The Ganges, or Ganga, River holds immense religious significance for Hindus. It originates in the lofty Himalaya Mountains and eventually flows into the Bay of Bengal. The vast region surrounding the river, known as the Ganges River Basin, is home to a population of over four hundred million people.
The Ganges River, revered by followers of Hinduism, traverses northern India. The Ganges River Basin encompasses the areas where more than four hundred million Indians reside. A river basin refers to the land area drained by a river, such as the Ganges, and all its tributaries. Consequently, surface water and rainfall in this basin converge into the nearby rivers.
The Ganges River begins at Gomukh, located at the terminus of the Gangotri Glacier in the Himalayas. When the ice from this glacier melts, it gives rise to the crystal-clear waters of the Bhagirathi River. As the Bhagirathi River descends through the Himalayas, it merges with the Alaknanda River, officially forming the Ganges River. Sometimes, the Ganges River Basin is considered part of a larger river basin, encompassing the Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers in proximity. This vast expanse is known as the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) River Basin, one of the world’s largest river systems.
The Ganges River receives water from the melting Himalayan glaciers, tributaries, and precipitation. It flows south and east from the Himalayas, carving a canyon-like path as it departs from the mountains. The river meanders through northern India and eventually discharges into the Bay of Bengal. Numerous tributaries of the Ganges originate from neighboring countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, and China (specifically, Tibet).
As the Ganges River courses through its journey, it carries nutrient-rich sediments, depositing fertile soil along its banks. This natural process has facilitated the development of civilizations along its course, supporting thriving communities for centuries. Today, the river flows through densely populated regions of India, providing fresh water to millions of inhabitants. It also serves as a vital resource for activities such as fishing, irrigation, and bathing. In the Hindu faith, the Ganges is venerated as the Mother Ganga. As the river reaches the Bay of Bengal, its mouth forms the Ganges River Delta, the largest river delta globally.
Despite its critical importance to Asia, the Ganges River faces numerous threats. Human and industrial pollutants contaminate sections of the river, rendering it unsuitable for activities like swimming. The escalating population in regions bordering the river increases the demand for water in agriculture, straining water resources. Additionally, scientists have noted a reduction in glacial ice in the Himalayas, the primary source of the Ganges, due to climate change. This phenomenon is expected to further diminish water levels in the river over time, exacerbating the challenges faced by this vital waterway.
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