The hydrography of Tibet

Water resources of Tibet

Tibet is the principal water tank of Asia and the source of the largest rivers.
A great proportion of hydrological flows of Tibet comes from underground rivers and glaciers, contrary to the adjoining countries, who depend on precipitations.

Tibet accounts for 6% of the annual throughput in Asia and between 11 and 14% of stable water.
90% of running water of Tibet pass in rivers which cross its borders.

Abundant water gives to Tibet a potential exploitable hydraulic power of 250.000 megawatts, that is to say the most important of all the countries of the world.
U-Tsang alone has a potential of 200.000 MW.

Lakes and rivers of Tibet :

Tibet abounds in rivers and lakes, which provide electricity in abundance.
The bushes which border them shelter swans and geese and their eggs.

The rivers

  • Machu :

    In Tibetan, it means “the river of the peacock”.
    It’s called Houang-He or yellow river when it penetrates China. It takes its source in the Kunlun mounts.
    It is the second longest river of China.
    Length : 5 464 km

  • Mekong :

    It means “mother of all the rivers”.
    It’s the tenth longest river of the world.
    It takes its source in Eastern Tibet, on the heights of the Himalaya.
    Length : 4425 km

  • Tsangpo or Brahmapoutra :

    The most important one, its name means “son of Brahma” in Sanskrit. It takes its source at 5000 meters of altitude, in the chain of the Himalayas, close to Lhasa.
    Length : 2900 km

  • Yangzi Jiang (Yangtze, blue river or Bri Chu in Tibetan) :

    The blue river
    The yangtze or blue river
    It’s the longest river of Asia and the 3rd longest river of the world.
    It takes its source at more than 6600 meters of altitude in the mount
    Geladandong located in the south-west of Qinghai.
    Its name, in Tibetan, means “river of the female of the yak”.
    Length: 6300 km

  • Indus :

    It takes its source in Tibet, in the Himalaya chain.
    Length : 2 900 or 3180 km

  • Yaluzangbu :

    It winds from west to east in the valleys of the south of Tibet to throw itself in the Indian Ocean.
    Length : 2057 km

Lakes of Tibet

  • The lake Manasarovar or Mapam Yumco :

    Lake Manasarovar
    Lake Manasarovar

    Regarded as “the king of the sacred lakes”, it is located at + 20 km
    from the Kailash mount, at an altitude of 4.585 meters and has a depth
    of 90 meters.
    It is told that to drink its water or to bath in it would be beneficial for
    Surface: 400 km²

  • The lake Namtso or Namco :

    Its name means “the celestial lake” in Tibetan. This lake is one of the most famous sacred lakes of Tibet, it’s the 2nd most biggest salted lake of the world. It is located at 4.718 meters of altitude, which makes of it the highest salted lake of the world, and has a 33 meters depth. It is told that to bathe there purifies sins.
    Surface: 1.920 km²

  • The lake Yamdrok or Yamzhog Yumco :

    Lac Yamdrok
    Lake Yamzhog Yumco

    This lake is situated at 150 km in the south of Lhasa, it is one
    of the four big lakes of the Tibetan plateau.
    It is located at 4000 meters of altitude and comprises
    a dozen of small islands.
    Surface: 638 km²


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