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Sutlej River
About Sutlej River

The Sutlej River is the longest of the five rivers that flow through the historic crossroad region of Punjab in northern India and Pakistan. It is located to the north of the Vindhya Range, south of the Hindu Kush segment of the Himalayas, and east of the Central Sulaiman Range in Pakistan.

The Sutlej is sometimes known as the Red River. It is the easternmost tributary of the Indus River. Its source is Lake Rakshastal in Tibet. From there, it flows at first west-northwest for about 260 kms to the Shipki La pass, entering India in Himachal Pradesh state. It then turns slightly, heading west-southwest for about 360 kms to meet the Beas River near Makhu, Firozpur district, Punjab state.

Continuing west-southwest, the Sutlej enters Pakistan for about15 kms east of Bhedian Kalan, Kasur District, Punjab province, continuing southwest to the ancient and historical former Bahawalpur princely state.

About 17 kms north of Uch Sharif, the Sutlej unites with the Chenab River, forming the Panjnad River, which finally flows into the Indus river about 100 kms west of the city of Bahawalpur. The area to the southeast on the Pakistani side of the Indian border is called the Cholistan Desert and, on the Indian side, the Thar Desert.

The Indus then flows through a gorge near Sukkur and the fertile plains region of Sindh, forming a large delta region between the border of Gujarat, India and Pakistan, finally terminating in the Arabian Sea near the port city of Karachi, Pakistan.

Contrary to the claims of Punjab state in India, a small part of Panchkula district in Haryana state is part of the Sutlej river basin area. Thus, Haryana is also a riparian portion of the Indus river basin.

The waters of the Sutlej are allocated to India under the Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan, and are mostly diverted to irrigation canals in India. There are several major hydroelectric projects on the Sutlej, including the 1,000 MW Bhakra Dam, the 1,000 MW Karcham Wangtoo Hydroelectric Plant, and the 1,530 MW Nathpa Jhakri Dam.There has been a proposal to build a 214-km long heavy freight canal, known as the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL), in India to connect the Yamuna and Sutlej rivers. This canal is designed to connect the entire Ganges, which flows to the east coast of the subcontinent, with points west via Pakistan. When completed, the SYL will allow shipping more directly from India's east coast to its west coast and the Arabian sea drastically shortening shipping distances and creating important commercial links for north-central India's large population. However, the proposal has met with obstacles and has been referred to the Supreme Court of India.

History of Sutlej River

The Upper Sutlej Valley was once known as the Garuda Valley by the Zhangzhung, the ancient civilization of western Tibet. The Garuda Valley was the centre of their empire, which stretched many miles into the nearby Himalayas. The Zhangzhung built a towering palace in the Upper Sutlej Valley called Kyunglung, the ruins of which still exist today near the village of Moincêr, southwest of Mount Kailash (Mount Ti-se). Finally the Zhangzhung were occupied by the Tibetan Empire.

Today, the Sutlej Valley is occupied by nomadic descendants of the Zhangzhung, who live in tiny villages of yak herders. The Sutlej was the main medium of transportation for the kings of that time. In the early 18th century, it was used to transport devdar woods for Bilaspur district, Hamirpur district, and other places along the Sutlej's banks.

Geology of Sutlej River

There is substantial geologic evidence to indicate that prior to 1700 BC, and perhaps much earlier, the Sutlej was an important tributary of the Ghaggar-Hakra River (thought to be the legendary Sarasvati River) rather than the Indus, with various authors putting the redirection from 2500-2000 BC, from 5000-3000 BC, or before 8000 BC. Geologists believe that tectonic activity created elevation changes which redirected the flow of Sutlej from the southeast to the southwest. If the diversion of the river occurred recently (about 4000 years ago), it may have been responsible for the Ghaggar-Hakra (Saraswati) drying up, causing desertification of Cholistan and the eastern part of the modern state of Sindh, and the desertion of Harappan settlements along the Ghaggar. However, the Sutlej may have already been captured by the Indus thousands of years earlier.

There is some evidence that the high rate of erosion caused by the modern Sutlej River has persuaded the local faulting and rapidly exhumed rocks above Rampur. This would be similar to, but on a much smaller scale than, the exhumation of rocks by the Indus River in Nanga Parbat, Pakistan. The Sutlej River also depicts a doubled inverted metamorphic gradient.

Sutlej River, longest of the five tributaries of the Indus River give the Punjab (meaning “Five Rivers”) its name. It rises on the north slope of the Himalayas in Lake La’nga in southwestern Tibet, at an altitude of above 4,600 metres feet (15,000). Flowing northwestward and then west-southwestward through Himalayan gorges, it enters and crosses the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh before beginning its flow through the Punjab plain near Nangal, Punjab state. Continuing southwestward in a broad channel, it receives the Beas River and forms 105 km of the India-Pakistan border before entering Pakistan and flowing another 350 km to join the Chenab River west of Bahawalpur. The combined rivers then form the Panjnad, the link between the Five Rivers and the Indus.

The hydrology of the Sutlej is controlled by spring and summer snowmelt in the Himalayas and by the South Asian monsoon. The onset of the summer monsoon brings heavy rains that often produce extensive flooding downstream. The maximum recorded flood discharge occurred in 1955, when the river flowed at about 600,000 cubic feet per second. The winter flow is significantly lower, since there is little rainfall or meltwater from the Himalayan glaciers. The 1,400 km (900-mile) long Sutlej is used extensively for irrigation. Its water was a source of dispute between Pakistan and India until 1960, when the countries concluded the Indus Waters Treaty, which allocated the water of the Sutlej to India in exchange for exclusive Pakistani rights to the Indus and its western tributaries. Major irrigation works include the Bhakra-Nangal Project, the Sirhind Canal, and the Sutlej Valley Project, the latter in both India and Pakistan.

Satluj River in Himachal

Satluj rises from beyond Indian borders in the Southern slopes of the Kailash mountain near Mansarover lake from Rakas lake, as Longcchen Khabab river in Tibet . It is the largest among the five rivers of Himachal Pradesh. It enters Himachal at Shipki at an elevation of 6,608 metres and flows in the South-Westerly direction through Kinnaur, Shimla, Kullu, Solan, Mandi and Bilaspur districts. Its course in Himachal Pradesh is 320 km. from Rakastal, with well-known tributaries viz. the Spiti, the Ropa, the Taiti, the Kashang, the Mulgaon, the Yula, the Wanger, the Throng and the Rupi as right bank tributaries, whereas the Baspa, the Gayathing, the Tirung, the Soldang and the Duling

are left bank tributaries. It leaves Himachal Pradesh to enter the plains of Punjab at Bhakhra, where the world's highest gravity dam has been constructed on this river. Its total catchment area in Himachal Pradesh is 20,000 sq. km. Its vedic name is Satudri and Sanskrit name Shatadru. The Satluj finally drains into the Indus in Pakistan. The catchment area of about 50,140 km. of Satluj river is located above the permanent snow-line at an elevation of 4,500 metres. The upper areas of the Satluj valley are under a permanent snow cover. The well-known human settlements that have come on the banks of the Satluj river are Tattapani, Namgia, Kalpa, Bilaspur, Suni and Rampur. Its total length is about 1,448 km.

Important Tributaries of Satluj River

Spiti River
The Spiti river originates from Kunzum range and Kabzian and Tegpo streams are its tributaries. Water draining the famous Pin valley area are also a part of the Spiti river system. Its position across the main Himalayan range deprives it from the benefit of the South-West monsoons that causes extensive rain in most parts of India from June to September. The river attains peak discharge in late summers due to glacier melting. After flowing through Spiti valley, the Spiti river meets Satluj at Namgia in Kinnaur district crossing a length of about 150 km. Huge mountain rise to very high elevations on either sides of the Spiti river and its numerous tributaries. The mountains are barren and largely devoid of a vegetative cover. The main settlements along the Spiti river and its tributaries are Hansi and Dhankar Gompa.

Baspa River
Baspa is an important tributary of the river Satluj in its upper courses. The Baspa is joined by many smaller channels draining snow melt waters. The Baspa river has cut across the main Himalayan range. Thereafter it empties itself into the river Satluj in district Kinnaur. Baspa originates from the Baspa hills, joins it from the left bank near Karcham (Kalpa ). Satluj river leaves Kinnaur district in the West near Chauhra and enters Shimla district.

Soan River
The Soan river rises from the Southern slopes of the Shivalik range also known as Solasinghi range in the area to the East of the Beas gap across the Southern border of the Kangra valley. It joins the boundary of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. Its slope is not very steep and the slopes of the Soan catchment vary from gentle to steep. In the summer the discharge dropes considerably, while during monsoon it is in spate.

The Nogli Khad
Nogli Khad joins Satluj just below Rampur Bushahar. It touches Kullu district in Nirmand tehsil opposite to Rampur tehsil of Shimla district. The river Satluj enters Mandi district near Firnu village in the Chawasigarh and passes through the areas of Mahunm, Bagra, Batwara, Derahat and Dehar. Practically, the whole of the ancient Suket state except Jaidevi and Balh circles drains into Satluj. The main tributaries of the Satluj in district Mandi are Kotlu, Siun, Bhagmati, Bahlu, Siman, Bantrehr, Khadel and Behna.



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