Indus River: Wikis


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Indus River (Darya Sindh)
Sindh, Sindhu, Hindu, Abasin, Sengge Chu, Yìndù Hé
Satellite image of the Indus River basin, Pakistan.
Countries China, India, Pakistan
Source Confluence of the Sengge and Gar rivers
 - location Tibetan Plateau, Tibet Autonomous Region, China
Mouth Sapta Sindhu
 - location Sindh, Pakistan
 - elevation m (0 ft)
Length 3,200 km (2,000 mi) approx.
Basin 1,165,000 km2 (450,000 sq mi) approx.
Discharge for Arabian Sea
 - average 6,600 m3/s (230,000 cu ft/s) approx.
Thal Canal from the Indus river, Pakistan

The Indus River (Sanskrit: सिन्धु Sindhu "River"; Urdu: سندھ Sindh; Sindhi: سندھو Sindhu; Punjabi سندھ; ਸਿੰਧੂ Sindh; Hindko سندھ Sindh; Avestan: सिन्धु Harahuti; Pashto: اباسين Abāsin "The Father River"; Persian: آب-ا-سن Ab-e-Sin or حندو Nilou ("indigo waters"); Arabic: السندAl-Sind; Tibetan: སེང་གེ།་གཙང་པོWylie: Sênggê Zangbo "Lion River"; Chinese: 森格藏布/狮泉河/印度河pinyin: Sēngé Zàngbù/Shīquán Hé/Yìndù Hé; Greek: Ινδός Indós; Turki: Nilab) is a major river which flows through India and Pakistan.

Originating in the Tibetan plateau in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and then enters Northern Areas (Gilgit-Baltistan), flowing through the North in a southerly direction along the entire length of the country, to merge into the Arabian Sea near port city of Karachi in Sindh. The total length of the river is 3,180 kilometers (1,976 miles) and is Pakistan's longest river. The river has a total drainage area exceeding 1,165,000 square kilometers (450,000 square miles). The river's estimated annual flow stands at around 207 cubic kilometers, making it the twenty-first largest river in the world in terms of annual flow. Beginning at the heights of the world with glaciers, the river feeds the ecosystem of temperate forests, plains and arid countryside. Together with the rivers Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej, Jhelum, Beas and two tributaries from the North West Frontier and Afghanistan, the Indus forms the Sapta Sindhu (Seven Rivers) delta of Pakistan.



The Indus provides the key water resources for the economy of Pakistan - especially the Breadbasket of Punjab province, which accounts for most of the nation's agricultural production, and Sindh. The word Punjab is a Persian words panj meaning Five, and āb meaning Water, giving the literal meaning of the Land of the Five Rivers. The Five rivers after which Punjab is named are the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and the Sutlej. The river also supports many heavy industries and provides the main supply of potable water in Pakistan.

The ultimate source of the Indus is in Tibet; it begins at the confluence of the Sengge and Gar rivers that drain the Nganglong Kangri and Gangdise Shan mountain ranges. The Indus then flows northwest through Ladakh and Baltistan into Gilgit, just south of the Karakoram range. The Shyok River, Shigar and Gilgit streams carry glacial waters into the main river. It gradually bends to the south, coming out of the hills between Peshawar and Rawalpindi. The Indus passes gigantic gorges 4,500-5,200 metres (15,000-17,000 feet) deep near the Nanga Parbat massif. It flows swiftly across Hazara, and is dammed at the Tarbela Reservoir. The Kabul River joins it near Attock. The remainder of its route to the sea is in plains of the Punjab and Sindh, and the river becomes slow-flowing and highly braided. It is joined by Panjnad River at Mithankot. Beyond this confluence, the river, at one time, was named Satnad River (Sat = seven, Nadi = river), as the river was now carrying the waters of the Kabul River, the Indus River and the five Punjab rivers. Passing by Jamshoro, it ends in a large delta to the east of Thatta.

The Indus is one of the few rivers in the world that exhibit a tidal bore. The Indus system is largely fed by the snows and glaciers of the Himalayas, Karakoram and the Hindu Kush ranges of Tibet, the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the Northern Areas of Pakistan respectively. The flow of the river is also determined by the seasons - it diminishes greatly in the winter, while flooding its banks in the monsoon months from July to September. There is also evidence of a steady shift in the course of the river since prehistoric times - it deviated westwards from flowing into the Rann of Kutch and adjoining Banni grasslands after the 1816 earthquake[1][2].


Effects of climate change on the river

The Tibetan Plateau contains the world's third-largest store of ice. Qin Dahe, the former head of the China Meteorological Administration, said that the recent fast pace of melting and warmer temperatures will be good for agriculture and tourism in the short term; but issued a strong warning:

"Temperatures are rising four times faster than elsewhere in China, and the Tibetan glaciers are retreating at a higher speed than in any other part of the world.... In the short term, this will cause lakes to expand and bring floods and mudflows. . . . In the long run, the glaciers are vital lifelines of the Indus River. Once they vanish, water supplies in Pakistan will be in peril."[3]

“There is insufficient data to say what will happen to the Indus,” says David Grey, the World Bank’s senior water advisor in South Asia. “But we all have very nasty fears that the flows of the Indus could be severely, severely affected by glacier melt as a consequence of climate change,” and reduced by perhaps as much as 50 percent. “Now what does that mean to a population that lives in a desert [where], without the river, there would be no life? I don’t know the answer to that question,” he says. “But we need to be concerned about that. Deeply, deeply concerned.” [4]


Indus Valley archaeological sites in Pakistan.
Extent and major sites of the Indus Valley Civilization in pre-modern Pakistan 3000 BC.

Paleolithic sites have been discovered in Pothohar near Pakistan's capital Islamabad, with the stone tools of the Soan Culture. In ancient Gandhara, near Islamabad, evidence of cave dwellers dated 15,000 years ago has been discovered at Mardan.

The major cities of the Indus Valley Civilization, such as Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, date back to around 3300 BC, and represent some of the largest human habitations of the ancient world. The Indus Valley Civilization extended from across Pakistan, with an upward reach from east of Jhelum River to Ropar on the upper Sutlej. The coastal settlements extended from Sutkagan Dor at the Pakistan,Iran border to kutch in easternmost Pakistan. There is an Indus site on the Amu Darya at Shortughai in northern Afghanistan, and the Indus site Alamgirpur at the Hindon River is located only 28 km from Delhi. To date, over 1,052 cities and settlements have been found, mainly in the general region of the Ghaggar-Hakra River and its tributaries. Among the settlements were the major urban centers of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, as well as Lothal, Dholavira, Ganeriwala, and Rakhigarhi. Only 90-96 of the over-800 known Indus Valley sites have been discovered on the Indus and its tributaries. The Sutlej, now a tributary of the Indus, in Harappan times flowed into the Ghaggar-Hakra River, in the watershed of which were more Harappan sites than along the Indus.

Most scholars believe that settlements of Gandhara grave culture of the early Indo-Aryans flourished in Gandhara from 1700 BC to 600 BC, when Mohenjo-daro and Harappa had already been abandoned.

The name Indus is used in Arrian's Indica for the mighty river crossed by Alexander, based on Nearchus's contemporaneous account. "Indus" is probably a Hellenic derivative of the Iranian Hindu, in turn derived from Sindhu, the name of the Indus in the Rigveda. The Sanskrit Sindhu generically means river, stream, ocean, probably from a root sidh meaning to keep off; Sindhu is attested 176 times in the Rigveda, 95 times in the plural, more often used in the generic meaning. Already in the Rigveda, notably in the later hymns, the meaning of the word is narrowed to refer to the Indus river in particular, for example in the list of rivers of the Nadistuti sukta. This resulted in the anomaly of a river with masculine gender: all other Rigvedic rivers are female, not just grammatically, being imagined as goddesses and compared to cows and mares yielding milk and butter.

The Indus has formed a natural boundary between the Asian Subcontinent and its frontier with the Iranian Plateau, a region which includes Pakistan's Balochistan, North West Frontier Province as well as Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Iran. It has been crossed by the armies of Alexander the Great - His Macedonian forces retreated along the southern course of the river at the end of the Asian campaign after conquering what is now Pakistan and joining it to the Hellenic Empire. The Indus plains have also been under the domination of the Persian empire and the Kushan empire. The Muslim armies of Muhammad bin Qasim, Mahmud of Ghazni, Mohammed Ghori, Tamerlane and Babur also crossed the river to strike into the inner regions of Punjab , Rajasthan and Gujarat.

The word "India" is derived from the Indus River. In ancient times, "India" initially referred to the region of Pakistan along the eastern banks of the Indus river, but by 300 BC, Greek writers like Megasthenes applied the term to the subcontinent which extends further eastward.[5]


The Indus river flows through Pakistan into the Arabian Sea



Confluence of Indus River. The Indus is the lower river in this picture.

The Indus River feeds the Indus submarine fan, which is the second largest sediment body on the Earth at around 5 million cubic kilometres of material eroded from the mountains. Studies of the sediment in the modern river indicate that the Karakoram Mountains in northern Pakistan are the single most important source of material, with the Himalayas providing the next largest contribution, mostly via the large rivers of the Punjab (i.e., the Jhelum, Ravi, Chenab, Beas and the Sutlej). Analysis of sediments from the Arabian Sea has demonstrated that prior to five million years ago the Indus was not connected to these Punjab rivers which instead flowed east into the Ganga and were captured after that time[6]. Earlier work showed that sand and silt from western Tibet was reaching the Arabian Sea by 45 million years ago, implying the existence of an ancient Indus River by that time[7]. The delta of this proto-Indus river has subsequently been found in the Katawaz Basin, on the Afghan-Pakistan border. The Indus according to the ancient Rigveda is the Saraswati which flowed from the Himalayas through Pakistan to the Arabian Sea.

In the Nanga Parbat region, the massive amounts of erosion due to the Indus river following the capture and rerouting through that area is thought to bring middle and lower crustal rocks to the surface[8].


Bridge on the Indus River in Pakistan

Accounts of the Indus valley from the times of Alexander's campaign indicate a healthy forest cover in the region, which has now considerably receded. The Mughal Emperor Babur writes of encountering rhinoceroses along its bank in his memoirs (the Baburnama). Extensive deforestation and human interference in the ecology of the Shivalik Hills has led to a marked deterioration in vegetation and growing conditions. The Indus valley regions are arid with poor vegetation. Agriculture is sustained largely due to irrigation works.

The blind Indus River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica minor) is a sub-species of dolphin found only in the Indus River. It formerly also occurred in the tributaries of the Indus river. Palla fish (Hilsa) of the river is a delicacy for people living along the river. The population of fishes in the river is moderately high, with Sukkur, Thatta and Kotri being the major fishing centres - all in the lower Sindh course. But damming and irrigation has made fish farming an important economic activity. Located southeast of Karachi, the large delta has been recognised by conservationists as one of the world's most important ecological regions. Here the river turns into many marshes, streams and creeks and meets the sea at shallow levels. Here marine fishes are found in abundance, including Pomfret and Prawns.


The Indus is the most important supplier of water resources to the Punjab and Sindh plains - it forms the backbone of agriculture and food production in Pakistan. The river is especially critical as rainfall is meagre in the lower Indus valley. Irrigation canals were first built by the people of the Indus valley civilization, and later by the engineers of the Kushan Empire and the Mughal Empire. Modern irrigation was introduced by the British East India Company in 1850 - the construction of modern canals accompanied with the restoration of old canals. The British supervised the construction of one of the most complex irrigation networks in the world. The Guddu Barrage is 1,350 metres (4,450 ft) long - irrigating Sukkur, Jacobabad, Larkana and Kalat. The Sukkur Barrage serves over 20,000 square kilometres (5,000,000 acres).

After the independence of Pakistan, a water control treaty signed between India and Pakistan in 1960 guaranteed that Pakistan would receive water from the Indus River and its two western tributaries, the Jhelum River & the Chenab River independent of upstream control by India.[9] The project, Indus Basin Project, consisted primarily of the construction of two main dams, the Mangla Dam built on the Jhelum River and the Tarbela Dam constructed on the Indus River, together with their subsidiary dams.[10] The Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority undertook the construction of the Chashma-Jhelum link canal - linking the waters of the Indus and Jhelum rivers - extending water supplies to the regions of Bahawalpur and Multan. Pakistan constructed the Tarbela Dam near Rawalpindi - standing 2743 metres (9,000 ft) long and 143 metres (470 ft) high, with an 80 kilometre (50 mile) long reservoir. The Kotri Barrage near Hyderabad is 915 metres (3,000 ft) long and provides additional supplies for Karachi. The Taunsa Barrage near Dera Ghazi Khan produces 100,000 kilowatts of electricity. The extensive linking of tributaries with the Indus has helped spread water resources to the valley of Peshawar, in the North-West Frontier Province. The extensive irrigation and dam projects provide the basis for Pakistan's large production of crops such as cotton, sugarcane and wheat. The dams also generate electricity for heavy industries and urban centres.


The Indus River near Skardu, Pakistan

The inhabitants of the regions through whom the Indus river passes and forms a major natural feature and resource are diverse in ethnicity, religion, national and linguistic backgrounds. On the northern course of the river in the province of Jammu and Kashmir live the Buddhist people of Ladakh, of Tibetan stock, and the Dards of Indo-Aryan or Dardic stock and practising Buddhism and Islam. Then it descends into Baltistan, northern Pakistan passing the main Balti city of Skardu. As it continues through Pakistan, the Indus river forms a distinctive boundary of ethnicity and cultures - upon the western banks the population is largely Pashtun, Baloch, and of other Iranic stock, with close cultural, economic and ethnic ties to eastern Afghanistan and parts of Iran. The eastern banks are largely populated by peoples of Indo-Aryan stock, such as the Punjabis, the Sindhis and the Seraikis. In northern Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province, ethnic Pashtun tribes live alongside Dardic people in the hills (Khowar, Kalash, Shina, etc.), Burushos (in Hunza), and Punjabi people. In the southern portion of the Punjab province, the Saraiki peoples speak a distinctive tongue and practise distinctive traditions. In the province of Sindh, peoples of Sindhi backgrounds form the local populations. Upon the western banks of the river live the Baloch and Pashtun peoples of Balochistan. komm[9pup8miun

Modern issues

The Indus is a strategically vital resource for Pakistan's economy and society. After the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, the use of the waters of the Indus and its five eastern tributaries became a major dispute between India and Pakistan. The irrigation canals of the Sutlej valley and the Bari Doab were split - with the canals lying primarily in Pakistan and the headwork dams in India disrupting supply in some parts of Pakistan. The concern over India building large dams over various Punjab rivers that could undercut the supply flowing to Pakistan, as well as the possibility that India could divert rivers in the time of war, caused political consternation in Pakistan. Holding diplomatic talks brokered by the World Bank, India and Pakistan signed the Indus Waters Treaty in 1960. The treaty gave India control of the three easternmost rivers of the Punjab, the Sutlej, the Beas and the Ravi, while Pakistan gained control of the three western rivers, the Jhelum, the Chenab and the Indus. India retained the right to use of the western rivers for non irrigation projects. (See discussion regarding a recent dispute about a hydroelectric project on the Chenab (not Indus) known as the Baglihar Project).

Hindu pilgrimage to holy sites alongside the river has been a source of conflict between the two nations. Pakistan and India do not generally allow each others' citizens to cross borders for religious pilgrimages, other than Sikhs who travel to Pakistan for their annual pilgrimage.

There are concerns that extensive deforestation, industrial pollution and global warming are affecting the vegetation and wildlife of the Indus delta, while affecting agricultural production as well. There are also concerns that the Indus river may be shifting its course westwards - although the progression spans centuries. On numerous occasions, sediment clogging owing to poor maintenance of canals has affected agricultural production and vegetation. In addition, extreme heat has caused water to evaporate, leaving salt deposits that render lands useless for cultivation.

More recently and within Pakistan, the province of Punjab is seeking to cut off the flow of the river downstream to Sindh by building dams within its provincial limits in the face of opposition from the people of Sindh, storage reservoirs used to produce the bulk of food consumed by millions of Pakistanis nationwide as well as providing cheap hydel power to the country's national electric grid system. On the other hand, people of Sindh suggest to utilize the coal reserves of Thar Parker, Sindh, to meet the electricity needs.

Sindhu Darya Day (River Indus Day)

This day was celebrated on 24 January 2010 in Sindh, province of Pakistan, in order to pay tribute to River Indus. This was the first-ever Sindhu Darya Day (River Indus Day) and then Government of Sindh decided to celebrate this Day every year.

The day was announced by a famous Sindhi TV channel KTN, and later by Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah. The main reason to observe this day was to raise awareness among people about the critical situation of River Indus and also to motivate people to start struggle to make restoration of water in River Indus in Sindh possible.

A large number of women and children, activists of various political parties, including the PPP, the PML-N, the PML-F, the MQM, nationalist groups, labour federations and non-governmental organisations, wearing Sindhi caps and ajraks and keeping aside their political affiliations and ideologies, tossed flowers and rose petals into the Indus River and its related canals.

People started assembling at the riverbed at about 10 am and remained there till evening when prayers were offered for restoration of the river’s old glory. They gathered at almost all the places in Sindh from where River Indus flows to express their love for the river and reiterate their stand on the water issue

People from Tharparkar belonging to the Bheel, Kohli and Thakur communities also offered prayers according to their traditions and danced to the tune of national and Sindhi songs.

Different groups presented cultural programs on the occasion to motivate people about preserving the historic importance, uniqueness and continued flow of the river. Several organisations had set up camps and stalls and some of them distributed free food. A 12-year-old boy also paid tribute of blood to the River in Sukkur.

In Thatta, activists of social and political organisations and civil society sat in the dry riverbed and held a demonstration on Doolha Darya Khan bridge to express concern over shortage of water in the river.

Sindhis belonging to India, who came to Sindh for their own religious purposes, also celebrated this day when they heard of this call. They threw roses in the river at Saadh Belo, Sukkur.

Hindu Community of Sindh also celebrated this day in their own unique religious way. They took Aartee of River Indus and decided to celebrate this day every year as religious day of Hindu community of Sindh.

Many local and famous singers of Sindh, including Ahmed Mughal, Zamin Ali, Taj Mastani, Sadiq Faqir, Kareem Faqir, Najaf Faqir, Sanam Marvi, Zulfiqar Ali and Mazhar Hussain, entertained people from a stage set up by the Sindh Department of Culture.

Large groups of people holding flags and banners of different parties marched to the river on foot and many other in motorcade. They were led by their leaders, STP chairman Qadir Magsi, JSQM chairman Bashir Khan Qureshi, JSM chairman Riaz Chandio, Culture Minister Sassui Palijo, MPA Humera Alwani, MNA Dr Abdul Wahid Soomro, MNA Syed Ayaz Shah Shirazi and MPA Heer Soho.Several NGOs and welafare organisations also held rallies which were attended by writers, intellectuals, fishermen and common people.

Leaders of different political and social organizations said thousands of acres of agricultural land of the province became barren due to the scarcity of water. They said the people of Sindh depended on the Indus River, because the river irrigated their lands and kept the water ecology intact. They said the observance of the Indus Day was not a politically-motivated object, but the object of the day was to unite the people of Sindh to exert pressure on the authorities concerned to take notice of the shortage of irrigation water.

They said such days also promoted the culture and tradition of nations as well as to bridging the gap between the people.They pledged to continue such observances annually and asked the authorities concerned to devise a strategy to produce more water reservoirs.

See also


  1. ^ 70% of cattle-breeders desert Banni; by Narandas Thacker, TNN, 14 February 2002; The Times of India
  2. ^ Lost and forgotten: grasslands and pastoralists of Gujarat; by CHARUL BHARWADA and VINAY MAHAJAN; THE FORSAKEN DRYLANDS; a symposium on some of India'smost invisible people; SEMINAR; NEW DELHI; 2006; NUMB 564, pages 35-39; ISSN 0037-1947, Listed at the British Library Online: [1]
  3. ^ Global warming benefits to Tibet: Chinese official. Reported 18/Aug/2009.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Henry Yule: INDIA, INDIES. In Hobson-Jobson: A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases, and of kindred terms, etymological, historical, geographical and discursive. New ed. edited by William Crooke, B.A. London: J. Murray, 1903
  6. ^ Clift, Peter D.; Blusztajn, Jerzy (December 15, 2005). "Reorganization of the western Himalayan river system after five million years ago". Nature 438: 1001–1003. doi:10.1038/nature04379. 
  7. ^ Clift, Peter D.; Shimizu, N.; Layne, G.D.; Blusztajn, J.S.; Gaedicke, C.; Schlüter, H.-U.; Clark, M.K.; and Amjad, S. (August 2001). "Development of the Indus Fan and its significance for the erosional history of the Western Himalaya and Karakoram". GSA Bulletin 113 (8): 1039–1051. doi:10.1130/0016-7606(2001)113<1039:DOTIFA>2.0.CO;2. 
  8. ^ Zeitler, Peter K.; Koons, Peter O.; Bishop, Michael P.; Chamberlain, C. Page; Craw, David; Edwards, Michael A.; Hamidullah, Syed; Jam, Qasim M.; Kahn, M. Asif; Khattak, M. Umar Khan; Kidd, William S. F.; Mackie, Randall L.; Meltzer, Anne S.; Park, Stephen K.; Pecher, Arnaud; Poage, Michael A.; Sarker, Golam; Schneider, David A.; Seeber, Leonardo; and Shroder, John F. (October 2001). "Crustal reworking at Nanga Parbat, Pakistan: Metamorphic consequences of thermal-mechanical coupling facilitated by erosion". Tectonics 20 (5): 712–728. doi:10.1029/2000TC001243. 
  9. ^ "Tarabela Dam". www.structurae.the cat in the hat. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  10. ^ "Indus Basin Project". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 


External links

Coordinates: 24°18′43″N 67°45′49″E / 24.312059°N 67.763672°E / 24.312059; 67.763672 (Mouth of the Indus)

Simple English

File:Indus near
The Indus, near Skardu

The Indus River is one of the seven sacred rivers of Hindus. Now the river flows through China (Tibet), into Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of Pakistan. It was an important river of Ancient India. The name of India and now the Republic of India is based on the Indus[needs proof]. The river flowed from Sinhkabab, that is, the mouth of a lion. The river itself they described in Sanskrit as the Sindhu[needs proof]. The ancient Greeks called it Sinthus, the Romans Sindhus, the Chinese Sintow and the Persians Abisindh.

It was Pliny who first called it Indus and the name stuck. The Indus in turn gave it name to India.


River basin

Over 60% of the total area of the Indus basin lies in Pakistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir, India-Administered Kashmir, has about 15%, Tibet has about 10% and the Republic of India and Afghanistan each have about 7% of the Indus basin catchment area. The Indus water system of rivers comprises the main Indus and its major tributaries: the Kabul River and Kurram River on the right bank, and the Jhelum River, Chenab River, Ravi River, Beas River and the Sutlej on the left. The first two join the Indus soon after it debouches from the mountains, and the others lower down in the plains. The whole of the Beas and the head reaches of the Ravi and Sutlej are in the Republic of India, while those of the Chenab and Jhelum lie mostly in the disputed Kashmir state. The entire basin covers an area of about 384,000 square miles of open land, of which 204,000 lie in Pakistan. In addition, there are about 29,000 square miles which lie outside the Indus basin but are dependent on the Indus river system for their water requirements and irrigation supplies. But for the Indus waters, the fate of agriculture in Pakistan would have been very uncertain. Even now when Pakistan is being rapidly industrialised, it cannot do without its water resources, for a very big percentage of its existing and proposed industry has to draw upon the agriculture produce for its raw materials. Almost all of the basin in Pakistan receives an overall rainfull of less than 15 inches, 60% of its area receiving less than 10 inches, while, 16% receives less than 5 inches. The rainfull is not evenly distributed throughout the year but is concentrated during the monsoons.


Rising in western Tibet in China, the Indus runs at first across a high plateau, then the ground falls away and the river, dropping rapidly, gathering momentum and rushing north-west, collects the waters from innumerable glacier-fed streams, and runs north-west between the world's greatest mountain ranges, the Karakoram and the Himalayas. In Kashmir it crosses the United Nations cease-fire line and, in Baltistan District, enters Pakistani Kashmir or Pakistan-Administered Kashmir. From here on it is Pakistan's river; Pakistan's first town on the upper Indus, Skardu, at 7,500 feet above sea-level, stands on a bluff near the junction of the Indus and one of its great right-bank tributaries, the Shigar. The majority of the people live in Skardu town; others inhabit small and scattered villages along the Indus and Shigar valleys, or tiny hamlets high on the surrounding mountains beside tributary streams or springs.


Walnuts grow along the Indus near Skardu, and poplars and apples; there are delicious melons and nectarines and apricots in the valley of Shigar, but it is difficult to send them "down-country" because they are easily spoilt in transit. Potatoes, maize and other crops need unremitting attention; the patchwork of fields must be fed by small water-channels led off from the upper streams of the Indus, sometimes for hundreds of yards. This means endless, back-breaking work in moving boulders to dam icy water, in continually checking, adjusting and repairing the flimsy clay dykes. Strong winds funnel along the river, and the fine soil blows away and must be replaced. At this height, the growing season is short, and everyman, woman and child is pressed into service. Below Skardu, the Karakorams and Himalayas close in towards the Indus.


The confluence of the Indus (green water to the left) and Zanskar (brown water to the right) rivers.

In a brief widening of its valley, the clear, jade-green Gilgit River foams down to meet it from the Hindu Kush. These mountains stand across the Indus's path, and the river is forced to turn to the south-west. The Astor joins it from the east. Reinforced, the Indus twists and swirls down a trough between the Hindu Kush to the west, and the huge rampart of Nanga Parbat to the east. In all these upper reaches of the Indus, narrow alluvial fans spill down the occasional cracks in the mountain rock. Good soil is rare here, and perched on their mud platforms, the few villages have to fight an endless battle against erosion by wind and climate. Some villages never see the sun in winter, others are so scorched in summer that the inhabitants must migrate to the uplands. Every village lives under threat. Appalling storms are commonplace, especially where the Indus begins to reach the monsoon area. Sometimes, in the high mountains, a glacier will slide across a tributary river and hold it back to form a lake; when the ice-dam breaks it releases a great gush of water and reaches high up the cliffs in the Indus narrows. A landslide from the foothills of Nanga Parbat has even been known to block the Indus itself, temporarily, and the destruction downstream, through, was catastrophic. Avalanches of mud and boulders suddenly poured down the mountainside, overwhelming people and crops in their path. Most terrible of all are the earthquakes. This is a geologically unstable area, and there have been many earthquakes, the most recent being in the autumn of 2005, also known as the Kashmir Earthquake.


The Indus is dammed to provide for irrigation and for hydro-electricity.[1]

The largest dam on the Indus is Tarbela Dam. When it was built 100,000 people had to leave their homes.[1]

The Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) Project is one of the main drainage systems in the delta. The project is sponsored by the World Bank.[1]


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