Narmada – Rally for Rivers

    River length: 1312 km
    Basin area: 98,796 sq km
    Population in basin: 48 million
    States in basin: Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat

    Major cities using water

    Ahmedabad (pop: 5.5 million), Bhopal (pop: 1.7 million), Vadodara (pop: 1.7 million)

    River Depletion

    • Water depletion: 58%
    • Dry season drought risk: Low
    • Monsoon flood risk: Extremely high
    • Total tree cover loss: 94%
    • Seasonal variability of water levels: Extremely high

    Economic & Environmental Significance

    • The Narmada is a major source of drinking water, irrigation and hydroelectricity for Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
    • The port town of Bharuch, where the Narmada meets the sea, is one of the larger ports in Gujarat. The city was a major trading port in ancient times too. The Greeks knew it as Barygaza, and called the Narmada as Nammadus. Greek, Roman, Chinese, Malay and African merchants plied their trade here.

    Recent Disasters

    60 of the Narmada’s 101 tributaries have gone dry or become seasonal. With the Narmada not reaching the ocean many months of the year, the sea is moving in, leading to salinity, soil degradation and losses to industries.

    In 2012, several parts of Gujarat moved from drought to flood in just three days, as the Narmada and other rivers flooded. 20,000 people had to be rescued from 141 flood-affected villages. Ironically, as some parts of the state were flooded, nearly forty percent of the state remained rain-deficient.

    Spiritual & Cultural Significance

    Adi Shankara was initiated into sanyas at Omkareshwar, on the banks of the Narmada. Besides the Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga temple, Maheshwar is another important temple along the Narmada.

    Every year, devotees perform the Narmada parikrama, a 2600-km yatra or pilgrimage from the source of the Narmada to its mouth at the ocean, and back again.

    Some of the oldest cave paintings in the world – over 30,000 years old – are found at the Bhimbetka caves, near the banks of the Narmada.


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