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Indus River
About Indus River

The Indus River flows from Tibet, into Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of Pakistan. The river is the greatest river on the western side of the subcontinent, and is one of the seven sacred rivers of Hindus. It was the birthplace of the early Indus Valley civilization.

The total length of the river is 3,180 km (1,980 mi). It is Pakistan's longest river. The river has a total drainage area more than 1,165,000 km2 (450,000 sq mi). Its estimated annual flow stands at around 207 km3 (50 cu mi), which makes it  twenty-first largest river in the world in terms of annual flow.

History of Indus River

Paleolithic sites have been discovered in Pothohar near Pakistan's capital Islamabad, with the stone tools of the Soan Culture. In ancient Gandhara, near Islamabad, evidence of cave dwellers dated 15,000 years ago has been discovered at Mardan.

The major cities of the Indus Valley Civilization, such as Mohenjo-daro and Harappa  date back to around 3300 BC, and represent some of the largest human habitations of the ancient world. The Indus Valley Civilization extended from across Pakistan and northwest India, with an upward reach from east of Jhelum River to Ropar on the upper Sutlej. The coastal settlements extended from Sutkagan Dor at the Pakistan, Iran border to Kutch in modern Gujarat, India. There is an Indus site on the Amu Darya at Shortughai in northern Afghanistan, and the Indus site Alamgirpur at the Hindon River is situated only 28 km (17 mi) from Delhi. To date, over 1,052 cities and settlements have been found, mainly in the general region of the Ghaggar-Hakra River and its tributaries. Among the settlements were the major urban centers of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, as well as Lothal, Dholavira, Ganeriwala, and Rakhigarhi. Only 90-96 of the over-800 known Indus Valley sites have been discovered on the Indus and its tributaries. The Sutlej, now a tributary of the Indus, in Harappan times flowed into the Ghaggar-Hakra River, in the watershed of which were more Harappan sites than along the Indus.Most scholars believe that settlements of Gandhara grave culture of the early Indo-Aryans flourished in Gandhara from 1700 BC to 600 BC, when Mohenjo-daro and Harappa had already been abandoned.

The word "India" is derived from the Indus River. In ancient times, "India" initially referred to those regions immediately along the east bank of the Indus, but by 300 BC, Greek writers including Megasthenes were applying the term to the entire subcontinent that extends much farther eastward.

The lower basin of the Indus forms a natural boundary between the Indian subcontinent and the Iranian Plateau ; this region embraces all or parts of the Pakistani provinces Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh and the countries Afghanistan and India. It was crossed by the invading armies of Alexander, but after his Macedonians occupied the west bank—joining it to the Hellenic Empire, they elected to retreat along the southern course of the river, ending Alexander's Asian campaign . The Indus plains were later dominated by the Persian empire and then the Kushan empire. Over several centuries Muslim armies of Muhammad bin Qasim,Mahmud of Ghazni, Mohammed Ghori, Tamerlane and Babur crossed the river to attack the inner regions of the Punjab and points farther south and east.

Geology of Indus River

The Indus river feeds the Indus submarine fan, which is the second largest sediment body on the Earth at around 5 million cubic kilometres of material eroded from the mountains. Studies of the sediment in the modern river signify that the Karakoram Mountains in India and northern Pakistan are the single most vital source of material, with the Himalayas that provides the next largest contribution, mostly via the large rivers of the Punjab (Jhelum, Ravi, Chenab, Beas and Sutlej). Analysis of sediments from the Arabian Sea has demonstrated that prior to five million years ago the Indus was not linked to these Punjab rivers which instead flowed east into the Ganges and were captured after that time.Earlier work showed that sand and silt from western Tibet was reaching the Arabian Sea by 45 million years ago, implying the existence of an ancient Indus River by that time.The delta of this proto-Indus river has subsequently been found in the Katawaz Basin, on the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Wildlife of Indus River

Accounts of the Indus valley from the times of Alexander's campaign signify a healthy forest cover in the area, which has now considerably receded.The Mughal Emperor Babur writes of encountering rhinoceroses along its bank in his memoirs (the Baburnama). Extensive deforestation and human interference in the ecology of the Shivalik Hills has led to a marked decline in vegetation and growing conditions.The Indus valley regions are arid with poor vegetation. Agriculture is sustained largely due to irrigation works. Indus river and its division has a rich biodiversity. It is home to around 25 amphibian species and 147 species, 22 of which are only found in the Indus.

People of Indus River

The inhabitants of the regions through which the Indus river passes and forms a major natural feature and resource are varied in custom, religion, national and linguistic backgrounds. On the northern course of the river in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in India, the Buddhist people of Ladakh live, and the Dards of Indo-Aryan or Dardic stock and practising Buddhism and Islam. Then it descends into Baltistan, northern Pakistan passing the main Balti city of Skardu. On its course river from Dubair Bala also drains into it at Dubair Bazar. People living at this area are mainly Kohistani and speak Kohistani language. Major areas through which Indus river pass through in Kohistan are  Dubair, Pattan and Dasu. As it continues through Pakistan, the Indus river forms a unique boundary of ethnicity and cultures - upon the western banks the population is largely Pashtun, Baloch, and of other Iranian stock, with close cultural, economic and ethnic ties to eastern Afghanistan and parts of Iran. The eastern banks are largely populated by people of Indo-Aryan stock, such as the Sindhis and the Punjabis.In northern Punjab and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, ethnic Pashtun tribes live alongside Dardic people in the hills Khowar, Kalash, Shina, etc., Burushos in Hunza, and Punjabi people.In the province of Sindh, people of Sindhi backgrounds form the local populations.Upon the western banks of the river live the Baloch and Pashtun people of Balochistan.

Mammals and Fish

The blind Indus River Dolphin is a sub-species of dolphin that was found only in the Indus River. It formerly also occurred in the tributaries of the Indus river.According to the World Wildlife Fund claims it is one of the most threatened cetaceans with only about 1000 still existing.

Palla fish Tenualosa ilisha of the river is a weakness for people living along the river.The population of fishes in the river is moderately high, with Kotri , Thatta and Sukkur,being the major fishing centres - all in the lower Sindh course. But irrigation and damming has made fish farming a vital economic activity. Positioned southeast of Karachi, the large delta has been recognised by conservationists as one of the world's most vital ecological regions. Here the river turns into many marshes, streams and creeks and meets the sea at shallow levels. Here marine fishes are found in plenty, including prawns and pomfret.

Indus River Economy

The Indus is the most significant supplier of water resources to the Sindh plains and Punjab - it forms the backbone of agriculture and food production in Pakistan. The river is especially critical since rainfall is inadequate in the lower Indus valley. Irrigation canals were first constructed by the people of the Indus valley civilization, and later by the engineers of the Mughal Empire and the  Kushan Empire.Modern irrigation was introduced by the British East India Company in 1850 - the construction of modern canals accompanied with the restoration of old canals. The British supervised the construction of one of the most complex irrigation networks in the world. The Guddu Barrage is 1,350 m (4,430 ft) long - irrigating Jacobabad ,Sukkur, Larkana, and Kalat. The Sukkur Barrage serves over 20,000 km2 (7,700 sq mi).

After Pakistan came into existence, a water control treaty signed between Pakistan and India in 1960 guaranteed that Pakistan would receive water from the Indus River and its two tributaries the Chenab River & the Jhelum River  independently of upstream control by India. The Indus Basin Project consisted primarily of the construction of two main dams, the Tarbela Dam constructed on the Indus River and the Mangla Dam built on the Jhelum River, together with their subsidiary dams. The Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority undertook the construction of the Chashma-Jhelum link canal - connecting the waters of the Jhelum and Indus rivers - extending water supplies to the regions of Bahawalpur and Multan. Pakistan constructed the Tarbela Dam near Rawalpindi - standing 2,743 metres (9,000 ft) long and 143 metres (470 ft) high, with an 80-kilometre (50 mi) long reservoir.

Walnuts grow along the Indus near Skardu, and poplars and apples; there are tasty melons and nectarines and apricots in the valley of Shigar, but it is hard to send them "down-country" because they are easily spoilt in journey. Maize , Potatoes and other crops need constant attention; the patchwork of fields must be fed by small water-channels led off from the upper streams of the Indus, sometimes for hundreds of yards. This means endless, back-breaking work in moving boulders to dam icy water, in continually checking, adjusting and repairing the flimsy clay dykes. Strong winds funnel along the river, and the fine soil blows away and must be replaced. At this height, the growing season is short, and everyman, woman and child is pressed into service. Below Skardu, the Karakorams and Himalayas close in towards the Indus.

Indus River Tributaries

Tributaries of Indus River are as follows-

1)  Nagar River

2)  Astor River

3)  Balram River

4)  Dras River

5)  Gar River

6)  Ghizar River

7)  Gilgit River

8)  Gomal River

9)  Kabul River

10) Kurram River

11) Panjnad River

12) Shigar River

13)  Shyok River

14)  Soan River

15)  Tanubal River

16)  Zanskar River


The Indus River provides key water resources for the economy of Pakistan - especially the Breadbasket of Punjab province, which accounts for most of the nation's agricultural production, and Sindh.The word Punjab means "water of five rivers" and the five rivers are Sutlej , Beas , Ravi ,Jhelum, and Chenab all of which finally merge in Indus.The Indus also supports many heavy industries and provides the main supply of potable water in Pakistan.

The ultimate source of the Indus is in Tibet; it starts at the confluence of the Sengge and Gar rivers that drain the Nganglong Kangri and Gangdise Shan mountain ranges.The Indus then flows northwest through Ladakh and Baltistan into Gilgit, just south of the Karakoram range. The Shigar , Gilgit and Shyok  rivers carry glacial waters into the main river. It gradually bends to the south, coming out of the hills between Rawalpindi and Peshawar.The Indus passes gigantic gorges 4,500–5,200 metres (15,000–17,000 feet) deep near the Nanga Parbat massif.It flows swiftly across Hazara and is dammed at the Tarbela Reservoir. The Kabul River joins it near Attock.The remainder of its route to the sea is in the plains of the Punjab and Sindh, where the flow of the river becomes slow and highly braided. It is joined by the Panjnad at Mithankot. Beyond this confluence, the river, at one time, was named the Satnad River (sat = "seven", nadī = "river"), as the river was now carrying the waters of the Kabul River, the Indus River and the five Punjab rivers. Passing by Jamshoro, it ends in a large delta to the east of Thatta.

The Indus is one of the few rivers in the world to exhibit a tidal bore.The Indus system is largely fed by the snows and glaciers of the Himalayas, Karakoram and the Hindu Kushranges of Tibet, the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and the Northern Areas of Pakistan respectively.The flow of the river is also determined by the seasons - it diminishes greatly in the winter, while flooding its banks in the monsoon months from July to September.There is also evidence of a steady shift in the course of the river since ancient times - it deviated westwards from flowing into the Rann of Kutch and adjoining Banni grasslands after the 1816 earthquake.

The traditional source of the river is the Senge Khabab or "Lion's Mouth", a perennial spring, not far from the sacred Mount Kailash, and is marked by a long low line of Tibetan chortens.There are various other tributaries nearby which may possibly form a longer stream than Senge Khabab, but unlike the Senger Khabab, are all dependent on snowmelt.The Zanskar River which flows into the Indus in Ladakh has a greater volume of water than the Indus itself before that point.

Indus River Basin

The upper reaches of the Indus and its tributaries extend over a huge area from Tibet and northern India to the east and Afghanistan and Pakistan to the west.The lower reaches of the river are completely in Pakistan.Over 60% of the total area of the Indus basin is in Pakistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir.India-Administered Kashmir, has about 15%, Tibet has about 10% and the Republic of India and Afghanistan each have about 7% of the Indus basin catchment area.

The Indus water system of rivers comprises the main Indus and its major tributaries: the Kurram River  and Kabul River on the right bank, and the Chenab River , Ravi River ,Jhelum River,  Beas River and the Sutlej on the left.The first two join the Indus soon after it leaves the mountains, and the others lower down in the plains. The whole of the Beas and the head reaches of the Ravi and Sutlej are in the Republic of India, while those of the Jhelum and Chenab lie mostly in the Kashmir state.

Indus River Course

Rising in western Tibet, the Indus runs at first across a high plateau, then the ground falls away and the river, dropping rapidly, gathering momentum and rushing north-west, collects the waters from numerous glacier-fed streams, and runs north-west between the world's greatest mountain ranges, the Karakoram and the Himalayas.In Kashmir it crosses the United Nations cease-fire line and, in Baltistan District, enters Pakistan-Administered Kashmir.



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