Geography of Munsiari

Geography of Munsiari

Munsiari is located at the geographical coordinate of 30.0674° North latitude and 80.2386° East longitude under the Kumaon Division of Uttarakhand.  The town is situated at the base of the Panchchuli Mountain in the Great Himalayan Range and has an average elevation of 2,200 meter or 7,200 ft. Goriganga is an important river flowing through this tehsil, not far away from Munsiari town.

River Goriganga near Munsiyari

River Goriganga, also known as Ghori Ganga and Gori Gad, is a small but important river in the Pithoragarh District of Uttarakhand. While ‘gori’ means white both ‘gad’ and ‘ganga’ means river. In short, the name means White River. True to its name, the water of the river looks white. That is as much because of its white froths as for its white sandy base.

The course of Goriganga

the Course of Goriganga

River Goriganga starts off from two different sources.  While its western branch originates from the snout of Milan Glacier, located at a road distance of 59 km from Munsiyari town its eastern branch has its source at a glacier located in the south of Untadhara ridge. The river then travels in south and south east direction across the Munsiyari Tehsil to join River Kali, also known as River Sarda, at Jauljibi. 

River Goriganga is one of the gushing rivers that the geologists have termed as ‘wild’.  It has a catchment area of 1120 sq.km, which includes 29 glaciers, permanent ice caps measuring 346 sq km and seasonal snow covered area measuring 640 sq km. The river is watered by many other streams and glacial systems across its course.

Tributaries of Goriganga

River Goriganga near Munsiyari

One kilometer from its source, near Milan village, the river is joined by a hilly stream called Gonka.  Besides, Goriganga receives water from various other streams flowing from the eastern slopes of Nanda Devi Sanctuary, Kalabaland-Burfu Kalganga Glacier system, and various other high peaks such as Panchchuli, Rajramba and Chaudhara.  Among these streams Ralam Gad and Pyunsani Gadhera are two important tributaries.

Proposed hydroelectricity projects on Goriganga

River Goriganga experience a drop 2530 meters in its course of 95 km. Consequently, it offers tremendous scope for sustainable hydroelectric power projects across its length. National Thermal Power Corporation, a public sector undertaking under the Ministry of Power, Government of India, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Uttarakhand in this regard. It aims to harness the water of Goriganga to produce hydroelectric power and thus mitigate the power shortage in this area. The project is tentatively named Rupsiabagar Khasiyabara Hydro-electric Power Project. The main dam will be built near village Paton, close to Munsiyari town. It will be concrete gravity dam.

Panchchuli near Munsiyari

Panchchuli near Munsiyari

Panchchuli is located to the north east of Munsiari town in Pithoragarh District. It is the most important mountain peak located in the vicinity of the town. If legends are to be believed, the Pandava brothers of Mahabharata fame came here on their last journey and lighted five hearths (chulis). That is why these mountain massifs are called Panchchuli.

Other mountains near Munsiari

As the name suggests, Panchchuli consists of a group of five snow capped peaks, whose altitude ranges from 6,334 meters (20,781 ft) to 6,904 meters (22,651 ft). These peaks are numbered from northwest to southeast.  The highest among them is Panchchuli II (6904 meter).

In addition, the Hansling peak is visible clearly from the town.  The town also has other important mountain peaks such as Trishul, Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot, Hardeol etc lying within easy distance.

Glaciers near Munsiyari

Glaciers near Munsiari

Munsiari also has two important glaciers located in the vicinity. Among them Milam Glacier is the source of River Goriganga. It is located at the coordinate of 30.48° N, 80.1° E around 15 km northeast from Nanda Devi. Its road distance from Munsiari is around 59 km.

Milam glacier originates from eastern slope of Trishuli and southern slope of Kohli. It is 16 km long and covers an area of 37 sq km.  While the average elevation at the snout is about 3,870 meters (12,700 ft) its maximum elevation is about 5500 meter (18000 ft).  It has many subsidiary glaciers coming off from nearby peaks such as Hardeol, Mangraon, Deo Damla, Sakram, Nanda Gond and Nanda Pal etc.

Another important glacier in this region is Ralam. It is situated at a road distance of around 45 km from Munsiyari. It is located at an elevation of 2, 290 meters above the sea level near Ralam Dhura Pass at Ralam Khal. The glacier is the origin of Ralam Gad, a tributary of Gori Ganga.

Namik Glacier, located at an altitude of 3600 meters, is the third most important glacier in this region. It is the source of Ram Ganga River and is surrounded by many important peaks such as Trishul, Nanadevi and Nanda Kot. A number of waterfalls and sulphur springs also originate from this glacier.

Other Geographical Features of Munsiyari

This place is also famous for alpine meadows, known as bugyal.  Munshiyari Bugyal, located close to the town is a well known tourist spot.  In addition, there are afew alpine lake located in the vicinity. Among them, Maheshwari Kund and Thamri Kund are two most important lakes located in the vicinity of the town.

Flora and Fauna around Munsiari

Flora and Fuana in Munsiyari

Due to harsh climatic condition, agriculture never played any significant role in areas around Munsiyari. However, the area is rich in flora and fauna. Rhododendron, oak and deodar are the main trees that grow abundantly in this region. In addition, the areas close to Milam Glacier and Ralam Glacier also grow different types of medicinal herbs.  In fact, the area is considered as the natural habitat for these plants.

Different species of animals can also be found in the forest areas around Munsiyari. Among them we can mention musk deer, fox, Himalayan bear, leopard etc. Among the birds, we should mention wagtails, monals, ravens, falcons, serpent eagles, Himalayan griffons etc. 

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