Brahmaputra | WWF
© Luca Galuzzi


The Yarlung Tsangpo river in Tibet. In India it becomes very wide and is called Brahmaputra. Creative Commons licence


The Yarlung Tsangpo river in Tibet. In India it becomes very wide and is called Brahmaputra. rel= © Luca Galuzzi

One of the major rivers of Asia

From its origin in southwestern Tibet as the Yarlung (Imperial blood) River, the Brahmaputra flows across southern Tibet where it is known as Dihang to break through the Himalayas in great gorges. It flows southwest through the Assam Valley and south through Bangladesh as the Jamuna.

In Bangladesh it merges with the Ganges (Ganga) to form a vast delta. About 2,900 km long, the river is an important source for irrigation and transportation. In India, it accounts for nearly 30% of the total water resources and about 40% of the total hydropower potential of the country.1

The Brahmaputra River is one of the few rivers in the world that exhibit a tidal bore. A tidal bore is a tidal phenomenon in which the leading edge of the incoming tide forms a wave (or waves) of water that travel up a river or narrow bay against the direction of the current.

The endangered Ganges River dolphin inhabits the waters of the Brahmaputra.

Current threats
Climate change poses a serious threat to the people living in the low-lying areas of the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta. According to the IPCC Fourth Asessment Report, more than 1 million people in the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta will be directly affected by 2050 from risk through coastal erosion and land loss, primarily as a result of the decreased sediment delivery by the rivers, but also through the accentuated rates of sea-level rise.

In recent years soil erosion caused by deforestation in the valleys of Tibet and north-east India has caused frequent flooding of the delta region in Bangladesh on a massive scale. 1

Oil exploration poses a threat to some endangered species that live in the Brahmaputra River. Seismic work by oil companies could have large impacts on the endangered Ganges river dolphin.

Brahmaputra watershed. 
    © World Resources Institute
Brahmaputra watershed.
© World Resources Institute

India, Bangladesh, China (Tibet), Bhutan, Nepal

Basin population
Around 400 million people

651,334 km2

2,900 km

Key species
Ganges River dolphin

Livelihood facts
Agriculture (rice, jute, and mustard)

Related links