Tsarap River

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Tsarap River
Tsarap Chu
Zanskar Char 1.jpg
Tsarap River at village Char
Country India
Physical characteristics
Source32°41′53″N 77°53′25″E / 32.69796°N 77.890177°E / 32.69796; 77.890177Coordinates: 32°41′53″N 77°53′25″E / 32.69796°N 77.890177°E / 32.69796; 77.890177
 • locationPankpo La, Sarchu
 • elevation4,650 m (15,260 ft)
Mouth33°30′57″N 76°56′02″E / 33.515855°N 76.933805°E / 33.515855; 76.933805
 • location
Stod River together forms Zanskar River at Padum Zanskar
 • elevation
3,485 m (11,434 ft)
Length182 km (113 mi)
 • average208 m3/s (7,300 cu ft/s)
Basin features
 • leftStod River

The Tsarap River or the Tsarap Chu forms the eastern part of the Zanskar valley, in the Ladakh union territory of India. The 182 km (113 mi) long river is used for irrigation in riparian villages, and for adventure sports by tourists.


Tsarap River near Purne below the confluence with the Kargiakh

The Tsarap River has its source in the glaciers near Pankpo La Pass at the border of Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh.[1] After rising from its source, the Tsarap River flows north-east up to Sarchu, a camping site at the Leh-Manali Highway. Here the Tsarap River joins a confluence of three rivers: of Lingti, Yunan and Sarchu River.[2] At village Purne, the Tsarap River is joined by Kargyag River, which originates near the Shingo La pass.[3] Then the Tsarap River flows down the main Zanskar valley, through the towns of Mone, Tichip, Jamyang Lang, Dorzong and Chia. The river then passes a confluence with its tributary the Stod River at Padum, the capital of Zanskar. Together, these two rivers form the Zanskar River, a tributary of the Indus River.[4][unreliable source?]

The Tsarap River contributes to the minimal agricultural production of the Zanskar valley, mainly to the lower areas of Chia, by providing irrigation to the fields of barley, wheat, buckwheat and peas.[5] Accessible in the summer, the Pensi La mountain pass which connects Zanskar with rest of the country, receives heavy snowfall along with the other pass, Zojila, which results in the valley being cut off during winter from rest of the state, with the river freezing during this season. The river source at Pankpo La near Sarchu lies 255 kilometres (158 mi) southeast from the nearest airport of Leh. The Tsarap River is famous for adventure sports. Rafting events are organised in the Tsarap, Stod and the Zanskar rivers.[6]

Landslide Dam[edit]

Satellite image of the Tsarap River in December 2014 before the landslide
Satellite image of the Tsarap River in January 2015 showing the landslide and lake building up. In addition, the river is frozen and is covered in snow

A lake has been formed on the Tsarap River due to a landslide dam at 33°17′25″N 77°17′06″E / 33.29028°N 77.28500°E / 33.29028; 77.28500, 90 miles (140 km) upstream (south) of Padum the commercial hub of Zanskar. The landslide, which occurred on 31 December 2014 between Shun and Phuktal villages, was first noticed when the Alchi Hydroelectric Power Project downriver reported a drop in water level. The dam created by the debris is 60 metres (200 ft) high, 90 metres (300 ft) wide and 600 metres (2,000 ft) long[7] and the artificial lake is at 80% of the height of the debris. As of 1 February 2015, the artificial lake formed behind the dam is nearly 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) long and covered about 110 hectares of land.[8][9][10]

The barrier is believed to be fine-grained, with boulders having a narrow crest. A report submitted by local authorities prohibited the use of explosives to clear the debris, as it would trigger more landslides and aggravate the situation. They called on the National Disaster Management for assessment of the situation.[10] According to the deputy collector of Zanskar, "The lake has been created around 90 km from the Padam area of Zanskar and beyond 43 km no one can go by foot. After consulting all local engineers, including Army engineers, we were not able to do anything".[11] On 20 February 2015 the National Disaster Management after a ground survey submitted a report on which the Committee headed by the Union Cabinet Secretary deployed a team at the site to carry out controlled blasting and manual work to allow channelized flow of water.[12]

The severe temperatures in the region, below -20 °C had frozen the lake and chances of a breach would rise with a temperature increase in the following days. Authorities closed down the old trade route, the Chadar Trek, and airlifted the people stranded therein to the safer places. People living downstream of Tsarap were also warned to move to higher ground. Control rooms were been set up at Padum and Phuktal to keep watch on the situation.[8][9][13][10]


  1. ^ India. Quarter Master General's Dept. Intelligence Branch (1991). Gazetteer of Kashmir and Ladak: together with routes in the territories of the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. Sang-e-Meel Publications, 1991. p. -725. ISBN 9789693501049. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
  2. ^ Harish Kapadia (2002). High Himalaya Unknown Valleys. Indus Publishing, 2002. p. -228. ISBN 9788173871177. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
  3. ^ Outlook (2005). Trekking holidays in India: 85 treks + 50. Outlook Pub. (India), 200. p. -71. ISBN 9788189449001. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
  4. ^ "Tsarap a tributary of Zanskar river". tourisminjammukashmir. Archived from the original on 24 July 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
  5. ^ Henry Osmaston, Nawang Tsering (1997). Recent Research on Ladakh 6: Proceedings of the Sixth International Colloquium on Ladakh, Leh 1993. Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1997. p. -106. ISBN 9788120814325. Retrieved 18 August 2012.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  6. ^ Pippa de Bruyn, Niloufer Venkatraman, Keith Bain (2006). Frommer's India Volume 187 of Frommer's Complete Guides. John Wiley & Sons, 2006. p. -500. ISBN 9780471794349. Retrieved 18 August 2012.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  7. ^ Phuktal River Blockade (Zanskar Region), Kargil District, Jammu & Kashmir
  8. ^ a b "Zanskar landslide DC Kargil chairs an emergency review meeting". KashmirLife.net. February 2015. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  9. ^ a b "Landslide in Northern India". EarthObservatory.NASA. 27 January 2015. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  10. ^ a b c "New images of the landslide on the Tsarap River". American Geophysical Union. 27 January 2015. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  11. ^ "The landslide on the Tsarap River in the Zanskar Valley". American Geophysical Union. 22 January 2015. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  12. ^ "Phutkal River Blockade". GreaterKashmir.com. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  13. ^ "Phutkal River Blockade". GreaterKashmir.com. Retrieved 1 February 2015.