Ghaghara River is also called the Gogra, Ghaghara or Ghagra, Nepali Kauriala or Manchu or the Karnali. However, the literal meaning of the river is ` holy water from the sacred mountain`, the term Karnali also means "Turquoise River" and is a trans-boundary perennial river that originates on the Tibetan plateau. The Karnali is called K`ung-ch`iao Ho in Chinese. This river near Manasarovar, cuts through the Himalayas in Nepal on its way to the convergence with the Sarda River at Brahmaghat in India where it forms the Ghaghara River. The Ghaghara River is a major left bank tributary of the Ganges. It is the longest and largest river in Nepal with a length of around 507 km and one of the largest affluent of the Ganges.
River course of Ghaghara River
The river rises at an altitude of about 3962 metres, in the southern slopes of the Himalayas in Tibet, in the glaciers of Mapchachungo. The river flows south through Nepal as the Karnali River and flows through one of the most deserted and least explored areas of Nepal. Seti River is a 202 Km long stream feeding this river and drains the western part of the catchment, and joins the Karnali River in Doti north of Dundras hill. Another feeder stream is the Bheri river that is 264 Km long and drains in the eastern part of the Catchment and converges with the Karnali River near Kuineghat in Surkhet.
Moving southwards across the Siwalik Hills, it splits into two branches, first Geruva on the left bank and Kauralia on the right bank near downstream Chisapani to rejoin south of the Indian border and form the Ghaghra proper. Other tributaries originating in Nepal are the Rapti and the little Gandak. Another important tributary of Ghaghara is the Sarayu River in India. This tributary is famous for the location of Ayodhya (the capital of King Dasarath`s Kingdom) on its banks. It flows southeast through Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to join the Ganga along the town of` Chapra, after a course of 1080 km. It carries more water than the Ganga before its convergence. Sarayu River is stated to be identical with the modern Ghaghara River or as a tributary of it.
Between the mountain ranges of Dhaulagiri and Nanda Devi lies the Karnali basin. The basin is in the western part of Nepal. In the north, the tributary lies in the rain shadow of the Himalayas. The basin formed by the river has a total catchment area of 127,950 sq km of which 45% lies in India. The growth and development patterns of various indicators associated to demographic, socioeconomic and development programmes in the Basin in Nepal are briefly explained. The population of Basin districts in Nepal increased from 1.9 million in 1971 to 4.7 million in 2001 and almost 250% increase over three decades. The average population density of the Basin area have also increased from 87 persons/km2 in 2001 from 53 person/ km2 in 1981.There is steady growth in the cost-effectively active population in Ghaghara Basin districts.
Glaciers in Ghaghara River Basin
The Nepal Himalaya have 3,252 glaciers and 2,323 lakes above 3,500 m above sea level. These glaciers cover an area of around 5,323 km2 with a probable ice reserve of 481 km3. Out of this, the Karnali River basin has 1,361 glaciers and 907 lakes, with glaciers covering an area of 1,740.22 km2 and an estimated ice reserve of 127.72 km3.
In India, the administrative districts in the Ghaghara catchment include places like Ambedkarnagar, Peoria, Azamghar, Basti, Barabanki, Ballia, Bahraich, Gonda, Faizabad and Gorakhpur Districts. Districts like Sant kabirnagar Jaunpur, Lakhimpur, kheri, Sitapur of Uttar Pradesh and Siwan district of Bihar are also along the banks of Ghaghara River.
Important towns in India along the banks of Ghaghara River include Akabarpur, Bahraich, Ayodhya Faizabad, Gorakhpur, Barabanki, Dohrighat, Basti, Deoria , Gonda, Khaililabad, Siddharthnagar, Sitapur, Saint Kabirnagar and Tanda in Uttar Pradesh and Chapra, Deoria, Siwan, Saran, Sonepur in Bihar.
Geology of Ghaghara River is unique, since it marks the shift where the Southern Gondwana land collided with the Northern Eurasian land lifting the sediments of the then existing Tethys sea and forming the Himalayas. As a result, the Southern and Northern parts of Nepal show widely differing formations. One finds the Archean crystalline formations covered deep beneath the Alluvium of the Terai, the marine sedimentary deposits that were squeezed to form the high mountains, and also the Siwalik formation formed by earlier East-West flowing rivers.
Several National parks are constructed along the river Ghaghara. The protected area of Karnali basin constitutes nearly 14% of the total Basin area. The Basin area includes 4 out of the 9 National Parks, 1 out of 3 Wild Life Reserves, the only Hunting Reserve, and two out of 6 Buffer Zones of Nepal. The Basin and its influence area alone constitute around 27% of the total Protected Area, 63% of National Park, 25% of the Buffer Zone, 100% of the Hunting Reserve and 31% of Wildlife Reserve. The Shey Phoksundo National Park in Dopa was established in 1984 and is situated in the trans-Himalayan region of Northwestern Nepal. The copious forests mainly composed of blue pine, spruce, poplar, cypress, fir and birch and is habitat for the rare snow leopard and the blue sheep and many species of birds like the Impeyan pheasant, blood pheasant, cheer pheasant, red and yellow billed cough, rave, jungle crow and snow partridge. It is considered as a religious Buddhist site. Rara National Park and Royal Bardia Wildlife Park are more two parks located along the banks of this river.
The Karnali basin provides the upper range for the Gangetic river dolphin or the Platanista gangetica. These are the largest freshwater mammals found on the Indian subcontinent. They are considered susceptible species. These dolphins survive at the upstream range limit. Dolphins in the Ghaghara River are particularly vulnerable to threats from habitat deprivation. The Ghaghara River supports the last potentially practical population of the Ganges River dolphin in Nepal. These dolphins are at their furthest upstream range and inaccessible by the Girijapur Barrage, located about 16 km downstream of the Nepal/India border.
White water rafting is one of the most prominent activities in the river Ghaghara. Volumes of water bullet down these canyons in a series of wild rapids. It is so intense that it can only be tackled at low and medium water. It is considered as one of the finest rafting rivers and one of the top 3 rivers in the world.
Navigation in River Ghaghara - In the past the Karnali River was well thought-out to be attractive for the development of navigation starting from the Indo-Nepal border till the convergence of this river and the Ganges. The lower reach of this river - called the Ghaghara in India was used in the past for navigation by steamers. Apart from in the foothills of the Himalayas where most of the streams were simply fast-moving water throughout the greater part of the year and not navigable when flowing rapidly, most of the rivers with steadier currents had boats on them. The Ganga, the Ghaghara, the Yamuna, the Gomti, the Sharda and the Rapti were the most important navigable rivers in the Northwestern provinces and Oudh.