An Environmental Economic Appraisal of The Sutlej River

Categories: Water Quality


Punjab is the land of five rivers (the Indus, Ravi, Chenab, Sutlej and Jhelum) and it is also known for its lush green irrigated lands. The Sutlej river is the longest river of the five rivers. It flows through the historic crossroads region of the Punjab in northern India and Pakistan. The Sutlej River is also known as the Red River. It is the easternmost branch of the Indus river. The source of the river is at Lake Rakshastal in Tibet, near Mount Kailas.

It flows generally west and southwest through the region of Punjab.

History of Sutlej River

The Sutlej was the main medium of transportation for the kings of that time. In the early 18th century, it was used to transport devdar woods for Bilaspur district, Hamirpur district, and other places along the Sutlej’s banks.CITATION Ken \l 3081 (Pletcher, 2017)1.2 Geology of Sutlej River- The water of Sutlej is controlled by spring and summer snowmelt in the Himalayas and by the South Asian monsoon.

The onset of the summer monsoon brings heavy rains that often produce extensive flooding downstream than the winter flow which are substantially lower since there is low precipitation or meltwater from the Himalayan glaciers. The most amount of water is used for irrigation. The water of Sutlej river diverted to irrigated canals in India, Punjab. People use water for irrigation of wheat, pulses and gram. Approximately 70 percent of all the world’s freshwater withdrawals go towards irrigation uses. Irrigation therefore needs 900 km of water per year for food crops.

Top Writers
Academic Giant
Verified writer
5 (345)
Prof. Clara
Verified writer
5 (345)
Prof. Laser
Verified writer
4.8 (435)
hire verified writer

On average just about 40 % of water withdrawn from Sutlej river for agriculture effectively contribute to crop production (the rest is lost through evaporation and deep infiltration).

Water Quantity of Sutlej River

Water quantity means the amount of water present in the river. The area of the river is approximate 395000 km2,(153,000sq mi) and cover a length of approximate 1500 km (930mi). However, water quantity is influenced by human activities, such as water takes, diversions, dams, bores, and some uses of land. The water of Sutlej River allocated to India under the Indus Waters Treaty between Pakistan and India and it is also divided into different canals in India. There are different several hydroelectric projects on Sutlej, including the Bhakra Dam, which is 1325MW, the 1000 MW Karcham Wangtoo Hydroelectric plant, and the 1500 MW Nathpa Jhakri Dam.

Water quality means the chemical, physical and biological characteristics of the water. Water quality measure the condition of water relative to the requirements of one or more biotic species and or to any human need or purpose. The various Industries and city sewage drains generates large amount of effluents which are received by Sutlej River, which degraded the water quality of river. CITATION CSh17 \l 3081 (C. Sharma, 21 August 2017).
The Current study revealed the status of water quality of Sutlej river declining in the Punjab region. Due to the lack of proper knowledge and sanitation management in the developing countries, unmindfully, the untreated industrial effluents and municipal sewage directly discharged into rivers. In order to assess the water quality of Sutlej river, five sampling station (SS-1) – Khab, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh; Second Sampling station (SS-2) – Wangtoo, near dam site of Karcham Wangtoo Hydroelectric plant; Third sampling station (SS-3) – Bayal at the Rampur city, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh; Fourth sampling station (SS-4) – Kol dam, Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh and Fifth Station (SS-5) – Wajipur Kalan, Ludhiana, Punjab were selected on the basis of identified pollution problems and upon the location of points of sources of waste water discharge in the selected stretch of Sutlej river, Showing in figure below:- ( CITATION Nav16 \l 3081 (Walia, 2016)

Ecosystem goods and services provided by the Sutlej River

River play a significant role to provide water for drinking, cooling, and irrigation, fish as food supply or for recreational fishing, and areas for flood protection, and they can have cultural and aesthetic value. Ecosystem services are directly or indirectly benefit humans or enhance the social welfare. Ecosystem services are grouped into four broad categories: provisioning, such as the production of food and water; regulating, means control of climate and disease; supporting, such as nutrient cycles and oxygen production; and cultural, such as recreational and spiritual benefits. CITATION kja19 \l 3081 (k.james, 2019)3.1 Role of Sutlej River, Punjab state, India, in terms of provisioning, regulating, supporting and cultural ecosystem services: – Sutlej river provide habitats for wildlife and would be purify water as well as flood regulation (regulating), fresh water (provisioning), nutrient cycling (supporting), and recreation (cultural). The landscapes of river have served as areas for settlements, infrastructure, and production for several thousand years.

  • In case of supporting services, Sutlej river provide living space for animals and plants and support their maintenance.
  • For provisioning ecosystem services, river provide food, water and other resources: Water for consumptive use- drinking, agriculture, industrial use and domestic use. water for nonconsumptive use- generating power, transport and navigation
  • Sutlej river play a significant role to provide regulating ecosystem services such as maintenance of water quality: treatment of water and natural filtration, buffering of flood flows, erosion control through water/land interactions, and flood control infrastructure.
  • cultural services provide by river: Recreation- river hiking, fishing, Tourism- river viewing, and existence values- personal satisfaction from free flowing rivers. CITATION Ker18 \l 3081 (Kerstin Bock, 2018).

There are different types of categories of property rights which are related to river such as:
Property rights define the theoretical and legal ownership of resources and how they can be used. In economics, property rights from the basis for all market exchange and the allocation of property rights in a society affects the efficiency of resource use.

  • Open access resources- An open access system which is set up to continue the ideals of an open access resources in which everything is up for grabs, for example landscape of river. However, in different setting, such as fishing, there will be drastically different consequences. Fishing in the river is an open access resource.
  • Common pool resources- Common pool resources are consisting of natural or man- made resource system (e.g. an irrigation system or fishing ground). The Sutlej river provides a common pool resources for irrigation, the crops are irrigated by river water. Due to this growth process will be influenced.
  • Private goods are those that are excludable and rival. Private goods are subject to exclusion, making them easy to confine or control. One of the familiar uses of river water in some places is at household level for drinking, gardening etc. These kinds of uses can be described as rival and excludable that when it has been consumed nobody else can use it. Like another private goods river water is also become a private good.
  • Public goods are those which are available for all. The water of Sutlej river is also a public good, for instance, when a river is built people cannot be prevented from benefiting from the reduced risk of flooding and increasing number of people who benefit does not affect the availability of the resources.

Current mechanisms for managing water quality and water quantity in the river

One of the most challenging problem of the Punjab, is the surface water-quality problem of the Sutlej river. A continuously growing population, high industrial development, and rapid urbanisation without proper planning resulted in the degradation of water quality of the Sutlej river. Due to the poor quality of water, the river ecosystem is not favourable for the aquatic and surrounding environment. Hence the management options are used to reduce impure quality of water. There are different types of mechanisms are used for managing water quality and water quantity of river. However, modern four main mechanisms are:

  • the traditional instrument of command and control, which are appropriate to the centralized operation as a government prerogative;
  • social mechanisms which are used to define objectives and establish the intervention plans, which require institutional models for shared management of responsibilities between state and other agents of society;
  • Economic management mechanism, it implies the institutional arrangements for shared responsibilities and
  • The field of voluntary adherence mechanisms generally based on quality of processes and environmentally correct forms of production. CITATION Mon04 \l 3081 (Porto, 2004)

Command and control mechanisms for managing water Quality of the Sutlej river in Punjab. The purpose of this mechanism to manage the water of river by controlling of wastes from human activities. It is known that some level of damage will occur, but the system must try to keep the degradation of the aquatic environment at acceptable conditions of risk.

Critique of current mechanisms and suggestions for improvement

Although the different types of mechanisms are used to managing water quality and water quantity, however command and control mechanisms have some criticisms such as: they provide no incentive for going the limits they set; they provide limited flexibility on where and how to manage water quality. There are some suggestion and key areas that improve the water quality of Sutlej River:
Strengthening Governance: There is need to develop and strengthen institutional and human capacities through water quality control and management interventions at the National, provincial and local levels. It should be compulsory to installing the sewage treatment plants that can disposed the toxic pollutants and water quality standard are maintained. The Government should also provide incentives to industries to treat their chemical effluents before they are disposed intro river.
Upholding water quality Standards: There is also needed to establish a realistic water quality standard for river. These standards consider various technical and economic considerations. A robust monitoring mechanism should be developed to managing the water quality of Sutlej river.
Research and Development: Research on water quality also needs to explore the socio -economic impacts of impure water quality on downstream communities in the basin. Currently, there is dearth of research and data in the domain of water quality of Indus river basin. This has made it difficult for policy makers to grasp the intensity and scale of rapidly deteriorating the water quality. CITATION Sye18 \l 3081 (Hasan, 2018).
Taking appropriate actions: The Government of Punjab can take appropriate actions to manage the water quality issue, by managing its water supply sources, ensuring the communities engage in safe water use behaviour, and continuously monitoring water quality to continue understand the pollution characteristics and guide the ongoing management actions required.


This essay has examined the management of the Sutlej River of Punjab state, India. The water of Sutlej river has impacts on the Earth’s surface and the Environment both in positive and negative ways. The river facing serious challenges of abundance with acute shortage of water, climatic irregularities etc. CITATION Muh15 \l 3081 (Mohsin, 2015). The water of Sutlej river is allocated to India under the Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan and are mostly diverted to irrigation canals in India. Due to effluents the water quality of river degraded at different stretches, which are causing many problems for humans, plants and species. At present, the overall status of water quality is very polluted due to residential and industrial wastewater directly discharged into the Sutlej river. So, it is very important to managing the water quality of the river by different type of mechanisms. Command and control mechanism can be used to managing the water quality of river.


  • C. Sharma, R. j. (21 August 2017). Sustainable water resources management. Assessment of water quality of river Sutlej, Punjab (India).
  • Hasan, S. A. (2018). Suggestions for improving water quality. Measuring water quality of river Sutlej.
  • k.james. (2019). Ecosystem services. Ecosystem services – Biodiversity information system for Europe.
  • Kerstin Bock, R. P. (2018). Ecosystem services in River Landscapes. Vienna.
  • Mohsin, M. (2015). Geographical approach of sutlej River. Adopting Technical Actions for sutlej River Revival: a geographical approach.
  • Pletcher, K. (n.d.). Sutlej River history. Sutlej river .
  • Porto, M. (2004). Command and control mechaniosm. Mechanisms of water management .
  • Walia, N. S. (2016). water quality parameters. water quality investigation by physiochemical parameter of sutlej River, India.

Cite this page

An Environmental Economic Appraisal of The Sutlej River. (2021, Oct 31). Retrieved from

An Environmental Economic Appraisal of The Sutlej River
Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7