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Sutlej is the longest river that flows through Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. It is also one of the two main tributaries of the gigantic Indus River. It is located at an altitude of 20,000 feet above sea level and flows for 1550 kilometers, out of which 529 kilometers fall in Pakistan. It is also referred to as the Red River and is sources from Lowangko Co, Tibet near Lake Rakshastal in Tibet. The river is used mainly for irrigation and power generation. Many large canals have been building to draw water from this river. Many hydroelectric projects have also been constructed across the river including Kol dam, Nathpa Jhakri project, Baspa hydel scheme and the Bhakra Nangal Dam.
The river is joined by Beas River in Punjab and then continues to flow and join the Chenab River. The Chenab River then flows into the Panjnad River which finally flows into the Indus River.
The Sutlej valley was previously known as Garuda Valley by the ancient civilization of Tibet and served as the center of their empire. The valley stretched for miles, upon which the Zhang Zhung civilization built the famous Kyunglung palace, the ruins of which exist even today. The river served as a means of transport for the kings of that time. Sutlej River was also used to transport Devdar woods to different districts situated on the banks of the river, including Bilaspur and Hamirpur
Sutlej River originates from Lake Rakshastal in the Tibetan Plateau. Popular beliefs also have it that the river originated from Mansarovar Lake, which is considered to be sacred by the Hindus. Experts speculate this belief sprung from the fact that both these lakes lie very close to each other. During the monsoon months, especially August, the surrounding Gurla Mandata Mountains’ ice melts and flows down to the Mansarovar Lake which then sources its water to Lake Rakshastal. The overflow of this water is considered to be what gave rise to the Sutlej River.
The river enters India by flowing west and south-westwards through the Shipki La pass in Himachal Pradesh at an altitude of 6,608 metres. The Sutlej River is primarily located to the north of the Vindhya Range, east of the Pakistani Central Makran range and south of the Hindu Kush region.
The river then flows through Punjab near Nangal before meeting the Beas River. The merger of these two rivers goes on to form 105 Kms of the India-Pakistan border. The river continues to flow for another 350 Kms before joining the Chenab River. The combination of the Sutlej and Chenab river form the Panjnad which finally flows into the Indus River.
Water from the Sutlej river has been allocated to India according to the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960. Under this treaty, while India gained rights to the water of the Sutlej River, Pakistan was allotted rights to the Indus River water along with its western tributaries.
The Sutlej River has many tributaries with Baspa, Spiti, Nogli Khad and Soan River being its main ones.
The river flows into the Sutlej after flowing across the main Himalayan range. Prior to that, it is joined by many smaller rivers sourced by melting snow water. The river originates at the Baspa hills and joins the Sutlej River in Kinnuar district.
The Nogli Khad
The Nogli Khad joins the river Sutlej at Rampur Bushahar and then touches Kullu district. The river then enters Mandi district and passes through some important areas of the district. Sutlej has many tributaries in Mandi district.
Spiti River has two tributaries in the form of Tegpo and Kabzian streams which originate from Kunzum range. Water from the Pin Valley sources this river. The river reaches its maximum flow during summer months when there's extensive glacier melting. Spiti flows through the Spiti valley and finally joins the Sutlej in Kinnur district.
The Soan River originates in the Southern slopes of the Shivalik range. It joins the Sutlej river in the boundary of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. Its gradient is not very steep and the river flows gently through the slopes. The water flow is very mild during summers but picks up force during the monsoon months.