Rajasthan Rivers Profile

About Rajasthan

Location: North West India; Area:- 342,239 sq km; Geography:-Desert plains and mountainous (Aravalli range); Population:- 68.54 million People; Rivers:- 6 Major River basins; Districts:-33 Districts; Climate:- Drier Western and Tropical Eastern part

About Rajasthan Rivers 

Rivers in Rajasthan are mostly seasonal, but this fact explains little because a river is not just the surface flow, evident to a naked eye. All the rivers and their floodplains in this desert state are vast grazing grounds supporting millions of livestock. These unseen rivers also recharge the groundwater making well irrigation possible.  

Modern-day development activities, however, are putting an enormous pressure on them. If deforestation has reduced the water flow, rampant sand mining has affected the water retention and seepage into subsurface channels. Aravallis also has large number of marble mines and processing units. While digging operations extensively damage the environment, discharge of a large amount of slurry by processing units also blocks water channels. Industrial and domestic wastewater has further affected the quality and biodiversity of rivers. 

Reduced water flow is in turn making it easier for the encroachers to infringe upon these riverbeds. This has also put most dams in the state in critical state as they are not getting water as per their designed dependabilities. This disrupts the water resources planning of the state and execution of contingency plan every year.

Only two river basins (Chambal and Mahi) are perennial. In the recent past, many perennial rivers in these two basins became seasonal due to over-abstraction of groundwater from the catchment area of the rivers rendering reduced water table leading to reduced or nil base flow,Rajasthan connects strongly with water through its heritage of lakes, ponds, stepwells, dugwells and taankas (underground tanks). Rivers thus have a limited presence in cultural and mythological landscape and are mostly seen as means of irrigation along their stretches. The region around Aravalis comprising south east Rajasthan has a stronger connection with rivers than the drier north-western and central plains. In fact, many of the forts had rivers as their natural defence against enemy attacks.

Here is a short description on the present day situation of major rivers in Rajasthan 

Rajasthan River Map

  • Luni (Sukri, Rediya, Mithri, Bandi, Khari, Jawai, Guhiya and Sagi, and Jojari). The main stem of the river is RED because of multiple points of high sewage and industrial pollution. The seasonal  character of Luni and its tributaries also impedes movement of these pollutants resulting in groundwater pollution. 
  • Banas– (Berach, Dain, Gudia, Kalisil, Khari, Kothari, Mashi, Morel, Sodra), the main stem is RED due to pollution from mining, sewage and impact of sand mining. 
  • Chambal– (Banas, Chakan, Kalisindh, Kunu, Mej and Parwati). The river is RED because of the threats faced  by  its  tributaries  from rampant  sand  mining,  industrial  and  domestic  pollutants and number of water harvesting structures including dams, barrages and anicuts which is affecting the environmental flows.
  • Mahi – (Anas, Bhadar, Jakham, Moran, Som). Mahi is assigned the health status of RED. There are multiple dams and reservoirs besides anicuts on more than half of its tributaries. The main stem also has two major dams, Mahi Bajaj Sagar near Banswara and Kadana on the border with Gujarat. Even though there are only two small towns in the Rajasthan area of the Mahi basin, they do impact pollution levels of the river. 
  • Sabarmati – (Sei, Vatrak and Wakal). Sabarmati is assigned the health status of RED because even though it encounters less threats due to absence of any big habitation, high level of deforestation and diversion of water from its tributaries to meet needs of the urban areas of south Rajasthan impedes its flow. 
  • Banganga– (Gumti, Suri, Sanwan, Palasan). The river qualify for a RED status because of excessive encroachment on their riverbeds due to their seasonal flow, number of water harvesting structures including dams, barrages and anicuts on the tributaries and sand mining.
  • West Banas– (Sipu, Balaram)- West Banas is assigned the health status of PINK because it encounters less threats due to absence of any big habitation and a basin endowed with good forest.  
  • Ghaggar– The river qualifies for a RED status because it is more of a drain than a river due to its seasonal nature and excessive extraction in upstream states of Punjab and Haryana leaving little for flow in.  
  • Sahibi or Sabi– Assigned the health status of RED because it rarely flows now. Change in landscape, urbanisation, introduction of industries and intensive agriculture has affected the catchment. 

Report by Manu Moudgil (moudgilmanu@gmail.com)

You may also like to see, West Bengal Rivers Profile

North-East India Rivers Profile

Maharashtra Rivers Profile 

NOTES:-

  • This report was commissioned for India Rivers Week 2016. 
  • The Rajasthan Rivers map has been put together by a WWF Team led by G Areendran, the names of the rivers have been provided by an INTACH Team led by Dr. Manu Bhatnagar.
  • Names in bracket represent the Key tributaries; RED color is for (Critical) status; BLUE is for (Safe) status and rest are PINK (Threatened) status 
  • This is a short description, for detail report kindly explore the link Rajasthan Rivers Profile
  • The report can also be seen on  India River Week blog 

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