These river systems also host wetland, floodplains and deltas that in themselves support a variety of plant and animal life.


  • Challengers such as pollution of the water sources, deforestation of riparian land, climatic change, and overuse. 
  • Organisational, agricultural and domestic wastes are released into the river while hunting, logging and. Some forms of cultivation cause soil erosion and in turn sedimentation in rivers. 
  • Climate change causes changes in the flow in rivers through drought and flood while the competition for water for irrigations and other human activities including urbanisation exercises pressure on the water resource leading to low quantity and polluted water. 

Conservation Efforts 

  • In order to tackle these problems, some conservation measures are currently being implemented. 
  • River cleaning programmes on the other hand are focused on cleaning of rivers and enhanced water quality while sustainable water management practices are programmes that intend to control water pollution and watershed destruction. 
  • Restoration works focus on the reconstitution of declined river habitats, on the other hand conservation focuses on the safeguarding of river habitats. 
  • Moreover, the Namami Gange Program is another Government’s action towards cleaning the river back to its initial status.
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