Meet The Largest Delta on Earth Today, And Why It Matters

Written by Dayva Segal
Updated: August 23, 2023
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Before we delve into the largest delta on earth, let’s answer the question, “what exactly is a delta?” A delta is a geographic feature that occurs when a river flows into a large body of water, usually an ocean. In some cases, a delta can form where a river meets another river, a lake, an estuary, or even an ancient lakebed. It is formed by either the river or the larger body of water depositing sediment over time. The delta gets its name from the triangular shape it usually takes, as Delta is a Greek triangular letter.

River deltas have been important places throughout human history. They are usually very fertile and can support human life through agriculture. Some ancient civilizations, such as Ancient Egypt, were abundant due to their positioning in a river delta.

What Is the Largest Delta on Earth Today?

The largest river delta on earth today is the Ganges Delta.

Other names for this delta include Sunderbans Delta and Bengal Delta. It also has the nickname Green Delta because it is such a fertile and thriving place. It is located where the Ganges River meets the Indian Ocean, known as the Bay of Bengal.

The delta spans two countries—Bangladesh and India. In India, it is in the state of West Bengal. The delta is so large because it is actually comprised of multiple rivers—the Ganges River, the Brahmaputra River, and the Meghna River.

What Type of Delta Is the Ganges Delta?

The Ganges Delta is an arcuate delta. That means it is shaped like a fan arcing out into the larger body of water. Another famous example of an arcuate delta is the Nile River Delta. When viewed from above, the fan shape is unmistakable.

Life in the Ganges Delta

Despite flood risks, millions of people live in the Ganges Delta region, which spans over 41,000 square miles. Around 140 million people live in the area, and the delta supports around 300 million people total. Not only is this the largest delta on earth, but it is also one of the most densely populated areas of the world with a population density of over 520 people per square mile.

Over 60% of people in Bangladesh work in the delta area, mostly in agriculture. Abundant crops that grow well in the Ganges Delta in both Bangladesh and India include jute, rice, and tea. Fishing and fish farms are another important resource for the region, with shrimp exports being an important source of income.

The area has many islands in between river branches. Some of these islands are only accessible through ferry boats, and many of them do not yet have electricity infrastructure. However, solar panels have allowed residents of these islands to have some power.

The Ganges Delta has a tropical, wet climate. The eastern side of the delta can receive up to 118 inches of rainfall per year!

The area is prone to flooding from cyclone storms, monsoons, and heavy snowmelt from the Himalayas. Unfortunately, the area holds the Guinness World Record for the deadliest storm. In 1970, the Bhola Cyclone killed at least 500,000 people, but probably more, as 100,000 residents were listed as missing.

Ganges Delta Wildlife

There are a few different ecological regions of the Ganges Delta. Most of the region was originally a tropical deciduous forest, but most of that has been cleared for farming. There are also swamp forests closer to the Bay of Bengal, as well as the world’s largest mangrove ecoregion.

The area includes many fearsome predators such as pythons, leopards, and crocodiles. It is also home to Indian elephants. Several endangered and protected species call this area home. There are just over 1,000 Bengal tigers living in the delta area. A river dolphin, called the Ganges River dolphin is an extremely rare sight, as there are only about 3,500 of them left. Abusing one of these dolphins is a crime. In 2017, three men were arrested after being filmed beating a Ganges River dolphin.

The Spiritual Significance of the Ganges River

The Ganges River and its tributaries have a strong spiritual importance in Hindu culture. The river embodies sacredness for people who follow this religion, and Hindu people bathe in the river for rituals. They also carry containers of water back with them to perform rituals at home. The water is considered pure, and people bathe in it to clean away spiritual impurities.

The Ganges is especially important for rituals of death. People travel to the river to submerge their loved one’s ashes in the river. According to Hindu tradition, the river can carry a person’s soul back to heaven.

The Ganges River at sunset

The Ganges River at sunset is bathed in golden light.

©Jono Photography/

The Future of the Largest Delta on Earth

The Ganges Delta, the largest delta on earth, is at risk due to climate change. Rising sea levels may change the area. Globally, the average sea-level rise per year is around 0.12 inches. However, in areas of this delta, as much as 1 inch per year has been seen.

Experts believe this is due to the extraction of groundwater speeding up the natural sinking quality of the delta, along with the natural sea-level rise caused by climate change. Some people estimate that by the year 2100, Bangladesh could stand to lose about a quarter of its land mass due to sea-level rise. This could affect this important food-producing region, altering the world’s food supplies.

According to climate scientists, a significant reduction of emissions could reduce the expected sea-level rise over the next hundred years. An effect would still be felt, though it would not be as severe.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © OleksiyGS/

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About the Author

Dayva is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering astrology, animals, and geography. She has over 12 years of experience as a writer, and graduated from Hofstra University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in Music and a Minor in French. She has also completed course work in Core Strengths Coaching, Hypnotherapy, and Technical Communication. Dayva lives in the SF Bay Area with her cute but very shy cat, Tula.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the largest river delta on earth today?

The largest river delta on earth today is The Ganges Delta.

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