The Brahmaputra is one of the major rivers in Asia, running 2,390 miles in length. It is a transboundary river flowing within the boundaries of China (Tibet), India, and Bangladesh.
The river is considered to be one of the longest, and the ninth-largest river in the world in terms of the water volume discharged. The water that flows along the river comes from the Angsi Glacier in the Himalayas.
ETYMOLOGY AND PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE RIVER
- The river’s name came from the Sanskrit words “Brahma” and “putra” (son), which means son of Brahma.
- The river’s name varies depending on the location. In Tibet, it is called Tsangpo, while in India, it is Brohmoputro noi.
- The average depth of the river is 38 meters, and the maximum depth is 120 meters.
- During Spring time, the river overflows due to the melting of snow from the Himalayas, which makes it prone to flooding.
- Within the Brahmaputra Basin, the highest point is Mt. Kanchenjunga, which has a height of 8,586 meters. In the south of Tibet, large amounts of rainfall is prevalent, increasing the river’s high volume.
- The river flows through China (Tibet), India, and Bangladesh. From Tibet, it goes southwest through the valley of Assam and then heads south through Bangladesh. In the Ganges Delta, the river merges with Padma (Bangladesh’s name for the Ganges) then finally, with the Meghna River.
- After a long course, it empties into the Bay of Bengal which is located in the northeast of the Indian Ocean.
ECONOMIC SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RIVER
- Flood-control projects were initiated in the early 1950s, since the river overflows during the monsoon season. In addition, the river became a source of irrigation for agricultural crops.
- Hydropower can also be harnessed in the river, with an estimated 12,000 megawatts to provide power in India. Hydroelectric stations were installed along the river.
- For the people in India and Bangladesh, floods help them in terms of growing crops. In fact, two seasonal rice varieties are dependent on floodwater. The water also provides moisture to floodplain soils.
- In terms of transport, the Brahmaputra River is navigable. A lot of large ferries and coracles use the river to transport people, as well as goods such as bulky raw materials, timber, and crude oil from one place to another.
- These materials were carried by heavy steamers.
- At times, political conflicts have disrupted the traffic along the river in Bangladesh.
FLORA AND FAUNA IN THE RIVER
- The Brahmaputra River is also rich in biodiversity. In fact, there are drought- resistant shrubs in the upper part of the river (Tsangpo) in Tibet. Heading towards the south, one will see forests. Lac insects are mostly cultivated here. Also, there are many fruit trees in Assam Valley such as mango, papaya, and jackfruit.
- Throughout the Assam Valley and Bangladesh portions of the river, it is evident that bamboo thickets, nipa palms, and other salt-tolerant plants are present in the mangrove areas.
PEOPLE LIVING IN THE RIVER
- People who are living along the river belong to a diverse background. In the northern part of Himalayas, Tibetans speak the Tibetan language and belong to the Buddhist group. They are mostly involved in irrigation of lands using the water from the river, and animal husbandry.
- Other than the Tibetans, people belonging to the Assamese family, who speak Tibeto-Burman language, have also settled in the highlands and the lowlands of India, at the south and west part of the river.
- During the 19th century, a lot of immigrants from Bangladesh went to Assam Valley to cultivate lands in the floodplains of the river. Bengali people have also settled in the Bengal Plain of the river.
- In the hilly parts of the Bengal Plain live tribal groups of Garo, Khasi, and Hajong from the Meghalaya state in India.