Historical Data Series: Indian Water resources



India has 20 river basins, both major and minor. The largest of these, in terms of area, is that of India’s largest and longest river, the Ganges (known in India as the Ganga) and its major tributary the Yamuna. The Ganges flows southeast along the foothills of the Himalaya mountain range until it enters Bangladesh and then turns southward to empty into the Bay of Bengal.

Other major Indian rivers include the Narmada (India’s largest westward-flowing river), which flows through central India into the Arabian Sea, and three eastward-flowing rivers, the Godavari, the Krishna, and the Cauvery, which flow through southern India into the Bay of Bengal. Besides these, there are two other major rivers which pass through India: The Indus, which rises in Tibet and flows northwest through the Northern state of Jammu and Kashmir before entering Pakistan, and the Brahmaputra, which also rises in Tibet and flows southwest through the eastern Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam before entering Bangladesh and joining the Ganges.

There are many players in India’s hydroelectric sub-sector. Twenty-two different ownership entities are involved in the hydroelectric facilities that are of at least 100 MW in capacity. The most important hydroelectric generator, though currently not the largest in terms of generating capacity, is the National Hydroelectric Power Corp. (NHPC), which was created in 1975 with the mandate to develop India’s hydropower potential. NHPC presently owns and operates nine hydropower facilities, ranging from the 1,000 MW Indira Sagar Project to the 5 MW Kalpong Power Plant in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Its total generating capacity is 5,295 MW from 14 hydro plants, with 3,145 MW coming online since 1996 due to the commissioning of the 1,000 MW Indira Sagar and 520 MW Omkareshwar plants. In August 2009 the NHPC successfully launched an initial public offering and became a listed company one month later.

The Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) is currently one of India’s largest hydropower generators. It was created in 1966 to manage the supply of water, in Himachal Pradesh state, from the Sutlej and Ravi-Beas rivers whose waters flow into Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Delhi. BBMB presently operates five hydroelectric facilities, with a total generating capacity of 2,866 MW, including the two power plants at Bhakra Dam whose combined capacity is 1,325 MW.


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