The rivers of Bangladesh mark both the physiography of the nation and the life of the people. About 700 in number, these rivers generally flow south. The larger rivers serve as the main source of water for cultivation and as the principal arteries of commercial transportation. Rivers also provide fish, an important source of protein. Flooding of the rivers during the monsoon season causes enormous hardship and hinders development, but fresh deposits of rich silt replenish the fertile but overworked soil. The rivers also drain excess monsoon rainfall into the Bay of Bengal.
Thus, the great river system is at the same time the country's principal resource and its greatest hazard. The profusion of rivers can be divided into five major networks. The Jamuna-Brahmaputra is 292 kilometers long and extends from northern Bangladesh to its confluence with the Padma. Originating as the Yarlung Tsangpo River in China's Xizang Autonomous Region (Tibet) and flowing through India's state of Arunachal Pradesh, where it becomes known as the Brahmaputra ("Son of Brahma"), it receives waters from five major tributaries that total some 740 kilometers in length.
At the point where the Brahmaputra meets the Tista River in Bangladesh, it becomes known as the Jamuna. The Jamuna is notorious for its shifting subchannels and for the formation of fertile silt islands (chars). No permanent settlements can exist along its banks. The second system is the Padma-Ganges, which is divided into two sections: a 258-kilometer segment, the Ganges, which extends from the western border with India to its confluence with the Jamuna some 72 kilometers west of Dhaka, and a 126-kilometer segment, the Padma, which runs from the Ganges-Jamuna confluence to where it joins the Meghna River at Chandpur.
The Padma-Ganges is the central part of a deltaic river system with hundreds of rivers and streams—some 2,100 kilometers in length—flowing generally east or west into the Padma. The third network is the Surma-Meghna River System, which courses from the northeastern border with India to Chandpur, where it joins the Padma. The Surma-Meghna, at 669 kilometers by itself the longest river in Bangladesh, is formed by the union of six lesser rivers. Below the city of Kalipur it is known as the Meghna.
When the Padma and Meghna join together, they form the fourth river system—the Padma-Meghna—which flows 145 kilometers to the Bay of Bengal. This mighty network of four river systems flowing through the Bangladesh Plain drains an area of some 1. 5 million square kilometers. The numerous channels of the Padma-Meghna, its distributaries, and smaller parallel rivers that flow into the Bay of Bengal are referred to as the Mouths of the Ganges. Like the Jamuna, the Padma-Meghna and other estuaries on the Bay of Bengal are also known for their many chars.
A fifth river system, unconnected to the other four, is the Karnaphuli. Flowing through the region of Chittagong and the Chittagong Hills, it cuts across the hills and runs rapidly downhill to the west and southwest and then to the sea. The Feni, Karnaphuli, Sangu, and Matamuhari—an aggregate of some 420 kilometers—are the main rivers in the region. The port of Chittagong is situated on the banks of the Karnaphuli. The Karnaphuli Reservoir and Karnaphuli Dam are located in this area. The dam impounds the Karnaphuli River's waters in the reservoir for the generation of hydroelectric power.
The main rivers of Bangladesh are descripted below : The Padma is a major trans-boundary river in Bangladesh. It is the main distributary of the Ganges, which originates in the Himalayas. The Padma enters Bangladesh from India near Chapai Nababganj. It meets the Jamuna near Aricha and retains its name, but finally meets with the Meghnanear Chandpur and adopts the name 'Meghna' before flowing into the Bay of Bengal. Rajshahi, a major city in western Bangladesh, is situated on the north bank of the Padma.
Its maximum depth is 1,571 feet (479 m) and average depth is 968 feet (295 m). Originated in the Gangotri Glacier of the Himalaya, the Ganges runs to the Bay of Bengal through India, entering Bangladesh at Shibganj in the district of Chapai Nababganj. Just west of Shibganj, the distributary Bhagirathi emerges and flows southwards as the Hooghly. After the point where the Bhagirathi branches off, the Ganges is officially referred to as the Padma and the river Bhagirathi uses the name of Ganga. Later the British started calling it the Hoogly river.
Further downstream, in Goalando, 2200 km away from the source, the Padma is joined by the mighty Jamuna (Lower Brahmaputra) and the resulting combination flows with the name Padma further east, to Chandpur. Here, the widest river in Bangladesh, the Meghna, joins the Padma, continuing as the Meghna almost in a straight line to the south, ending in the Bay of Bengal. The Padma forms the whole of the southern boundary of the district for a distance of about 90 miles. The name Padma is given to the lower part of the course of the Ganges below the point of the off-take of the Bhagirathi (India).
Padma had, most probably, flown through a number of channels at different times. Some authors contend that each distributary of the Ganges in its deltaic part is a remnant of an old channel and that starting from the western-most one, the Bhagirathi (in West Bengal, India) each distributary of the east marks a position of a newar channel than the one to the west of it.
It would be worthwhile to mention here the views of Rennell, who referred to a course of the Ganges in the north of its present channel. Appearances favour very strongly" says Rennell, "that the Ganges had its former bed i,n the tract now Occupied by the lakes and morasses between Natore and Jaffargunge, striking out of the present course by Dhaka to a junction of Brahmapooter or Meghna near Fringybazar, where accumulation of two such mighty streams probably scooped out the present amazing bed of the Meghna". The places mentioned by Rennell proceeding from west to east are Rampur Boali, the headquarters of Rajshahi district, Puthia and Natore in the same district and Jaffarganj in the district of Dhaka.
The place last named were shown in a map of the Mymensingh district dated 1861, as a thana headquarters. about 6 miles south-east of Bera Police Station. It is now known as Payla Jaffarganj and is close to Elachipur opposite Goalunda. According to Rennell's theory, therefore, the probable former course of the Ganges would correspond with that of the present channel of the Baral. Although conclusive proofs of what has been stated above are lacking, authorities more or less agree that the Ganges has changed its course and that in different times, each Or the distributary might have been the carrier of its main stream.
The bed of the Padma is wide, and the river is split up into several channels flowing between constantly shifting sand banks and islands. During the rains the current is very strong and even steamers may find difficult in making headway against it. It is navigable at all seasons of the year by steamers and country boats of all sizes and until recently ranked as one the most frequented waterways in the world. It is spanned near Paksey by the great Hardinge Bridge over which runs one of the main lines of the Bangladesh Railway.
The mighty Padma (the portion of the Ganges between its junctions with Bhagirathi and Brahmaputra also known as the lower Ganges), touches the district at its most northerly corner, at the point where it throws off the Jalangi, and flows along the northern border in a direction slightly south-east, until it leaves the district some miles to the east of Kushtia. It carries immense volumes of water and is very wide at places, constantly shifting its main channel eroding vast areas on one bank throwing chars on the other giving rise to many disputes as to the possession of the chars and islands which are thrown up.
The Meghna River is an important river in Bangladesh, one of the three that forms the Ganges Delta, the largest on earth fanning out to the Bay of Bengal. Being a part of the Surma-Meghna River System, Meghna is formed inside Bangladesh by the joining of different rivers originating from the hilly regions of eastern India. The river meets Padma River in Chandpur District. The river ultimately flows into the Bay of Bengal in Bhola District.
Major tributaries of the Meghna include the Dhaleshwari River, Gumti River, and Feni River. The Meghna empties into the Bay of Bengal via four principal mouths, named Tetulia, Shahbazpur, Hatia, and Bamni.  The Meghna is the widest river among those that flow completely inside the boundaries of Bangladesh. At one point near Bhola, Meghna is 12 km wide. In its lower reaches this river follows almost a straight line in its path. Despite its very calm and quiet look, this river is the cause of many deaths every year.
Several ferry sinkings in the past have killed hundreds, like the MV Salahuddin-2 and the MV Nasrin-1. Near Chandpur it is very dangerous. The river's average depth is 1,012 feet (308 m) and maximum depth is 1,620 feet (490 m). In the origin of Hatiya and Bhola, the deepest point is the Meghna River Creek, it reaches 1,998 feet (609 m). The Meghna is a distributary of the great river Brahmaputra. The Meghna is formed inside Bangladesh by the joining of the Surma and Kushiyara rivers originating from the hilly regions of eastern India.
Down to Chandpur, Meghna is hydrographically referred to as the Upper Meghna. After the Padma joins, it is referred to as the Lower Meghna. Near Muladhuli in Barisal district, the Safipur River is an offshoot of the Surma that creates one of the main rivers in South Bengal. 1. 5 km wide, this river is one of the widest in the country as well.  At Ghatalpur of Brahmanbaria District, the river Titas emerges from Meghna and after circling two large bends by 240 km, falls into the Meghna again near Nabinagar Upazila.
Titas forms as a single stream but braids into two distinct streams which remain separate before re-joining the Meghna. In Daudkandi, Comilla, Meghna is joined by the great river Gomoti, created by the combination of many streams. This river reinforces Meghna a lot and increases the waterflow considerably. The pair of bridges over Meghna and Gomoty are two of the country's largest bridges. The Dakatua River is also part of the river system in Comilla district. Meghna is reinforced by the Dhaleshwari before Chandpur as well.
The name for the largest distributary of the Ganges in Bangladesh is the Padma River. When the Padma joins with the Jamuna River, the largest distributary of the Brahmaputra, and they join with the Meghna in Chandpur District, the result in Bangladesh is called the Lower Meghna. When the brown and hazy water of the Padma mix with the clear water of the Upper Meghna, the two streams do not mix but flow in parallel down to the sea - making half of the river clear and the other half brown. This peculiarity of the river is always a great attraction for people.
After Chandpur, when the river has the combined flow of the Padma and Jamuna it moves down to the Bay of Bengal in an almost straight line. In her course from Chandpur to Bay of Bengal, the Meghna braids into a number of little rivers including the Pagli, Katalia, Dhonagoda, Matlab and Udhamodi. All of these rivers flow out from the Meghna and rejoin again at points downstream. Near Bhola, just before flowing into the Bay of Bengal, the river divides into two main streams in the Ganges delta and separates an island from both sides of the mainland.
The western stream is called Ilsha and the eastern one is called Bamni. The Jamuna River is one of the three main rivers of Bangladesh. It is the main distributary channel of the Brahmaputra River as it it flows from India to Bangladesh. The Jamuna flows south and joins the Padma River (Podda), near Goalundo Ghat, before meeting the Meghna River near Chandpur. It then flows into the Bay of Bengal as the Meghna River. The Brahmaputra-Jamuna is a classic example of a braided river and is highly susceptible to channel migration and avulsion.
The Jamuna is a braided stream characterised by a network of interlacing channels with numerous sandbars enclosed in between them. The sandbars, known in the Bengali as chars do not, however, occupy a permanent position. The river deposits them in one year very often to destroy and redeposit them in the next rainy season. The process of deposition erosion and redeposition has been going on continuously making it difficult to precisely demarcate the boundary between the district of Pabna on one side and the district of Mymensingh Tangail and Dhaka on the other.
Breaking of a char or the emergence of a new one is also a cause of much violence and litigation. The Jamuna is a very wide river. During the rains it is about 5–8 miles (8. 0–13 km) from bank to bank. Even during the dry season when the waters subside, the breadth is hardly less than 2–3 miles (3. 2–4. 8 km). The Jamuna was a barrier in establishing a direct road link between capital Dhaka and northern part of Bangladesh, better known as Rajshahi Division, until 1996.
This was mitigated by the completion of the Jamuna Multi-purpose Bridge. 2] It is also a very important waterway. It is navigable all year round by large cargo and passenger steamers. Before the Partition of Bengal in 1947, passenger steamers used to ply up to Dibrugarh in the state of Assam in the Indian Union. At present two steamer ferry services link the district of Pabana with the districts of Mymensingh, Tangail and Dhaka. The Bangladesh Railway maintains a ferry service between Serajganj in Pabna and Jagannathganj in Mymensingh. The other ferry service between Nagarbari in Pabna and Aricha in Dhaka is run by the C & B Department.