Physiographic Division of India-The Northern Plains
Baljit Dhaka

Physiographic Division of India-The Northern Plains

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Physiographic Division of India-The Northern Plains

Physiographic Division of India-The Northern Plains. This is in the continuation of the article  Physiographic Division of India Notes in which we are going to discuss the Northern Plains.  

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 Formation of Northern Plains

  • The formation of the Northern Plains is closely related to the formation of the Himalayas.
  • The raising of the Himalayas and the subsequent formation of glaciers gave rise to many new rivers. 
  • These rivers along with glacial erosion supplied more alluvium which intensified the filling of the depression caused by the collision of the Indian Plate and Eurasian plate

  • With the accumulation of more and more sediments in the depression, the Tethys sea started receding.
  • Gradually, the depression was completely filled with alluvium, gravel, rock debris and the Tethys completely disappeared leaving behind a monotonous aggradational plain formed due to deposition.       
  • For a few million years, depositional work of three major river systems viz., the Indus, the Ganga, and the Brahmaputra have become predominant.
  • Hence this arcuate (curved) plain is also known as Indo-Gangetic-Brahmaputra Plain.

Features of Indo-Gangetic-Brahmaputra plain

  • Formed of alluvial soil
  • It spreads over an area of 7 lakh sq. km
  • 3,200 km from the mouth of the Indus to the mouth of the Ganga. Indian sector of the plain accounts for 2,400 km.
  • Agriculturally a very productive part of India.
  • Rivers coming from Northern Mountains are involved in the deposition

  • Northern border: Shiwaliks 
  • Southern border: wavy irregular line along the northern edge of Peninsular India.
  • Western border: Sulaiman and Kirthar ranges
  • Eastern border: Purvanchal hills.
  • The width of the plain varies from region to region. 
  • West: widest where it stretches for about 500 km.
  • East: Its width decreases
  • The extreme horizontality of this monotonous plain is its chief characteristic.
  • Maximum depth of the alluvium up to the basement rocks= 6,100 m .
  • Average elevation = 200 m above mean sea level,
  • The highest elevation is 291 m above mean sea level near Ambala (This elevation forms the drainage divide or watershed between Indus system and Ganga system).

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 Divisions of Northern Plain

Three main divisions 

  • Punjab plains
  • Ganga plains
  • Brahmaputra plains

Punjab plains:-

  • Punjab literally means “(The Land of) Five Waters” referring to the following rivers: the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej, and Beas.
  • This plain is formed by five important rivers of the Indus system.
  • This section of plains is dominated by ‘Doabs’
  • “Doab” is made of two words-’do’   meaning ‘two’ and ‘ab’ meaning 'water’ 
  • The depositional process by the rivers has united these doabs giving a homogenous appearance.
  • The total area of this plain is about 1.75 lakh sq km.
  • The average elevation of the plain is about 250 m above mean sea level.
  • The eastern boundary of the Punjab Haryana plain is marked by the subsurface Delhi-Aravali ridge.

Ganga Plains:-

  • The largest unit of the Great Plain of India.
  • Stretching from Delhi to Kolkata (about 3.75 lakh sq km).
  • Has been built by the alluvium deposition of Ganga and its tributaries originating in the Himalayas.
  • The peninsular rivers such as Chambal, Betwa, Ken, Son, etc. joining the Ganga river system have also contributed to the formation of this plain.
  • The general slope of the entire plain is to the East and Southeast.
  • Almost all the rivers in this plain keep on shifting their courses making this area prone to frequent floods. The Kosi river is very notorious in this respect. It has long been called the ‘Sorrow of Bihar’.

Brahmaputra plains:-

 Also known as the Brahmaputra valley or Assam Valley of Assam Plain because most of the Brahmaputra valley is situated in Assam.

  • Western boundary = Indo-Bangladesh border as well as the boundary of the lower Ganga Plain. 
  • Eastern boundary =Purvanchal hills.
  • Aggradational plain built up by the depositional work of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries.

There are large marshy tracts in this area. The alluvial fans formed by the coarse alluvial debris have led to the formation of Terai or Semi-Terai conditions.

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Ganga Brahmaputra Delta:

  • Largest delta in the world.
  • A large part of the coastal delta is covered by tidal forests. These are called the Sundarbans because of the predominance of the Sundari tree here.

Geomorphological Features of Northern Plains

  • Bhabhar
  • Terai
  • Bhangar
  • Khadar

The Bhabar:-

  • Narrow, porous, northernmost stretch of Indo-Gangetic plain.
  • 8-16 km wide in an east-west direction along the foothills of the Shivalik.
  • Rivers descending from the Himalayas deposit their load along the foothills in the form of alluvial fans.
  • These alluvial fans have merged together to build up the bhabar belt.  
  • The most unique feature of the Bhabhar region is its porosity which is caused by the deposition of a huge number of pebbles and rock debris across the alluvial fans.
  • Because of this porosity, the streams disappear as they reach the Bhabar region, therefore, this area is marked by dry river courses except in the rainy season.
  • This area is not suitable for agriculture, only big trees with large roots can thrive in this belt.

Terai Region:-

  • South of Bhabar, the streams and rivers re-emerge and create a wet, swampy, and marshy region known as Terai.
  • Width: 15-30 km wide.
  • The underground streams of the Bhabar belt re-emerge in this belt.
  • Most of the Terai land, especially in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, has been turned into agricultural land which gives good crops of sugarcane, rice, and wheat
  • Speed of the rivers is very slow
  • Dense forests and high biological diversity

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The Bhangar:-

  • The largest part of the Northern Plain 
  • The terraces are often impregnated with calcareous concretions known as ‘KANKAR’
  • Highlands created by pebbles, stones, and sand are called Bar.
  • Bars are found in Ganga- Yamuna doab in the form of sedimentary depositions.

The Khadar:-

  • It is composed of newer alluvium and forms the flood plains along the river banks.
  • A new layer of alluvium is deposited by river floods almost every year.
  • This makes them the most fertile soils of the Ganges.

  Importance of Northern Plain

  • One-fourth of the land of the country hosts half of the Indian population.
  • Fertile alluvial soils, flat continuous surface, and favorable climate facilitate intense agricultural activity.
  • Plain areas like Punjab, Haryana, and the western part of Uttar Pradesh the granary of India (the Prairies are called the granaries of the world).
  • Has a close network of roads and railways which has led to large-scale industrialization and urbanization.

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