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The Ravi River

English: Ravi River, near Chamba.
English: Ravi River, near Chamba. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Ravi (Urdu: راوی‎,Sanskrit: इरावती, परुष्णि, Hindi: रावी, Punjabi: ਰਾਵੀ), is a trans-boundary river flowing through Northwestern India and eastern Pakistan. It is one of the six rivers of the Indus System in Punjab region (name of Punjab means "Five Rivers").[1]
After the partition of India in August 1947, the waters of the Ravi River, along with five other rivers of the Indus system (Beas, Sutlej, Chenab, Jhelum and Indus), divided India and Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty, which was facilitated by the World Bank. Subsequently, Indus Basin Project has been developed in Pakistan and many Inter Basin Water Transfers, Irrigation, Hydropower and multipurpose projects have been built in India.
According to ancient history traced to Vedas, the Ravi River was known as Iravati (also spelt Airavati)[2]
Part of the battle of the ten kings was fought on a River, which according to Yaska (Nirukta 9.26) refers to the Iravati River (Ravi River) in the Punjab.


The Ravi River, a trans-boundary river of India and Pakistan, is an integral part of the Indus River Basin and forms the headwaters of the Indus basin. The waters of the Ravi River drain in to the Indian Ocean through the Indus River in Pakistan. The river rises in the Bara Bhangal, District Chamba in Himachal Pradesh, India. The river drains a total catchment area of 14,442 square kilometres (5,576 sq mi) in India after flowing for a length of 720 kilometres (450 mi). Flowing westward, it is hemmed by the Pir Panjal and Dhauladhar ranges, forming a triangular zone.[3]

  River course

 The Ravi River originates in the Himalayas in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh, India. It follows a north-westerly course and is a perennial river.[1] It is the smallest of the five Punjab rivers that rises from glacier fields at an elevation of 14,000 feet (4,300 m), on the southern side of the Mid Himalayas. It flows through Barabhangal, Bara Bansu and Chamba districts. It flows in rapids in its initial reaches with boulders seen scattered in the bed of the river. The Ravi River in this reach flows in a gorge with a river bed slope of 1:185 ft per mile, and is mostly fed by snow melt, as this region falls under rain shadow zone. Two of its major tributaries, the Budhil and Nai or Dhona join 40 miles (64 km) downstream from its source. The Budhil River rises in Lahul range of hills and is sourced from the Manimahesh Kailash Peak and the Manimahesh Lake (elevation 4,080 metres (13,390 ft)) below the peak, and both are visited as sacred Hindu pilgrimage sites. The entire length of Budhil is 45 miles (72 km) where it has a bed slope of 1:314 ft per mile. It flows through the ancient capital of Bharmwar, now known as Bharmour in Himachal Pradesh. During 1858–1860, the Raja of Bharmour had considered the Budhil valley as an excellent source of Deodar trees for supply to the British Raj. However, a part of the forest surrounding the temple was considered sacred and declared a reserved area. The second tributary, the Nai, rises at Kali Debi pass, flows for a length of 30 miles (48 km) (with a bed slope of 1:366 ft per mile) from its source at Trilokinath up to its confluence with the Ravi. This valley was also exploited for its forest wealth during the British period.[4][5]
Another major tributary that joins the Ravi River, just below Bharmour, the old capital of Chamba, is the Seul River from the northern direction. The valley formed by the river was also exploited for its rich timber trees. However, the valley has large terraces, which are very fertile and known as "the garden of Chamba". crops grown here supply grains to the capital region and to Dalhousie town and its surrounding areas. One more major tributary that joins the Ravi River near Bissoli is the Siawa. This river was also exploited for its forest resources, (controlled by the then Raja of Chamba) originating from the Jammu region. The valley is also formed by another major tributary that joins Seul River, the Baira-Nalla. Its sub-basin is in the Chamba district, located above Tissa. Baira drains the southern slopes of the Pir Panjal Range. The valley has an elevation variation between 5,321 metres (17,457 ft) and 2,693 metres (8,835 ft).[3][4][5]
Tant Gari is another small tributary that rises from the subsidiary hill ranges of the Pir Panjal Range to the East of Bharmour. The valley formed by this stream is U-shaped with a river bed scattered with boulders and glacial morainic deposits.[5]
Main Ravi River
The main Ravi River flows through the base of Dalhousie hill, past the Chamba town. It is located at an elevation of 2,807 feet (856 m) (where a long wooden bridge existed to cross the Ravi River).[6] It flows into the south-west, near Dalhousie, and then cuts a gorge in the Dhauladhar Range, before entering the Punjab plain near Madhopur and Pathankot. It then flows along the Indo–Pak border for 80 kilometres (50 mi) before entering Pakistan and joining the Chenab River. The total length of the river is about 725 kilometres (450 mi).[1]
Ujh River is another major tributary of the Ravi River. its source is located in the Kailash mountains at an elevation of 4,300 metres (14,100 ft), close to the Bhaderwah Mountains in Jammu district. After flowing for 100 kilometres (62 mi) stretch, it joins Ravi at Nainkot in Pakistan.
As the Ravi flows past Lahore in Pakistan (26 kilometres (16 mi) below Amritsar in India) it is called 'The river of Lahore' since that city is located on its eastern bank. After passing through Lahore the river takes a turn at Kamlia and then debouches into the Chenab River, south of the town of Ahmadpur Sial. On its western bank is the town of Shahdara Bagh with the tomb of Jahangir and the Tomb of Noor Jahan.[1][3]
Change of river course
According to satellite imagery studies carried out over a period of 20 years (between 1972–1973 and 1991–1993), the river coursing along the India–Pakistan border meanders substantially in the alluvial plains of the Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts of Punjab. This has resulted in successive damage in the Indian Territory as a result of the river changing its course towards India. The reason attributed to this change in the course of the river is massive river training structures/bunds constructed by Pakistan in its part of the river, close to the old course of the river. the shift in the course of the river is reported to be 4.8 kilometres (3.0 mi) towards India.[7]
River water pollution
In the trans-boundary Ravi River flowing from India to Pakistan, in urban areas of Lahore the pollution levels in the river discharge are reportedly very high, which is attributed to careless disposal of large amount of industrial and agricultural waste water and faulty drainage system in both countries.[8][9] A 72 km stretch of the Ravi River from Lahore Siphon to Baloki headworks indicates heavy contamination of the water and sediment with Cd, Cr, Co and Cu. The river sediments are highly contaminated and have become secondary source for pollution of the river water, even though some control over unauthorized discharges in to the river have been checked. Hence, measures to check metal re-mobilization from sediments into the river flows needs attention.[8] The worst affected drainage is the Hudiara drain, a tributary of the Ravi River. It is also a transborder problem involving both India and Pakistan. A UNDP funded a special programme was launched in 2006 to address the issue in both countries.[9]

  Ravi river basin vegetation

The Ravi valley in its upper reaches has Deodar, walnut, Quercus ilex, daphne, mulberry, alder, edible pine (Pinus gerardiana), twisted cypress (Cupressus torulosa), chinar (Platanus orientalis), daphne papyracea, cedrela serata, and sisso, olive and kakkar (raus).[10]


The waters of the Ravi River are allocated to India under the Indus Waters Treaty, signed by India and Pakistan. Within India, the river is under the jurisdiction of the riparian states of Punjab, Haryana, Kashmir and Rajasthan, but management is presided by the Supreme Court of India and the Ravi Beas Tribunal, set up in 1986 for the purpose.
Pre-partition utilization
On the Ravi River, the earliest project built was the Madhopur Headworks, in 1902. It is a run-of-the river project (no storage envisaged) to divert flows through the Upper Bari Doab Canal (also known as Central Bari Doab Canal) to provide irrigation in the command area of the then unified India. Doabas formed by the Ravi River are known as the Rechna Doab – between the Chenab and the Ravi River, and the Bari Doab or Majha – between the Ravi and the Beas River. Government of India has assessed the pre-partition utilization in India (Punjab) as 1,476,000 acre feet (1.821 km3).[11]
The Hydropower potential of Ravi River system has been assessed as 2294 MW.[12] The hydropower potential developed since 1980s is through installation of Baira Suil Hydroelelectric Power Project of 198 MW capacity, the Chamera-I of 540 MW capacity commissioned in 1994, the Ranjitsagar Multipurpose Project (600 MW) completed in 1999 and the Chamera-II of 300 MW capacity in the upstream of Chamera-I commissioned in 2004.[13]
Multipurpose development
The major multipurpose project (Irrigation, Hydropower, Flood Control, development of Fisheries, Tourism and so forth) built on the river is the Ranjit Sagar Dam (also known as Thein dam as it is located in Thein village). The left bank is in Punjab and the right bank is in Jammu and Kashmir. It is located on the main stem of the Ravi River, about 24 kilometres (15 mi) upstream of Madhopur Headworks (built during pre-partition time). The project is an outcome of the development plan conceived for the utilization of the waters of three eastern rivers allocated to India under the Indus Treaty, namely the Sutlej, the Beas and the Ravi, for irrigation, hydropower generation and other consumptive uses.[14][15][16][17]
A proposal for building a storage dam on the Ravi River was initially planned in 1912, envisaging a 200 feet (61 m) high dam. A committee later conducted a survey of the area, but it wasn't until 1954 that geologists fully inspected the project area. In 1957, a storage Dam was proposed on the Ravi River for irrigation purposes only. The power generation aspect was not considered then. It was only in 1964 that the project was conceived for multipurpose development and submitted to Government of India for approval. Finally, in April 1982, the project was approved for construction by the Government of India.
The project, as built now, has a 160 metres (520 ft) high earth gravel shell dam with a gross irrigation potential of 348,000 hectares (860,000 acres) of land and power generation of 600 MW (4 units of 150 MW capacity each).[14][16][17]
The geomorpohological setting of the river basin, which has a large number of terraces between Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal ranges, is attributed to the truly Himalayan characteristics of the river reflecting the "cis-Himalayan tectonic; structural, lithological and climatic conditions. Obviously it is different from the antecedent Indus and Sutlej".[18]

  International Water Sharing Treaty

The upper reaches of the main Indus River and its tributaries lie in India whereas the lower reaches are in Pakistan. Following the partition of India in August 1947, a dispute arose between India and Pakistan on sharing of the waters of the Indus River Basin. The dispute was resolved with the intervention of the World Bank and a treaty was signed in 1960 on sharing of the Indus waters between India and Pakistan.[19][20]
The Indus System of Rivers comprises the three Western Rivers in the Indus, the Jhelum and Chenab together with three Eastern Rivers; the Sutlej, the Beas and the Ravi. To establish the ownership of these waters, an Indus Water Treaty was signed between India and Pakistan on April 1, 1960, under monitoring of the World Bank. The treaty, under Article 5.1, envisages the sharing of waters of the rivers Ravi, Beas, Sutlej, Jhelum and Chenab which join the Indus River on its left bank (eastern side) in Pakistan. According to this treaty, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej, which constitute the eastern rivers, are allocated for exclusive use by India before they enter Pakistan. However, a transition period of 10 years was permitted in which India was bound to supply water to Pakistan from these rivers until Pakistan was able to build the canal system for utilization of waters of Jhelum, Chenab and the Indus itself, allocated to it under the treaty. Similarly, Pakistan has exclusive use of the Western Rivers Jhelum, Chenab and Indus but with some stipulations for development of projects on these rivers in India. Pakistan also received one-time financial compensation for the loss of water from the Eastern rivers. Since March 31, 1970, after the 10-year moratorium, India has secured full rights for use of the waters of the three rivers allocated to it.[21][22] The treaty resulted in partitioning of the rivers rather than sharing of their waters.[23]
Under this treaty, the two countries also agreed to exchange data and co-operate in matters related to the treaty. For this purpose, treaty envisaged creation of the Permanent Indus Commission, with a commissioner appointed by each country.[22] The Indus Waters Treaty is the only International treaty that has been implemented over the last 60 years with due diligence and sincerity by both India and Pakistan, in spite of many wars fought between the two countries (the treaty was not revoked by India during the 1965 or the 1971 war with Pakistan).[19][24]

  Inter-State Water Dispute

Even prior to the partition of India in August 1947, India had developed projects on the river Ravi and Beas River system. When the treaty was under debate, India had taken advance action to develop the three rivers, which were eventually allocated to it under the treaty. According to a directive of the Government of India, planning for development of the Ravi and Beas rivers was initiated concurrently with the treaty negotiations, which involved four riparian states of Punjab, PEPSU (this was merged with Punjab and subsequently Punjab was divided, and additionally the Haryana state was created), Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) within the ambit of the already developed Bhakra Nangal Dam project on the Sutlej River. A review of the flows in the two river systems revealed that prior to partition of the country and up to the time of the signing of the Indus Treaty, 3,130,000 acre feet (3.86 km3) of water was under utilization through major irrigation systems such as the Upper Bari Doab Canal System (1959) and the Lower Bari Doab Canal System (1915). The unused flow in the two river systems was assessed at 15,580,000 acre feet (19.22 km3), which was planned to be developed by the four states of J&K, PEPSU, Punjab and Rajasthan. However, with the merger of PEPSU with Punjab and subsequent bifurcation of Punjab into two states, a dispute arose on the allocation of Ravi and Beas waters for which a Tribunal was set up under the Interstate River Water Disputes Act.[11][25]
Contrary to the claims of Punjab state, small part of Haryana state lying north in Panchkula district[26] is part of Sutlej river basin area in addition to Punjab and Himachal Pradesh in India. Thus Haryana is also a riparian state of Indus river basin.
Following the reorganization of the state of Punjab in 1966, Haryana State was created. This was followed by a notification by the Government of India dated 24 March 1976 allocating the surplus waters between Punjab and Haryana in due consideration of the powers conferred by Sub Section (I) of Section 78 of the Punjab Reorganization Act, 1966 (31 of 1966). The allocation was challenged in the Supreme Court by Haryana. A tripartite agreement followed on 31 December 1981, based on the revised mean annual flows from the flow series of 1921–60 assessed as 20,560,000 acre feet (25.36 km3) (including prepartition use of 3,130,000 acre feet (3.86 km3) and transit losses in the Madhopur Beas Link of 260,000 acre feet (0.32 km3)) vis-a-vis the figure of 15,850,000 acre feet (19.55 km3) assessed in earlier allocation, which was based on the flow series of 1921–45. The revised assessed surplus supplies of 17,170,000 acre feet (21.18 km3) (from flow and storage) was allocated as:[11]
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