The river system of Pakistan, rooted in the Himalayas, encompasses the Indus Basin, which includes 5 major rivers, including the Indus and its main tributaries: Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej, while 24 larger and smaller rivers run across Pakistan. This intricate hydrological network is pivotal for Pakistan’s irrigation, agriculture, and transportation, underpinning the fertile Indus River plain and anchoring the country’s agricultural economy.
List of Five Major Rivers in Pakistan
Table of Contents
The list of the major rivers running in the country includes;
- Indus River
- Sutlej River
- Ravi River
- Chenab River
- Jhelum River
The Indus is the largest river in Pakistan, also called River Sindh or the father of all rivers. It rises in Tibet and travels through Pakistan’s mountainous north before emptying into the Arabian Sea. Indus water has significantly influenced Pakistan’s history, culture, and agriculture.
Length: It is the 21st biggest river in the world regarding yearly water flow (243 km3), stretching 3,180 kilometers in length overall. It drains an area larger than 1,165,000 km2 (450,000 sq mi).
Source: Indus originates from the Tibetan Plateau in China and enters Pakistan from Gilgit-Baltistan. The great Indus River journey ends when it combines with the Arabian Sea.
Tributaries: The Indus River has several main and small tributaries that add to its flow as it travels across Pakistan, including;
Principal Left-Bank Tributaries:
Principal Right-Bank Tributaries:
Sutlej is the longest river in Pakistan, also called the Red River. It is one of the five major tributaries of the Indus and holds a dominant place in Northern India and Pakistan’s topography. The Sutlej is the largest source of hydroelectric power generation in Pakistan as it accounts for the Karcham Wangtoo Hydroelectric Plant, Nathpa Jhakri Dam, and Bhakra Dam.
Length: Sutlej River has a length of approximately 1450 km. A remarkable yearly flow of over 14 million acre-feet (MAF) travels through the upstream of the Bhakra Dam, which spans the majestic Sutlej.
Source: The Sutlej begins on the southern slopes of Kailash Mountain outside the Indian border. It then flows southwesterly and enters Pakistan through Kasur district, Punjab.
Tributaries: The Sutlej joins River Chenab close to Uch Sharif. It has no notable tributaries in Pakistan. Most of the Sutlej River’s significant tributaries are upstream in Tibet and India.
The Ravi is the smallest river in Pakistan and is the tributary of the Indus River across India and Pakistan. Due to water-related disputes between the two countries, the Indus water treaty signed in 1960 allocated the water of Ravi to India in exchange for Pakistan gaining exclusive rights on the Indus and its western tributaries. The Ravi is a treasured and important component of the subcontinent’s legacy because of its calm presence and historical significance.
Length: The overall length of Ravi is approximately 725 km, but in Pakistan, before merging with Chenab, it ran 200 km in northern Punjab.
Source: The Ravi originates in the Himalayan region of Himachal Pradesh, India. It flows southwest at the Jammu and Kashmir border and runs 50 miles along the Pakistani border until entering the Punjab province of Pakistan. It runs via Lahore to west Kamalia and empties in the Chenab.
Tributaries: The Ravi River in Pakistan has no significant tributaries. Instead, it travels through Punjab Province in the northern part of the country before joining the Chenab River.
The Chenab River is popular as it has been known since the Vedic period. Alexandria on the Indus River, today known as Uch Sharif, was founded by Alexander the Great in 325 BC. Notably, the Jhelum and Ravi join the Chenab. It supplies home consumption water, irrigates crops, and a booming fishing sector.
Length: The Chenab River spans around 960 km (about 600 miles) through Pakistan and India. Its length in Pakistan is approximately 475 km.
Sources: Chenab originates in the upper Himalayas of Himachal Pradesh, India. It joins the Jhelum River at Jhang and flows further to combine with Sutlej at the location of Uch Sharif.
Tributaries: The Chenab is the tributary of the Indus. It supplies the nearby cities of Gujrat, Sialkot, Multan, and Mithankot. The Chenab Bridge, the highest railroad bridge in the world, beautifully crosses the river in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Jhelum River, also known as the Vitasta in Sanskrit, is one of the most important rivers in the Indian subcontinent. It is a tributary of the Chenab and flows through northern India and eastern Pakistan, gracing the scenic Kashmir Valley.
The river has significant historical and cultural importance as described in ancient literature and is connected to the area’s rich legacy.
Some people believe that “Dara-e-Azam“, the Mughal emperor planted his flag on the river bank and named it “Ja-e-Alam”. With time, “Ja-e-Alam” became more often called “Jhelum.”
Length: The Jhelum runs across Pakistan for around 725 km or 450 miles.
Source: The Verinag Spring, located in Kashmir at the foot of the Pir Panjal mountain range, is the source of the Jhelum River. It travels through the Kashmir Valley and enters Pakistan through Srinagar city.
Tributaries: The Tawi River flows into the Jhelum in Pakistan-administered Kashmir from the Jammu area. The Jhelum and its connected tributaries along its course, notably in the Kashmir Valley, contribute to forming several lakes like Anchar Lake, Dal Lake, Wular Lake, etc. Moreover, it is important as many famous Dams and barrages like Mangla Dam, Uri Dam, and Rasul Barrage have been constructed on it.
We have discussed Pakistan’s major rivers with their sources, lengths, and tributaries. Pakistan has many significant tributaries, including the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej rivers, and the Indus. Their unrelenting flow demonstrates the strength of nature and the significance of these waterways in the lives and livelihoods of millions.
1. Where do all the major rivers of Pakistan meet?
Major rivers of Pakistan Indus, Ravi, Sutlej, Jhelum, and Chenab, meet at the ” Panjnad ” point near Uch Sharif.
2. Which is the deepest river of Pakistan?
The Indus is the deepest and largest river in Pakistan.
3. How many rivers are in Pakistan?
5 significant rivers in Pakistan that are the tributaries of the Indus river include Ravi, Sutlej, Chenab, Jhelum, and Bias.