Yamuna River

The Yamuna River is the biggest tributary of the Ganga River. It is also considered as a sacred river in India. The Yamuna River originates from the Yamunotri Glacier near Banderpoonch peaks (38°59' N 78°27' E)  in the Mussourie range of the lower Himalayas at an elevation of about 6,387 meters above the mean sea level in district Uttarkashi (Uttarakhand).

(Source:  http://www.indianetzone.com/2/yamuna_river.htm accessed on 10.04.2016)


A hot water pool is present at Yamunotri and the water is so hot that people cook rice and potato by putting them in cloth bags and dipping the bag in the hot water. Arising from the source, the Yamuna River flows through a series of valleys for about 200 km in lower Himalayas and then emerges into Indo-Gangetic plains. In the upper reaches, the main valley is overlooked by numerous hanging valleys, carved by glaciers. The gradient of the river is steep here and the entire geomorphology of the valley has been carved by the erosive action of the river water. In the headwater reach of 200 km, Yamuna draws water from several major streams. The combined stream flows through the Shivalik range of hills of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand states of India and enters into plains at Dak Pathar in Uttarakhand where the river water is regulated by a weir and is diverted into a canal for power generation. On the right side of the Yamuna basin is the Mussourie spur-along which lies the sprawled hill station of Mussourie (also known as the Queen of Himalayas).


From Dak Pathar, the Yamuna flows through the famous Sikh religious shrine of Poanta Sahib. Figure 9 shows the bed of Yamuna River near Dak Pathar. Flowing through Poanta Sahib, it emerges from the foothills of Kalesan, north of Tajewala. It reaches Hathnikund/Tajewala in the Yamuna Nagar district of Haryana state, where the river water is diverted into Western Yamuna canal and Eastern Yamuna canal for irrigation. During dry season, practically no water flows in the river downstream of Tajewala barrage and the river remains dry in several stretches between Tajewala and Delhi. Ground water accrual and contributions from seasonal streams again regenerate the river. Yamuna River enters Delhi near Palla village after traversing for about 224 km.


A canal known as the Satluj Yamuna link (SYL) canal joining Satluj with Yamuna is under construction here. This canal was to transfer Haryana’s share of 3.5 MAF of water from the Indus basin. The state of Haryana has completed its portion of the canal but Punjab is yet to complete its portion. Punjab Government is not in favour of construction of this canal. Recently, the Punjab legislature passed an act known as the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act 2004 whereby the earlier agreements have been declared as null and void.


Further downstream, there is a barrage at Wazirabad which supplies drinking water to the city of Delhi. Generally, the flow in the river downstream of the Wazirabad barrage is almost nil in dry season because the available water is not adequate to meet the demand of Delhi. Yamuna River flow downstream of the Wazirabad barrage largely consists of untreated or partially treated domestic and industrial wastewater contributed by numerous drains along with the water transported by Haryana Irrigation Department from the Western Yamuna Canal (WYC) to the Agra Canal via the Nazafgarh Drain and the Yamuna. About 22 km downstream of the Wazirabad barrage, the Yamuna water is diverted into the Agra Canal for irrigation through the Okhla barrage. Generally, water flow through the barrage during the dry season is nil. Whatever water flows in the river beyond the Okhla barrage is contributed through domestic and industrial wastewaters generated by East Delhi, Noida and Sahibabad and joins the river through the Shahdara drain.


At Tajewala, the ratio Qmax/Qmin (where Qmax is flood peak discharge and Qmin is the lowest flow rate in the year) comes to about 40, in comparison to 33 of Indus, 34 of Ganga and 4 of Amazon. This large ratio is indicative of a wide temporal variation in the flow. During non-monsoon period the entire inflow at Tajewala is diverted to canal systems leaving the river dry. However downstream of this point the river starts picking effluent seepage from ground water reservoir.


Further downstream, Yamuna flows through the Agra city which is famous for Tajmahal, a white marble wonder. Shortly afterwards, it passes through another historical city, Mathura. The total length of the Yamuna from its origin to Allahabad (confluence with Ganga) is 1,376 km and the drainage area is 366,223 sq. km. The Yamuna is a mighty river in itself and has a number of tributaries. In its first 170 km stretch, the tributaries Rishi Ganga Kunta, Hanuman Ganga, Tons and Giri join the main river. Later, big rivers, such as the Chambal, the Sind, the Betwa, and the Ken, join it.


The catchment of the Yamuna River system covers parts of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh & Delhi states. The area of the Yamuna catchment lying in different states is shown below:

The catchment of Yamuna River in various states

Name of State

Catchment area in the state

(sq. km)

 Uttar Pradesh (including Uttarakhand)


 Himachal Pradesh






 Madhya Pradesh





For the purpose of flood forecasting, tracking of Yamuna River begins at Poanta in Garhwal area on the confluence of rivers Tons, Pawar and Giri. The next important site is at Tajewala followed by Kalanaur and Mawi before Delhi. It roughly takes about 60 hours for the water to reach Delhi from Tajewala, which enables issue of warnings at least two days in advance. Statewise allocation of utilizable flows of Yamuna River is shown below.


Statewise Allocation of Utilizable Flows of Yamuna River


Allocation in MCM



 Uttar Pradesh




 Himachal Pradesh







The Interstate Agreement also envisages that a minimum flow of 10 cumec shall be maintained in Yamuna downstream of Tajewala and Okhla head works throughout the year for ecological considerations. It is also assessed that a quantum of 680 MCM is not utilizable due to flood spills. The allocation of available flows amongst the beneficiary states is regulated by the Upper Yamuna River Board. In a year when the surface-water availability is more than the assessed quantity, the surplus availability will be distributed amongst the states in proportion to their allocation. However, in a year when availability is less than the assessed quantity,

first the drinking water allocation of Delhi will be met and balance will be distributed amongst Haryana, UP and Rajasthan in proportion to their allocation.


The Yamuna River can be segmented in five distinguished independent segments due to characteristic hydrological and ecological conditions as shown below:


Different Segments of Yamuna River

Name of Segment



 Himalayan Segment

 From origin to Tajewala Barrage

172 km

 Upper Segment

 Tajewala Barrage to Wazirabad Barrage

224 km

 Delhi Segment

 Wazirabad Barrage to Okhla Barrage

 22 km

 Eutriphicated Segment

 Okhla Barrage to Chambal Confluence

 490 km

 Diluted Segment

 Chambal Confluence to Ganga Confluence

 468 km


Physiographic and Geomorphology of Himalayan Segment (Upper Yamuna catchment)

In the Himalayan segment (Upper Yamuna catchment), the drainage system and the characteristics of landforms are closely interdependent and inter-related. The Upper Yamuna catchment falls into 3 well defined physiographic belts: the Lesser Himalaya, The Siwalik, and the Doon Valley.


Lesser Himalayas

Elevation in this region ranges from 4,000m to 1,000 m. This region has a mild topography with gentle slopes and deeply dissected valleys which suggest that rivers and streams are still furiously at work. The upper part of this area has high mountains, most of which have seasonal snow capped peaks and glaciated ranges. Prominent glaciers are Bandarpunch, Jamadar Bamak and Deokhera Bamak.


The retreating movement of these glaciers and their tributary glaciers may still be observed in the form of ‘V’ shaped valleys with moraines and smooth and aggradational slopes.


Low to moderately high mountains occur between the altitudes of 1,000m and 3,000 m. Actually, the Lesser Himalayas region is a massive mountainous tract with a series of ridges and spurs divided by river valleys. The slope varies from 25 to 50% but may rise even up to 80%. The rivers and their tributaries have carved out entrenched valleys with steep slopes in higher reaches, while flatter valleys are found in lower reaches. At a number of places, rivers have formed depositional terraces. A large part of this region is made up of sedimentary rock formations intruded by granite and basic volcanic rocks. The northern part has been subjected to low-grade metamorphism.


Shiwalik Hills

The Shiwalik Hills are formed as a result of intense dissection by fine textured pattern of drainage lines. They are a long prominent ridge trending NW-SE with altitudes ranging from 750 to 1,500 m. The main ridge is composed of a gentle northern slope and a steeper southern slope. A water divide is located more or less half way through this ridge. It is drained with numerous parallel to subparallel streams flowing towards north or south in consequent entrenched channels.

The Shiwalik or the outer Himalayan range is a youthful range separated from the less Himalaya by the main boundary fault.


Doon Valley

The Doon Valley is a long tectonic synclinal structure of the outer Himalaya. It lies within the ranges of lesser Himalaya to the north and the Shiwalik range of the Outer Himalaya towards north. It is a low-lying region between the two ranges with altitudes not more than 500m to 750 m. The Doon gravels composed of boulder and gravel beds with this clay bands constitute the piedmont slopes. Stream frequency and drainage density is low here because of the poor development of drainage, possibly due to porous and permeable characteristics of the bed rocks.


Climate and Precipitation

The Himalayas exercises a dominating influence on climate in the northern region of the Upper Yamuna catchment. In this region, winters are very cold, while summers are moderate. The average annual rainfall varies between 1,500mm to 400 mm. The entire catchment comes under the influence of south-west monsoon and a major part of rainfall is received between June and September. Winter rainfall is scanty and occurs between December and February. In the lower part of Yamuna basin, temperatures are relatively moderate. In summers, temperature frequently exceeds 40 C.


Tributaries of Yamuna River

The tributaries of Yamuna account for 70.9% of the catchment area; the balance of 29.1% area directly drains into the Yamuna River or is occupied by smaller streams. Further, the catchment area of Yamuna amounts to 40.2% of the area of Ganga Basin and 10.7% of the land area of India.


The important tributaries of the Yamuna River are the Tons, the Chambal, the Hindon, the Sarda, the Betwa and the Ken. Other small tributaries of the Yamuna River include Rishiganga, the Uma, the Hanuman Ganga, the Giri, the Karan, the Sagar and the Rind. The main Yamuna and Tons are fed by glaciers, viz., the Bandar Punch Glacier and its branches and originate from the Great Himalayan range. Many smaller streams in the Yamuna basin, for example, the Chautang, the Sahibi, the Dohan, the Kantili, the Bapah and the Banganga end up in the sandy tracts.