The plants that grow along the banks of Ganga and her tributaries play an important role in the diverse ecosystems the river supports. Not only do the plants rely on the Ganga for water, but they also play an important role in nutrient and water conservation, and their presence controls soil erosion along the banks.
The entire upper plains of the Gangetic basin, including the area between the Ganga and the Yamuna rivers, used to be covered with tropical moist deciduous forest made up of sal trees and other species. Unfortunately, most of this forest has now been deforested and heavily cultivated.1 These thick sal forests can still be seen further upstream, such as the area surrounding Rishikesh.
As one moves further north towards the source of Ganga at Gaumukh glacier, the ecosystem consists of chirpine deodar, fir, spruce, oak, juniper and rhododendron.2 In the lower plains of the Gangetic basin, cotton trees (Bombax ceiba), white siris (albizia procera), duabanga grandiflora, and sterculia villosa exist, among many others.3
The Sundarbans is the largest estuarine forest in the world, covering 9,630 kilometers (5,816 miles) and consisting of fifty-four islands divided by criss-crossing, innumerable tributaries of Ganga. This rich forest-swampland is covered by mangrove forests and mud flats, as well as Genwa, Dhundal, Passur, Garjan, Kankra and Goran trees, as well as other species of plants.4
The entire stretch of Ganga is rich in flora and fauna, and her sensitive ecosystem must be protected. Hundreds of millions of humans and even more plants and animals depend on her waters for life. A pristine and free-flowing Ganga must be restored for the health of India.