The River That Made India
The Trans Himalayan Indus River rises near the Mansarovar Lake on the Tibetan plateau. It enters the Himalayas in southeastern Ladakh near its confluence with the River Gurtang at an elevation of 4,200 m.
Thereafter it follows a north by northwest course between the towering Ladakh range in the north and the Zanskar range in the south. The river has a steep gradient and the valley is very narrow in this region.
This river makes a sharp turn south of Pangong Lake and cuts through the Ladakh range. Further downstream it turns towards the south and rounds the western flank of the Nanga Parbat massif to take a westerly course and leave the Himalayas near Sazin.
Tributaries Of Indus
The main tributaries of this river in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir are:
· The Hanle River
· The Gurtang River
· The Shigar River
· The Shigar (South) River
· The Shyok River
· The Gilgit River
· The Astor River
There are a number of human settlements that lie along the Indus River in Ladakh, namely Leh, Marol, Skardu and Bunji.
Flash floods are known to have occurred in the Indus basin from time to time. The most devastating flood occurred in the latter part of the last century when a dam formed by an avalanche burst in the Indus catchment of Ladakh. Huge loss of life and property occurred in the area at that time.
Other rivers in Ladakh, which form tributaries of the Indus and its feeder streams, include the Nubra River and the Drass River.
Rising from the snowy wastes on the northern slopes of the Zanskar range in eastern Ladakh in J & K, Hanle River is a short left bank tributary of the Indus River. Two feeder streams emanating from glaciers join to form the main stream of the Hanle River. One flows in from the east while the other joins from the west. The main stream follows a north by northwest course and joins the Indus River near Loma.
Surrounded By Glacial Beauties
The Hanle River drains the area to the east of Lake Tsomorari in Rupshu. The glacial action has played a dominant role in shaping the topography of the catchment of this river. The principal geomorphic features include hanging valleys, moraines and glacial lakes. This river often floods its banks during the late summers.
Vegetative cover in this tract is very scanty. A poor growth of grass appears between May and September in moist, shady depressions. The rest of the catchment is devoid of vegetation and there is virtually no human habitation in the area.
The Gurtang River is a tributary of the Indus River in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. It rises from a glacier on the southern slopes of the Ladakh region. Thereafter, it flows down to the Indus valley and joins the Indus at an elevation of 4,200 m above sea level.
Glaciers have shaped the entire catchment area of this river. Some prominent features include hanging valleys, amphitheaters, glacial depressions, moraines and cirques. The river has a very steep gradient from its source to its confluence with the Indus River.
The entire region is devoid of vegetative cover. This is due to the high elevation and its location in the rain-shadow area of the main Himalayan range. No human habitation is found along the Gurtang although migratory graziers and travelers moving along the Indus River occasionally visit its valley.
The Shigar River is a small right bank tributary of the Indus River in its course through Ladakh. This river rises from the Hispar glacier at the base of the Haramosh and Kanjut Sar peaks in northern Ladakh. Thereafter it flows towards the southeast and joins the Indus at Skardu.
An important tributary of the Shigar River rises from the Baltoro glacier at the base of the Masherbrum peak and flows westwards to join the main channel of the Shigar in its middle course. Thus the Shigar system drains the melt-waters of two of the most important glaciers of the Karakoram Range.
This river descends along a very steep gradient. Its entire catchment has been influenced by the action of glaciers. The valley is deep in its upper reaches but widens near its mouth. A small river island has formed at the junction of the main stream with the tributary draining the Baltoro glacier.
The catchment area of this river is virtually devoid of a vegetative cover due to its high altitude and scarcity of rainfall. Human habitation is sparse, Skardu being the largest settlement in this tract.
Astor River is another of Indus's tributaries rising in a glacier on the north-facing slopes of the great Himalayan range near the Burzil Pass in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. It flows in a northwesterly direction and joins the Indus River soon after it emerges from the main Himalayan gorge a little downstream of Bunji. This river drains the area lying to the east of Nanga Parbat.
Many small snow-fed streams originating from different depressions on the great Himalayan range join the Astor River in its short course. Its catchment area consists of U-shaped valleys, glacial moraines, cirques and steep slopes. This place is largely devoid of a vegetative cover.