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Yamuna is among the longest river to flow through North India. It is an important river in terms of irrigation and industrial requirements. Since the time of the Vedas, it has flowed parallel to the Ganges and is regarded as sacred in the Hindu culture. It follows the pattern of other east flowing rivers in the region. The river is an important source for the thriving industrial belt of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. The overdependence on the Yamuna and step motherly treatment given to it has resulted in the water body turning into an environmental hazard.
The entire length of the river totals to 1376 kilometers. This can be regarded as the largest tributary of the Ganges draining an area of over 350,000 square kilometers. The entire river lies within the larger area of the Ganges water system. Yamuna can be divided into various stretches. The initial 350 kilometers constitute the first stretch. The Yamuna increases its discharge as it flows downstream mainly from the contributions of its many tributaries are from base flow. According to a study, there are over a hundred medium sized tributaries. The important ones have been described below.
Yamuna has been incorporated in various folklores and history by the growth of important cultures around the river. Medieval empires of Delhi such as the Mughal Empire flourished with the water from the Yamuna. Throughout its course, the Yamuna River is dotted with towns of immense history. Towns such as Delhi, Agra, Fatehpur and Allahabad owe their existence to this river.
Despite the rich history, Yamuna is arguably the most polluted river in India. According to claims made by the Central Pollution Control Board of India, almost 600 kilometers of the Yamuna is severely polluted. Even the upper Himalayan reaches have seen an increase in the content of pollutants. The majority of waste enters the Yamuna in Delhi. The Delhi stretch sees noxious volumes of sludge and sewage dumped into the Yamuna. Downstream of Delhi, the situation worsens for the chocking Yamuna. The Yamuna provides an easy waste disposal for hundreds of industries. The concern for maintaining the health of the river system has been raised at various levels of government but the problem remains unsolved and escalating.
The Yamuna has its origin high in a glacier of the Great Himalayas. The glacier is called Champasar or more commonly, the Yamunotri. The origin of the Yamuna is situated at an altitude of 4421 meters above sea level. The river is joined by tributaries of Tons, Chambal, Betwa and many others. Yamuna River dissects the rugged hill slopes of Himalayas into deep valleys in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. The river enters the alluvial plains near Hathnikund.
Once it enters the plains, Yamuna follows a relatively straight path that curves northward gradually to meet the Ganges River at Allahabad. The course of the Yamuna River is dissected by many dams and barrages. The obstructions divert water away from the main channel leading to trickling down of the water flow downstream.
The total length of the Yamuna is 1376 kilometers from Yamunotri to Allahabad. At Allahabad, it merges with the Ganga and continues the downstream flow as a single stream. Less than one third of the Yamuna dissects the sediment producing region of the Himalayas and the Shivaliks. The rest of the river flows through the low gradient reaches of the alluvial plain. Overall, Yamuna can be regarded as a tributary of the Ganga.
The Chambal, made notorious by the gangs of dacoits that ran riot in the Chambal valley traces its origin in a small hill in the Vindhyas called Janapao hills. From an elevation of 843 meters, the river transverses three states to cover a length off 960 kilometers. It joins the Yamuna at Etawah in Uttar Pradesh at an altitude of 400 feet. The entire area drained by the perennial river is in excess of 140,000 square kilometers.
The Tons River has an origin similar to the Yamuna on the slopes of the Bandarpunch peak. The river flows through the Himalayan Crystalline Complex for 264 kilometers before joining Yamuna near Dehradun.
Hindon River is a 400 kilometer long tributary that begins in the Shivalik hills of Lower Himalayas. Hindon itself receives water from a dozen different tributaries before merging with the Yamuna just north of Delhi. It has a drainage basin area of 7000 square kilometers.
Having minute origins near the slopes of the Kaimur range of the Vindhyas, Ken River travels north almost 430 kilometers and drains an area equivalent to 28,000 square kilometers.