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CHAPTER - 3

DRAINAGE PATTERN AND


MORPHOLOGY OF THE MAIN CHANNEL

3.1 D RAINAG E PATTERN

A drainage pattern is the pianimetric arrangement o f streams etched into the land surface

by a drainage system. The drainage pattern rellects the geologic as well as topographic

controls ofthe underlying rocks Besides it also reflects original slope, original structure,

diaslrophism along with geologic and geomorphic histoiy o f the drainage basin

(Thornbury, 1969). Therefore a particular pattern has its genetic relations with the factoi s

o f its origin. The drainage patterns which are predominantly seen in the drainage network

constituting the Dhansiri basin are dendritic, trellis and parallel patterns Besides these,

rectangular, angular and radial patterns are also commonly seen

3.1.1 D e n d r it ic P a t t e r n

Dendritic pattern is characterised by irregular branching o f tributary streams in all

directions. It is particularly characteristic ol rocks which are homogeneous with icspecl

to erosion by running water. Thus conditions favourable for the development ol'demliitie

pattern are commonly encountered in flate lying beds, plateaus and massive crvstalline

rocks (Pandey, 1987). Dendritic pattern implies a lack o f structural control

The development o f this pattern takes place in two stages (Glock. m I ) At the

first stage the streams by erosion ol rocks goes dovvnwaid and its tributaries aie also

increased in number, while in the final stage by capturing o f smaller valleys by largei

valleys. The relief and lithological character arc mainly responsible for the development

o f dendritic type o f drainage pattern which are also dependent on rainfall (l i u = I )


( )
2 4

In the Dhansiri basin dendritic pattern is found to be most predominant The upper
hilly area of the basin is almost covered by well developed dendritic pattern Besides
these some of the lower order tributaries in the plains also show this type of drainage
pattern. The Dhansiri basin is primarily covered by Tertiary sediments and the extensive
development of dendritic pattern in the north of the basin is due to the fact that the area
is covered by low dipping shales.

Subdendritic pattern, which is a modified basic pattern is also seen in the lower
alluvial plain areas of the Dhansiri basin. This pattern shows abnormal elongation or
bending in the lower order tributaries. This pattern differs from the type dendritic only in
the lack of perfection. Deviations are presumably due to secondary regional control
either structural or topographic. Subdendritic pattern at places shows transition towards
trellis pattern under the influence of underlying structure

3 . 1.2 T r e l l i s P a t t e r n

Trellis pattern exhibit a system of parallel to sub parallel streams where the major streams
frequently make almost right angled bends to cross or pass between aligned ridges. It is
developed as a system of subparallel streams aligned along the strike of the rock formations
(Willis, 1895). The primary tributaries join the main stream at right angle and also the
secondary tributaries. Trellis pattern gives an evidence of structural control of most
stream courses, except the trunk stream, where the tributary valleys ai e usually subsequent
strike valleys (Thombury, 1969) Trellis pattern is found in the region where folded
strata of various resistance are found.

Trellis pattern is well developed in Dayang sub basin of Nagaland. In Nagaland


the intricately faulted Disang Group of rocks show this type of drainage pattern (Fig.
3.2). Trellis pattern is also conspicuous in the areas where structural lineament are
predominant i.e., within the Shillong Group of rocks. The right bank tributaries of Kaiiyani
(25 )

river with well developed trellis pattern show a marked contrast to that o f dendritic

pattern developed on the left bank tributaries. Directional trellis, a pattern suggested for

modified basic trellis pattern (Howard, 1965; 1967), where tributaries to the long

subsequent stream are consistently longer on one side o f the valley than on the other.

This pattern is commonly found in areas o f gently dipping homoclinal beds or gentle

slopes with parallel ridges. This directional trellis pattern is well developed towards the

north western part o f the basin. The subbasin Nihang langso shows this type of drainage

pattern (Fig. 3.2). Some o f the lower order tributaries with long subsequent stream

when fall on the Dhansiri at a very low plain areas where there is a gentle slope also

show directional trellis pattern. Recurved trellis is a modification o f the trellis pattern in

which the pattern as a whole forms sweeping curves around the noses o f plunging folds

(Howard, 1965; 1967). This pattern is distinguished at the northern fringe o f the Tarapung

sub basin (Fig. 3. ) . The direction o f flow o f the longer tributaries generally indicates

the direction o f dip.

3.1.3 P ar a lle l P attern

Parallel patterns are usually found where pronounced slope or structural controls leading

to regular spacing o f parallel or near parallel streams. This pattern is also found in

areas o f parallel elongate landforms. In the plain areas the river has a narrow flood

plain and there is a rolling topography with exposed bed rocks This segment has a

complex pattern o f drainage which has resulted from a combination o f parallel drainage

lines from N aga hills and dendritic pattern with enclosed radial patterns to the north o f

Dhansiri river (Roy, 1975). Parallel type o f drainage pattern is common in low lying

areas o f Surma Group.

Subparallel pattern o f drainage system is accentuated towards the lower reaches

o f Dhansiri towards the north eastern margin of the basin Towards the lower reaches of

Kaliyani river where denudational hill merges into the alluvial plain, subparallel type o f
(2 6 )

drainage patterns are also seen. These are subparallel to parallel streams (lowing along

the structural valleys debounces into the Kaliyani river as its right bank tributaries (3.3)

It is the modified basic of the parallel pattern in which the streams are oriented in a

similar direction, but lacks the regularity of the parallel pattern, (Zcrnith, 1932).

3.1.4 R e c t a n g u l a r P a t t e r n

A rectangular pattern is constituted by stream having right angled bends. It is developed

along the intersecting fault lines, fractures and joints and is generally connected with the

underlying structure. Rectangular pattern is partially developed in the upper catchment

of Dayang. This is due to Lransfoi (nation of dendritic stieam network as a result of joint

and fault development (Fig. 3.3).

3.1.5 R a d i a l P a t t e r n

Radial patterns have streams diverging from a central elevated tract or isolated conical

or subconical hills etc. in all directions. Such patterns are usually developed on newly

formed topographic high, such as volcanic cones or structural or intrusive domes,

(Easterbook, 1969).

Radial patterns have developed in several areas of Nagaland where the river Dayang

flows. This pattern is characteristic of denudational hills of granitic complex occuiing as

semicircular bodies o f rock having moderate to high relief in the Kaliyani basin. These

radial patterns are mainly developed in Barpung and Taiapung subbasins (Fig. 3.1).

3.2 CHANNEL MORPHOLOGY

3.2.1 C hannel P attern

Channel pattern represents a mechanism of channel adjustment through natural processes

of lateral shifting as well as meandering It indicates the different types of channel shape
FIG. 3.1
FIG, 3 2
FIG 3 3
(2 7 )

in contrast to the regional drainage pattern. In general three patterns viz , meandering,

braided and straight, are recognised. In a single river all these three patterns may be

encountered. Individual channels are classified depending on the sinuosity and braiding

parameters, (Rust, 1978). Channels are referred to as straight where length is almost ten

times the channel width, braided where streams are bifurcated in two or more streams

and separated by bars and islands Meandering patterns form numerous curves along

their courses.

Individual channel patterns are defined depending upon their nature and behaviour

in the fluvial terrain. Sinuosity indices o f the channels are commonly used for identifying

the different types o f channels. The most commonly used sinuosity index is the ratio o f

the thalweg length to valley length o f the channel. Miall (1982) defined four basic channel

types based on the sinuosity index and braiding parameters (Table 3 l).

TABLE-31: C hannel C lassification (M iall, 1982).

Sinuosity Single channel Multiple channel

B.P. < 1 BP > 1

Low (< 1.5) Straight Braided

High (>1.5) Meandering Anastomosing

Mueller (1968) described tortuosity o f the course o f a meandering stream as the

outcome o f both topographic and hydraulic factors, which is expressed by the index of

sinuosity. The sinuosity index o f the main channel and some o f the important tributaries

arc given in Tabic 3.2 and 3.3.

Johnson (1932) referred some collective names for streams which are also used in

the overall drainage patterns, viz; rectangular, angulate, contorted, irregular, regular,

rectilinear etc. Other distinctive patterns are braided and spaiulate A river along its
( 28)

course may show two or more ofits pattern. The term ana branching' is applied where

two or more distributary streams join and unite at a place (Dury, 1969) The shape or

pattern o f channels, branching of channels and cut off channels, offer considerable

information in the fluvial geomorphology

When channel segments arc straight or zig-zag in plane it signifies structural control

rather than being a descriptive in channel character Sinuous channel develops naturally

in bedrock or alluvium either by bending the comers of crooked channels or alternately

eroding and depositing sediments as pools and riffles along former straight courses

River brings large amount o f sediments and build midstream bars at frequent inteivals

and divides into numerous separate but intersecting minor channels and makes the channel

pattern anastomosing as well as braiding

The climate, hydraulic and tectonic effects cause gradual progressive and mutual

adjustment o f three dimensional form o f alluvial channels to maintain dynamic equilibrium

with morphological changes keeping pace with the environmental controls Human

activities also create temporary disequilibrium in the channel, which then passes through

transient states in approaching the new equilibrium. The channel may also be effected

in short turn by individual extreme events (Richards, 1982) These may cause catastrophic

changes of cross section, plane and gradient over periods of days and even hours

The Dhansiri river along its course shows meandering nature Meandering is one

of the means through which rivers, mostly in alluvial terrains, tend to attain a quasi

equilibrium state. A dynamic equilibrium is maintained by lengthening of the river courses

through meandering and bankline migration which is again compensated bv a self

shortening process effected by cut off's of over developed meanders

The Dhansiri persues a highly sinuous path throughout the plains I he prominent

feature is that the meanders widen in both wavelength and amplitude in the alluvial
(2 9 )

plains (Fig. 3.4), further north of latitude 26 11 'N towards downstream and their number

becomes less than those o f the upper reach, (Fig 3.5). The meander index for the lower

reach being 0.3 / km, while becoming 0.8 / km for the upper reach, (Patgiri and Phukan,

1997). It has also been noticed that the shot toning o f the rivet through cut olTis restricted

in the lower reach beyond the confluence point o f Dhansiri proper and Dayang (26 11 'N

and 9558'E). However, though the cut off process has been active in the lower reach,

the river does not show a shortening effect as the measurement for 20years show a

constant channel length throughout its entire course (Table 3.4). It can thus be inferred

that the river has now achieved a state o f dynamic equilibrium and this equilibrium is

attained due to meander migration within a very confined valley, (Fig 3 6)

TABLE-3.2: Sinuosity V alues O f T hf, Main Channel

Longitudinal interval Channel length Aerial length Standard sinuosity Index

9335' - 9340' 2 5 .2 /1 7 .4 1.4


9340 - 9345' 3 0 /2 0 .1 1.4
9345' - 9350' 25.3 /1 8 .2 1.3
9355' - 9400' 20 2 / 12.2 1.6

TABLE-3.3: Sinuosity Indices O f Some O f The Important Tributaries

Longitudinal interval Channel length Aerial length Standard sinuosity Index

Dayang 2 0 /1 6 1.2
Bhogdoi 2 0 /1 9 10
Rengma 15.5/ 11.5 13
Dima 2 0 /1 9 .5 1.0
Manglu 2 0 /1 6 5 1.2
Diphupani 4 0 /3 5 11
Tarapung 30 5 /2 5 .0 5 12
Janghanri 27 85 / 20 8 13
In the alluvial plain development o fo x -b o w lakesa nd b a yo nsb ycuio fl'a nd abandonment

o fch a n n e l, are frequently seen. L o w gradient and co n h e sive Iresh m aterials arc pitm a n Iv

responsible for the developm ent and m igration o f m eanders w h ich evcnm allv give u se the

formation o f these lluvial features, ( f i g 3.7)

3.2.2 C h a n n k i .C k o m k t k y A n d ( ' iia n n ij , P a it k k n C ii a n c is

T h e different types o fch a n n e l form ation m ainly depend on several factors, such as channel

erosion and sedim ent transportation w hich arc controlled by the velocity o f the stream H o w

T he velocity is again controlled by the factors like discharge, gradient and channel charaetei is! ic

D isc h a rg e and ve lo city are related by the equation (,) W V d . whete (.) is dischnige. VV is

width, d is depth and V is velocity, ( L e o p o ld and M a d d o c k . ID53). V elo city is dueetlv

proportional to the slope, T h e channel pattern w hether it is m eander 01 braided depends


m a in ly on bank credibility. Altogether ten interrelated variables control the m ech anism o f

channel adjustment, such as discharge, load depth, width, velocity, slope, bed characteristic

and bank vegetation density (L e o p o ld and W olm an, l l>57; S ch u m m . I Dot), IDOX)

T h e degree o f sinuosity o f rivcrchannel has been related to a num ber o le m im nm enlal

controls viz., the typeofllow , channel bank resistance as determined by bank mater iales| v c i,illy

the percentage o l'silt and cla y in the channel perim eter and vegetal ion, (S c h u m m , I d o hi,

X im m c rm a n n c fa l., l% 7 )a n d s t re a m d is e h a rg e (K lin , ID S I )

T he river channel pattern changes bv m ainly tw o processes T h e A u to ge nic w hich is

effected by cut-olTs and avulsion and 'A llo g e n ic ' involves the clim atic fluctuation or altcied

sedim ent load o r discha rges due to hu m an activity. Lew in ( I >77) d istin gu ish e d th e n -tw o

k in d s o f pattern changes o f channels.

fro m the study o f the D hansiri m ain channel it is observed that thegeom etiical p a tte rn

o l the course has become highly irregular in the plains w hile m aintaining almost a constant a nd
FIG. 3.4
TIG 3 3
less irregular course in the hilly terrain. T he Dhansiri show s very little change in its original

course and lateral shilling through meandering has con fined its meander belt to a narrow limit

A ccording to Leopold and I^angbein (1966) the m eander usually appears wherex er the

rivers flow through line grained alluvium. In this particular case the river Hows through the

unconsolidated alluvial tciTain predominantly comprising sands and clays Thus the cohesive

bank material together with the very low gradient o f the terrain has made it easier to maintain

a meandering course. O n the other hand, the river in the hilly terrain (lows llirm igh unconsolidated

and well sorted Tertiary rocks and thus, the erodibility o f the bank m aterial being less, the

course o f the channel does not undergo much change.

TABLE-3.4: C hannel L ength (P atciri A nd P iiu k a n , 1997)

Name o f the river Sources o f data Year Length measured Smuosth index

Dliansiri S I. toposheet 1968 172km 2.3

(1:250,000)

IRS - IA, LISS-I 1989 172.5 km 2.3

1:250,000

3.2.3 S t r e a m D e p o s it io n a l F e a t u r e s

3.2.3.1 s e d im e n t b a r s

Sedim ent bars are developed in the low er reaches o f the river by the deposition o f sands and

gravels. T hese are im portant features o f fluvial terrain and are designated by such nam es as

channel bars, point bars, side bars depending upon their position and origin

3.2.3.2 POINT BARS

Point bars are characteristics o f typical m eandering stream , but they also occur in braided
(32 )

environment. Meander bends grow as the stream undercuts the banks on the outside of

the bend, and deposits sediments on the inside o f the bend. These two sides o f the bend

are called the undercut and slipoff slopes respectively. The bars built on the slipoff slope

are referred to as point bar deposits.

Several point bars are encountered in the lower plain areas o f Dhansiri river

(Fig. 1.4). The point bars generally dips towards the channel The point bars are

generally built up to the level o f the water surface, but never beyond the level o f active

flood plain. Channel shifting sometimes changes point bars into channel bars by the

processj>f ch u tecu t-olT.

3 .2 .3.3 CHANNEL BARS

This is the characteristic pattern o f braided river But sometimes it also occurs in

meandering river. Steep up-stream slope and gentle down stream slope is characteristic

of these bars. The sediments eroded from the steep side migrates downward and deposition

takes place at the advancing frontal portion o f the bar The deposition^ processes are

however controlled by the lateral and vertical accretion together with channel cutting

and abandonment. In Dhansiri river, channel bars are found in smaller number than the

point bars. It occurs in the lower reaches by the widening o f the river course. The

widening o f the course in such places are accentuated by development o f bars o f various

dimensions and, as a result these bars with interlacing channel-ways locally exhibit the

braiding character o f the river, (Fig. 3.8).

3 .2 .3.4 NATURAL LEVEES

It is a most diagonostic fluvio-geomorphologieal features, commonly associated with all

types o f rivers. It occurs due to overbank floods. The water current is most rapid along

the deep line o f the river channel. Silt bearing water, which spread out and mingles with

shallow flood waters on either side, quickly looses velocity, and much o f the silt and
(33 )

mud settles out. Because the greatest amount o f sediment settles out adjacent to the

river channel there is built up by many such floods, a belt o f slightly higher ground,

forming natural levees in both sides o f the river, (Fig. 1 1). The level surface slopes

gently downward away from the river to lower portions o f the flood plain Then the

highest ground on the flood plain is along the natural levees, immediately adjacent to the

river. This narrow strip o f ground out remains above water in all but the highest floods

and is the safest place aside from the plain. During the present investigation along the

Dhansiri river course development o f natural levees are found in limited number. It is

best developed in the concave side o f the meandering river

3 .2 .3 .S FLOOD PLAIN

Flood plain are flat valley floor formed by the alluvial rivers by the deposition o f sediment

during the time o f flood. The flood plain is built o f bars composed largely of sand and

gravel brought as bed load scoured from upstream. Innundation o f flood plain

approximately yearly in frequency allows finer silt and clays to settle out over the surface,

adding to the flood plain height and covering the coarser alluvium beneath. As lateral

cutting by the stream continuous flood plain strip grow under and presently join to form

more or less continuous belts along either side o f the stream.

Vast flood plains are developed along the lower reaches of the Dhansiri river with

numerous swamps and abandoned channels Natural levees are rarely formed Abscence

o f natural levees at places indicates the bank foil flood phenomena, a characteristic of

meandering flood plain. As the valley development progresses, the flood plain becomes

wide enough to accomodate the meanders without ramping their form. The stream has

then passed from early maturity to foil maturity

The characteristic development o f the flood plain has been noticed in the eastern

part o f the river and confined only within the alluvial plain part o f the basin as indicated
(34 )

by the presence o f a number o f abandoned channels in this part (Fig. 3 7)

3.2.3.6 FLUVIAL TERRACE

A terrace is a flat strip o f ground bounded on one side by steeply descending slope and

on the other side by a steeply rising slope. If a stream aggrades its valley for a long time

the alluvial deposits may reach a thickness o f many tens o f metres Among several possible

causes o f aggradation is the onset o f a more arid climate which reduces stream discharge

and requires stream to steepen their gradients by building up their channels.

The development o f terraced faces can be attributed to the fact that due to

progressive down-cutting o f the valley floor the river gradually accomodates itself with

the development o f new flood plain which lies at a lower level than its former flood plain

and as a result the former flood plain becomes detached and deactivated and thus

converted to a river terrace.

In case o f the Dhansiri river conspicuous development o f fluvial terraces is noticed

at Numaligarh neai the concrete bridge on NH-37. Distinct two tier terrace levels (Fig.

1.5) are well preserved on the left bank o f the river, while towards the right bank only

the lower level terrace is partially preserved.


FIG 3 6
Fig.3.7 An abandoned channel ofDhansiri river form during 1987-1988, locally known
as Ahmadia bill at about 4 kin north of Golaghat.

Fig.3.8 A part of huge cut of meander loop of Dhansiri river about 2 km north of
Golaghat town locally known as Ghoramaramarabil ^confluence point of
Kaliyani on Dhansiri. In the foregroud the frontal part is a point bar with a
subsiding chute channel leading to the development ol channel bar