The Narmada, also called the Rewa, is a river in central India
and the fifth longest river in the Indian subcontinent. It is the third longest river that flows entirely within India, after the Godavari and the Krishna. It forms the traditional boundary between North India and South India and flows westwards over a length of 1,312 km (815.2 mt) before draining through the Gulf of Cambey (Khambat) into the Arabian Sea, 30 km (18.6 mt) west of Bharuch city of Gujarat.
It is one of only three major rivers in peninsular India that run from east to west (longest west flowing river), along with the Tapti River and the Mahi River. It is the only river in India that flows in a rift valley, flowing west between the Satpura and Vindhya ranges. The Tapti River and Mahi River also flow through rift valleys, but between different ranges. The Periplus Maris Erythraei calls it the Nammadus, and the British Raj called it the Nerbudda or Narbada. Narmadā is a Sanskrit word meaning "the Giver of Pleasure".
The Narmada basin, hemmed between Vindya and Satpura ranges, extends over an area of 98,796 sq km (38,145.3 sq mt) lying on the northern extremity of the Deccan Plateau. The basin covers large areas in the states of Madhya Pradesh (86%), Gujarat (14%) and a comparatively smaller area (2%) in Maharashtra. In the river course of 1,312 km (815.2 mt) explained above, there are 41 tributaries, out of which 22 are from the Satpuda range and the rest on the right bank are from the Vindhya range. Dhupgarh (1,350m), near Pachmarhi is the highest point of the Narmada basin.
The basin has five well defined physiographic regions. They are:(1) The upper hilly areas covering the districts of Shahdol, Mandla, Durg, Balaghat and Seoni, (2) The upper plains covering the districts of Jabalpur, Narsimhapur, Sagar, Damoh, Chhindwara, Hosangabad, Betul, Raisen and Sehore, (3) The middle plains covering the districts of Khandwa, part of Khargone, Dewas, Indore and Dhar, (4) The lower hilly areas covering part of the west Nimar, Jhabua, Dhulia, Narmada and parts of Vadodara, and (5) the lower plains covering mainly the districts of Narmada, Bharuch, and parts of Vadodara. The hill regions are well forested. The upper, middle and lower plains are broad and fertile areas, well suited for cultivation. The Narmada basin mainly consists of black soils. The coastal plains in Gujarat are composed of alluvial clays with a layer of black soils on the surface.
The valley experiences extremes of hydrometeorological and climatic conditions with the upper catchment having an annual precipitation in the range of 1,000 mm (3.3 ft) to 1,850 mm (6.1 ft) and with half or even less than half in its lower regions (650 mm (2.1 ft)-750 mm (2.5 ft)); the diversity of vegetation from lush green in the upper region to dry deciduous teak forest vegetation in the lower region is testimony to this feature. The Irrigation Commission (1972) identified the Narmada basin in Madhya Pradesh as drought affected and a large part of North Gujarat, Saurashtra and Kutch as semi-arid or arid scarcity regions on account of extreme unreliability of rainfall, rendering them ‘chronically’ drought prone and subject to serious drinking water problems.
Forests And Sanctuaries:
Teak and India’s best hardwood forests are found in the Narmada River basin and they are much older than the ones in the Himalayas. The lower Narmada River Valley and the surrounding uplands, covering an area of169,900 sq km (65,598.8 sq mt) consists of dry deciduous forests. The ecoregion lies between moister forests to the northeast, southeast, and southwest, which receive greater rainfall from the southeast monsoon, and the drier forests and scrublands of the Deccan to the south and Malwa and Gujarat to the west and northwest.
The natural vegetation of the region is a three–tiered forest. Tectona grandis is the dominant canopy tree, in association with Diospyros melanoxylon, Dhaora (Anogeissus latifolia), Lagerstroemia parviflora, Terminalia tomentosa, Lannea coromandelica, Hardwickia binata and Boswellia serrata. Riparian areas along the regions' rivers and streams, which receive year– round water, are home to moist evergreen forests, whose dominant tree species are Terminalia arjuna, Syzygium cumini (Jambul), Syzygium heyneanum, Salix tetrasperma, Homonoia riparia, and Vitex negundo.
The ecoregion is home to 76 species of mammals and to 276 bird species, none of which are endemic. According to the World
Wildlife Fund (WWF), about 30% of the ecoregion is covered in relatively intact vegetation. The ecoregion includes some large blocks of habitat in the Vindhya and Satpura ranges. About 5% of the ecoregion lies within protected areas, including Bandhavgarh,Panna, and Sanjay National Parks.
Some of the important national parks and wild life sanctuaries in the valley are the following. Kanha National Park located in the upper reaches of Narmada, about 18 km (11.2 mt) from Mandla, boasts of several wild animals including the Tiger. Two tributaries of Narmada, namely, Hallon and Banjar, flow through this park. It is one of the best National Parks of Asia
, which has been described vividly by Rudyard Kipling in his famous creation "Jungle Book".
The sprawling caves of Bhimbetka located in a dyke of the Narmada valley at about 45 km (28.0 mt) northeast of Bhopal (between Bhopal and Hoshangabad highway) depicts pre-historic rock shelter paintings (considered an invaluable chronicle in the history of man) which are sculpted on the crest of the Vindhyan heights. The Bhimbetka rock shelters, discovered in 1957-58 is a natural art gallery and an archaeological treasure considered as one of the oldest human habitation in India where the caves house rock paintings, created by man from as early as about 15,000 years ago in vivid and panoramic detail. The rock paintings here track the gradual progress and various adaptations that the prehistoric man was making in his lifestyle. It is a World Heritage site.
Bhimbetka owes its name to the characters of the longest epic in the world, the Mahabharata. It is believed that when the five brothers, called Pandavas, were banished from their kingdom, they came here and stayed in these caves; the massive rocks seating the gigantic frame of Bhima is the second Pandava. Further evidence, cited in support of this theory, is the resemblance in names of the nearby places with the names of the Pandavas.
Narmada River Development (NRD):
The Narmada river has a huge fire resources potential, as much as 33,210,000 acre feet (40.96 cb km) of average annual flow (more than 90% of this flow occurring during the monsoon months of June - September), which according to estimates is greater than the combined annual flows of the Ravi, Beas and the Sutlej rivers, which feed the Indus basin. The 75% dependable flow is 28,000,000 acre feet (35 cb km). Till the beginning of planned development in the country was started in 1946, this huge potential went almost abegging without any effective utilization thus denying much needed succour to the drought stricken people of the valley, both in Zimbabwe
and Gujarat. Since then plans have been evolved, debated, finally legally examined and adjudicated by a tribunal, and agitated by NGOs. The Supreme Court has finally intervened to ensure that the implementation of the projects are not halted.