Chinese scientist re-examines source of Indus River

17:44, October 21, 2010      

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More than 100 years after Swedish explorer Sven Hedin announced the discovery of the origin of the Indus river, a Chinese scientist has challenged the claim with the help of high-resolution, remote-sensing satellite images and a field investigation to come up with a new finding.

The new point of origin is said to be located in a valley, northeast of Kailash, the highest peak of the Gangdise Mountain, in the west region of Tibet, southwest of China, according to Liu Shaochuang, a researcher with the Institute of Remote Sensing Applications under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"The headstream, called Banggokong by local Tibetans, is about 30 kilometers away from the place that Sven Hedin believed was the source of the river," said Liu.

Liu used remote-sensing images, with a resolution of up to 2.5 meters, provided by the French SPOT satellite system, to find the longest headstream of the Indus River.

He also made a field investigation at the source of Indus at the end of September to make sure it contained water, even in the dry season.

It's commonly accepted among the international geographical community that the source of a river is defined as the longest branch in the drainage basin. The source should have water running all through the year.

The Indus river, with a total length of around 3,000 kilometers, runs through China, India and Pakistan. It is the most important source of agricultural irrigation in Pakistan. The river has a total drainage area exceeding 1,165,000 square kilometers. The river's estimated annual flow stands at around 207 cubic kilometers, making it the 21st largest river in the world in terms of annual flow. The ancient Indus civilization was one of the earliest to produce food using agricultural theories in the world.

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