River Chenab originates from Lahaul valley of H.P Snow bound mountains and have copious discharge all the year round and flow with steep bed slopes in the mountain reaches with a series of loops and bends, which can be economically harnessed for hydel generation. Total economic potential of Chenab Basin has been estimated to the tune of 3600 MW (firm) & installed capacity of 11,400 MW.
Detailed soil survey in the Chenab basin has not been carried out so far. However, in Himachal Pradesh part predominant types of soils found are sub-mountane in Chamba district, and sub-montane, glaciers and eternal snow in Lahul and Spiti distt. In J&K part, predominant soil are brown hill (on sand stones and shales) and sub-montane soils in Doda distt. Adnsub-mountain and mountain meadows in Udhampur district while in Jammu district, brown hill (on sand stones and shales) and alluvial soils are generally found. The Chenab, Indus & Jhelum basin has characterized by a wide variety of soils. The soils of the high Himalayas in the north are subject to continuous erosion and a thick silt sediment layers are deposited to form a wide valley plain.
The river Chenab (or Chandra Bhaga) is formed after the two streams the Chandra and the Bhaga merge with each other. The Chandra and the Bhaga originate from the south-west and north-west faces of Barelacha pass respectively in the Himalayan canton of Lahul and Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh. The Chandra initially flowing southeast for about 88 kms. sweeps round the base of the mid-Himalayas and joins the Bhaga at Tandi, after traversing a total length of about 125 kms. The course of Bhaga upto the confluence is 80 kms only having a steep slope with an average fall of about 24 metres per kilometer. Thereafter the united stream, known as the Chenab or Chandra Bhaga, flows in a north-westerly course for about 46 kms where it receives its first major tributary the Miyar Nalla on the right bank. Then it flows for another 90 km generally in a northerly direction in Himachal Pradesh when it crosses the Pangi valley before entering to Padder area of Doda district of Jammu province in Jammu & Kashmir State. The river flows in a northwest direction in this reach for a distance of 56 km. when it is joined on the right by its biggest tributary, the Marusudar at Bhandalkot. Further Downstream, the river flows in a southerly direction for a distance of 34 km. upto Thathri and then takes a west ward course. In this reach about 17 kms downstream of Thathri, Niru Nallah joins the Chenab on its left bank. The river Chenab thereafter flows generally in a northwest direction for another 41 km. till it receives a tributary Bichleri on the right bank. Afterwards, the river traverses in a westerly direction for a distance of about 50 kms. In this reach a number of small streams join in, namely Chaini, Talsuen, and Ans on the right bank, Yabu Nallah, Mandial and Painthal Khad on the left bank. Downstream of Ans river confluence the river changes its direction and flows in southerly course for about 45 kms. upto Akhnoor where-after it enters into Sialkot district of Pakistan. Total length of the river from confluence of Chandra & Bhaga to Akhnoor is about 504 km.
The main tributaries in its passage upto Kishtwar are the Thirot, the Sohal, the Bhut nallah, the Liddrari and the Marusudar. The Marusudar is the biggest tributary of the Chenab and meets the Chenab at Bhandalkot. Between Kishtwar and Akhnoor, it receives the waters of the Kalnai, the Neeru, the Raghi, the Bichleri and the Ans. The Tawi and Manawar Tawi join Chenab in Pakistan.
In India, the watershed of the Chenab basin covers part of two States viz. Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. Upper Chenab catchment lies in Lahoul area and Pangi Tehsil of Chamba District of Himachal Pradesh. In J&K State, the Chenab basin covers the Districts of Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban, Udhampur, Jammu and Rajouri. The catchment of the Chenab is elongated and narrow. The catchment area of the Chenab upto international border is 29,050 Sq. Km. out of which an area of about 6,242 Sq. Km. is under perpetual snow. The catchment area of the river Chenab upto Akhnoor, the lower most gauge discharge site in India is 21,808 Sq. Km.
Brief description of some of the important tributaries of Chenab :
a) The Miyar Nalla.
The Miyar Nalla rises in Himalayas from its southern near Lopen jot at about 5100m. After traversing of about 35 km in south-east direction, it takes a big loop and turn towards south west direction, After flowing about 60 km it joins the Chenab on its right bank opposite Udaipur. Its total length upto the confluence with Chenab river is tough high mountains on either side.
b) The Bhut Nalla.
The Bhut Nalla is formed by two major streams near Matsel one flowing from north-west and the other from south-east. From Matsel it flows in the direction of south west. After traversing a distance of about 25 km it joins the Chenab on its right bank down stream of Gulabgarh. The total course of the river is through high mountains on either side.
c) The Marusudar.
The Marusudar is the biggest right bank tributary of the Chenab river. It originates from an elevation of about 5175 m. In the beginning two streams namely Batkot and Gumbar merge to form Warwan river, which is known as the Marusudar in the lower reaches. The Marusudar flows almost the north to south direction. Its catchment is almost fan shaped. The upper reaches are covered with glacier and the permanent snow line is considered generally around 4700m. The seasonal snowline is below this and glaciers descend upto an elevation of around 2500m. The entire reach of the Marusudar is through mountainous terrain with steep slopes and sharp bends between very high cliffs.
d) The Ans.
The river is formed by two major streams. One flowing from west to east and the other from south west. The Ans after flowing for a distance of about 20 km in almost southerly direction joins the Chenab in its right bank, up stream of Salal H.E. project.
e) The Niru
The Niru originates near Bhadarwah. It flows in north-west direction and after traversing a distance of about 30 km it joins the Chenab on its left bank near Doda. In this reach, the Niru takes a few sharp bends and also joined by two-three small nallas.
f) The Tawi River.
The Tawi river is a major left bank tributary of the Chenab. It originates from outer Himalaya ranges in Udhampur district at an elevation of about 1220m. Initially it flows in westerly direction for about 16km and then takes a turn towards north west direction and flows for a distance of 27 km upto Sudhmahadev. There after it flows in westerly direction for about 5 km upto Chenani and further down in a westerly course upto Udhampur after which it takes a southerly course for about 24 km. The river finally joins the Chenab a little downstream of the international border in Pakistan. The total length of the river is about 141 km. The river generally flows through steep hills on either side except the lower reach of about 35 km.