At 1,800 mi, the Brahmaputra River may not even break into the list of the ten longest rivers in the world, and yet it is considered as one of the major rivers alongside the Amazon and Nile. A quick glance at some interesting facts about the Brahmaputra, and you will get a rough idea about its impact on the geography of the Indian subcontinent.
Did You Know?
The name of the BrahMos missile―a joint venture between India and Russia―is derived from the names of two major rivers, the Brahmaputra of India and Moskva of Russia.
Transboundary rivers, i.e., rivers that cross political borders, are mostly in the news for the conflicts they cause, and as a result, interesting facts about them almost always elude people. A prime example of this is the Brahmaputra, which has put India and China at loggerheads. That both the nations are locked in conflict over this river isn’t really surprising, considering that it has tremendous hydropower generation potential.
Brahmaputra River Facts
Besides the hydropower potential, there exist other interesting facts about this river that most people are unaware of. For instance, very few people know that the upper course of the Brahmaputra was not explored until the mid-1880s, or that it is geologically the youngest of the major rivers in the world.
❒ The Brahmaputra originates in the Angsi Glacier in the Himalayas, and flows through Tibet (an autonomous region of China), India, and Bangladesh, before emptying itself into the Bay of Bengal at the Ganges Delta.
❒ It meets River Meghna (the main distributary of the Ganges River), and River Padma in Bangladesh, where the three rivers come together to form the largest delta in the world – the Ganges Delta or Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta.
❒ The Brahmaputra is known by different names in different regions. It is known as the Yarlung Tsangpo River in Tibet, the Brahmaputra, Lohit, Siang, and Dihang in India, and the Jamuna in Bangladesh.
❒ It flows over a course of 1,800 mi; 1,010 mi in Tibet, 570 mi in India, and 210 mi in Bangladesh. It has an average depth of 125 ft, maximum depth of 380 ft, and an average width of 6 mi in the plains.
❒ The Brahmaputra is considered the fifth strongest river in the world in terms of flow rate. It has an average discharge of 680,000 cu ft/s. (Similarly, the Ganges-Brahmaputra River System has an average discharge of 1,086,500 cu ft/s, the third greatest in the world.)
❒ The major tributaries of the Brahmaputra river are Manas (234 mi), Raidak (230 mi), Dhansiri (219 mi), Teesta (192 mi), Kameng (164 mi), Dibang (121 mi), and Jaldhaka (119 mi).
❒ A river is said to exhibit a tidal bore when incoming tides form waves that travel up the river against the current. These waves are known as tidal waves. The Brahmaputra is one of the few examples of rivers with a tidal bore.
❒ The largest riverine island in the Brahmaputra is the Majuli Island, with a total area of 163 sq mi, as per 2001 data. The river also has to its credit the world’s smallest inhabited riverine island, the Umananda Island―also known as Peacock Island.
❒ The Saraighat Bridge near Guwahati, Assam, which was opened in April 1962, was the first bridge to be built on the Brahmaputra.
❒ On April 2, 1762, the region experienced a 7.5 magnitude earthquake which switched the main channel of the Brahmaputra southward. More recently, on August 15, 1950, the region witnessed another earthquake (the 8.6 magnitude Assam-Tibet earthquake), which altered the geology of the Brahmaputra River Basin and raised the water level by 8 to 10 m in some places.
❒ The water is shared by China, India, and Bangladesh. In India, the river accounts for nearly 30 percent of the total water resources, and about 40 percent of the total hydropower potential.
❒ In 2014, China operationalized the Zangmu Dam in Tibet as a part of the Zangmu Hydropower Project. It is the first major dam on the Brahmaputra.
❒ The river is navigable for most of its length. Besides the 800 mi course upstream from its mouth, it is also navigable in some areas of Tibet, where boat cruises are quite popular.
One of the major rivers of Asia, the Brahmaputra no doubt supports a huge population, but it’s worth noting that these people also have to bear the brunt of flooding that occurs in these regions, almost like a ritual between June and October. Additionally, these people are also affected by erosional activity of the mighty river. Also adding to their woes is the fact that the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta is submerging at the rate of 2 cm per year as a result of the rising sea level. With all these issues to address, there is no doubt that the time is running out fast for millions of people who live along the course of this great river.