Navigating Sky River: China Tibet – India – BangladeshCrew of the Ganges Expedition 2009
The Tsangpo-Brahmaputra River flowing through China, Tibet, India and Bangladesh into the Bay of Bengal is known as one of the highest and most challenging rivers in the world and is also referred to as the “Sky River” or the “Everest of all Rivers”. An international team that just completed an expedition of the entire river Ganges will set out in September 2010 to explore the full length of this gigantic mass of water, in hydropower second only to the river Yangtze.
They will be the first team travelling the entire length of the river of about 3.000 kilometers. Inflatable boats will be used for about 2.400 km, leaving another 400 km for trecking and transporting the boats over ground along its banks where the Tsangpo-Brahmaputra is impossible to navigate. The aim of the project is to improve awareness, to showcase the potential of the region for tourism and to emphasize the need to preserve the unique biodiversity along the riverbanks. The expedition wants to bring a deeper knowledge and understanding of the whole region, its culture, natural beauty and diversity to a broader public. A steady influx of tourists would secure income and thus help to achieve a sustainable development – environmental aspects and the protection of nature would be of utmost importance in this context. The trip is meant to be a unique awareness and aid project for the whole region.
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Schedule and Route
The expedition will take about 45-50 days and is scheduled to begin around the the 1st of October 2010. This is the end of the rainy season and the time of the year when the river carries a lot of water so that the tricky passages with rapids and sand bars can be mastered. Details of the route planning will depend very much on the tasks awaiting the team along the way. Here is a rough description of the major stretches of the Brahmaputra in China, Tibet, India and Bangladesh: Tsangpo-Brahmaputra, called Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet, is a trans-boundary river. It originates from the Chemayung-Dung glacier and takes its source at approximately 31°30´N and 82°0´E in a remote mountain mass. There is no way to navigate the river up here. The team will do several days of pure and challenging trecking through the Himalaya in this spectacular region that is known as the “roof of the world”
Then comes a long navigable stretch, the river flows through southern Tibet from west to east at a height of about 4.000 m – a real “sky river”. It finally bends around Mount Namcha Barwa (7.782 m), the easternmost mountain in the Himalayan chain and forms the Yarlung Tsangpo valley that extends to the Indian border. It is the deepest and the longest valley in the world with two impassable gorges, Yarlung Tsangpo Gorge and Gyatsa Gorge. This will be one of the highlights of the expedition as this incredible canyon is considered a gene pool of biological resources and is also of great geological importance – a “geological museum” bearing the history of the earth. In India one can get easily confused because of the many different namens given to the river. The Tsangpo-Brahmaputra or Yarlung Tsangpo breaks through the Himalayas in great gorges and into Arunachal Pradesh where it is called Siang. From here it makes a very rapid descent and is called Dihang when reaching the plains. Soon two other rivers, Dibang and Lohit, join it. From this point of confluence, the river becomes very wide and is finally called Brahmaputra which means son of Brahma. It flows southwest through the Assam Valley as Brahmaputra and south through Bangladesh as Jamuna. The rivers join again about 100 kilometers downstream.
In Bangladesh the Brahmaputra merges with the Ganges and forms the world’s largest delta (42,000 km²), the Sunderbans, emptying into the Bay of Bengal. This region is known for its mangroves and rich wildlife, e. g. tigers and crocodiles live here.
Team – Background
Andy Leemann, a Swiss boating expert and expedition leader who travelled the Amazon, Orinoco, Mekong, Zambezi and Ganges rivers on previous expeditions, will organize this journey together with his co-leader, the Indian producer and camera man Apal Singh. Media coverage before, during and after the expedition is guaranteed. Reports, photos and films of this multimedia voyage will be broadcasted daily and will be followed by a huge audience on the internet. The team has a lot of journalistic experience, e. g. expedition co-leader Apal Singh, in charge of logistics and film, did a documentary for BBC World on the Zambezi Expedition (2008) and a documentary on the Ganges Expedition 2009 – both were broadcasted worldwide.