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Sedimentary

Geology
Sedimentary Geology 107 (1997) 263-279

ELSEVIER

Sedimentology

of the Narmada alluvial fan, western India

L.S. Chamyal *, A.S. Khadkikar, J.N. Malik, D.M. Maurya


Department

of Geology, Fuculr) of Science, MS.

University of Baroda, Baroda, 390 002, India

Received 20 June 1995; accepted 29 April 1996

Abstract
The Narmada alluvial fan is one of the worlds largest, with an axial length of 23 km. The architecture is dominated
by debris-flow deposits (Gms facies). Matrix support, a clay content of 3% and clast contact indicate that the clast-support
mechanism resulted from a combination of buoyancy and dispersive pressure. The other facies include gravel/sand-couplet
facies (GSh), planar cross-stratified
gravel facies (Gp, and Gpz), sand-sheet facies (Sm), and trough cross-stratified
sand
facies (St). Gms, GSh and Sm facies are debris-flow and sheet-flow deposits that aggraded the fan, whereas Gp, and St are

channel bars and channel fills that dominated the fan between major flood events. The fan is characterised by subrounded
to rounded clasts. The rounding is due to the elongated catchment area upstream of the fan apex, as clasts are rounded
during prolonged bed load transport and are temporarily arrested upstream of the fan apex as channel bars. These clasts are
remobilized and entrained in debris-flows on the fan during events of anomalous discharge (storm events). The basalt clasts
show a progressive fall in maximum clast size from 150 cm to 10 cm away from the fan apex.
The Narmada river exhibits discharges of up to 60,000 m3/s, but, due to reconfinement of the feeder channel resulting
from tectonic reactivation of pre-existing lineaments during the Late Pleistocene, this does not aggrade the fan. Tectonism
has influenced the location of the depositional site, has provided the necessary physiographic contrast, and has played an
important role in the erosion of the fan, whereas climate-controlled
primary and secondary processes have determined the
nature of alluvial architecture.
Keywords:

alluvial fan; river; Quatemary;

sedimentology;

1. Introduction

Alluvial fans owe their existence to several simultaneously


acting processes. Of prime importance
is an abrupt change in the regional physiographic
setting where the river becomes unconfined
(Bull,
1977; Blair and McPherson,
1994a,b). This abrupt
change is commonly at a fault that separates a mountainous hinterland from an alluvial plain. The rapid
high surface run-off responsible for fan aggradation
* Corresponding author.

India

occurs through a large number of low-order tributaries connected to the feeder channel of the fan.
Fan deposits are built by rock avalanches, debrisflows, sheet-flows and so forth, and commonly contain subangular to angular clasts (Larsen and Steel,
1978; Pierson, 1981; Ballance, 1984; Blair, 1987;
McArthur, 1987; Beaty, 1990; DeCelles et al., 1991;
Evans, 1991; Blair and McPherson,
1992, 1994a,b;
Brierley et al., 1993; Abrahms and Chadwick, 1994;
Kumar et al., 1994). Most fans studied are a few
kilometres long.
The relative roles of climate and tectonic reju-

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PII SOO37-0738(96)00030-9

venation are much debated. Whereas some workers consider coarsening-upward


cycles as indicators
of tectonic activity (Mack and Rasmussen,
1984),
others propose a dominant role for climate in fan
aggradation
processes (Frostick and Reid, 1989).
Blair (1987) has demonstrated
that the coarseningupward facies put forward as criteria to interpret
structural movements
may rather be generated by
climate-controlled
debris-flows. In the present study,
we document a large alluvial fan of Pleistocene age
from the Narmada valley of western India. The fan
is unusual in its high proportion of subrounded to
rounded clasts, despite its non-conglomeratic
provenance. The relative roles of tectonics and climate in
the genesis and erosion of the Narmada alluvial fan
are evaluated.
The gravel deposits under consideration
have attracted the attention of many workers (Blanford,
1869; Zeuner, 1950; Wainwright,
1964; Allchin et
al., 1978) and have been referred to as the Older
The discovery of archaeological
finds
Alluvium.
has clarified their Late Pleistocene age (Allchin et
al., 1978), which is supported by radiocarbon ages
of 18,000 yr. B.P. for calcareous concretions in the
stratigraphically
youngest alluvial deposits (Hegde
and Switsur, 1973).
2. Area of study
The study area is near Tilakwada, in the state of
Gujarat, western India (Fig. 1A). The sites (Fig. 1B)
of detailed work include Nawagam (Site l), Kewadia
Colony (Site 2), Garudeshwar
(Site 3), Rampura
(Site 4), Tilakwada (Site 5) and Gamod (Site 6). The
region has an average rainfall of 1250 mm (Kale et
al., 1994) and falls under a semi-arid to dry subhumid climatic regime (Singh et al., 1991).
The area is transected by one of the major rivers
of India: the Narmada, which debouches into the
Gulf of Cambay. The river follows the trend of a
major geofracture known as the Narmada-Son
fault,
which causes the river to flow westwards, opposite
to the regional slope. The Narmada river originates
at Amarkantak and its catchment covers an area of
98,796 km*. During monsoonal floods, discharges
range from 10,000 m3/s to 60,000 m3/s. The linear
relationship between discharge and maximum velocity implies that a velocity of 5.5 m/s is accompanied

by a flood discharge of 60.000 m/s (Kale et al.,


1994). The Narmada flows through a basalt dominated terrain (Sant and Karanth, 1993). Associated
with these Late Cretaceous basalts (Deccan Traps)
are outcrops of Cretaceous Bagh sandstones
and
Proterozoic quartzites (Fig. 1C).
3. Structural

setup

The geomorphology
of the region is controlled
mainly by two sets of lineaments related to the Narmada graben (Alavi and Merh, 199 1). A major ENEWSW and less prominent NNE-SSW
and NW-SE
trends have been identified (Fig. 2). The Narmada
graben, a deep-seated geofracture (Biswas, 1987),
dating back to the Precambrian, extends into Madagascar (Crawford,
1978). The geofracture,
which
acts presently as an intra-continental
rift, was an
inter-continental
suture zone in the past around
which the Aravalli-Bundelkhand,
Singhbhum
and
Dharwar crustal blocks were welded (Naqvi and
Rogers, 1987; Radhakrishna,
1989). The Narmada
graben is a component
of an 1800 km long and
200 km wide zone termed the SONATA zone
(Shanker, 1991). The Narmada graben controlled
accumulation
of the 800 m thick alluvial sediments
through synsedimentary
subsidence (Shanker, 1991).
The graben also influences the location of tributaries
on the left bank of the Narmada river which flow on
faulted blocks. The Narmada in its boxwork drainage
pattern reflects the dominant role of pre-existing lineaments (Fig. 2). The Narmada-Son
fault, a component of the Narmada graben (SONATA zone),
provides the physiographic setting (inset in Fig. 1B)
necessary for the development of an alluvial fan.
4. Sedimentary

facies

The deposits comprise five lithofacies. Their dominance varies at each site (Fig. 3). The facies coding
scheme (modified after Miall, 1985) used in this
study is shown in Table 1.
4.1. Gravel-sheet facies (Gms)
Description. The facies consists of laterally uninterrupted matrix-supported
gravels and is observed
in varying proportions, at all localities. The gravels

L.S. Chamyal et al. /Sedimentary

265

Geology 107 (1997) 263-279

GUJARAT

Study

Area

NSFzNarmada-Son

I::.I Quoternary
aDeccan

Trap

Cretaceous

Precambrian

Fault

Basalts

Rocks

v
v

v
v

Rocks

vvvvvv

1);
vvvv

V
V

-=

v v
v

rnCLP,,
@

vv

vv

-i

Fig. 1, (A) Location map of the study area. (B) Map of the area showing the Narmada river and its tributaries. Locality names of the sites
are given in the text. The area demarcated by broken lines represents the inferred spatial extent of the Narmada alluvial fan. Inset shows
a longitudinal profile showing the topographic contrast between the mountainous hinterland and the alluvial plain. (C) Geological map of
the catchment area illustrating the distribution of various stratigraphic units and dominance of Deccan Trap basalts. Tilakwada represents
site 5 shown in (B).

are inversely graded, poorly sorted (Figs. 4 and 5)


and essentially polymodal. Typically 25-35% sandmud matrix is present. The larger clasts are restricted
to the upper margin of each unit. The upper and
lower bounding surfaces are gently convex upward
and non-erosive. However, the upper bounding surface shows greater convexity imparting the unit a
convex lens morphology in cross-section. The gravel
unit occurs as solitary sheets and also as composite units built up of two or more vertically stacked

sheets. The sheets vary in thickness from 0.5 to 2


m. The clasts. are discoidal, cuboidal, tabular and
spheroidal. Wherever there is a predominance
of
discoidal clasts, a crude imbrication
towards the
southeast is observed implying northwest-directed
palaeocurrents.
The clasts show a high degree of
rounding. The maximum clast size decreases in a
systematic manner towards the northwest from 150
cm to 10 cm. Another feature is the clustering of
clasts in groups of three to five. A similar organiza-

266

L.S. Chamyal et al. /Sedimentap

Geology 107 (1997) 263-279

Fig. 2. (A) Lineament map of the area. (B) Directional rosette of the lineaments, showing the dominant ENE-WSW, NNE-SSW
NV-SE trends. (C) Directional rosette of the Iineaments controlling the path of the river Narmada from Jabalpur to its confluence
the Gulf of Cambay. Note the similarity between the two rosettes

tion of clasts in conglomerates


has been described
as nesting (Allen, 1981). The basal gravels in all
sections are strongly cemented by calcium carbonate
(case hardening of Lattman, 1973).
Interpretation. The inverse grading of clasts along
with large clast size and protrusion of clasts at the
upper bounding surface of each unit suggests that the
facies represent viscous debris-flows. Similar facies
have been reported extensively from other alluvial
fan deposits (Larsen and Steel, 1978; Pierson, 1981;
Blair, 1987; Beaty, 1990; DeCelles et al., 1991;
Evans, 1991; Blair and McPherson, 1992, 1994a,b;
Brierley et al., 1993; Kumar et al., 1994). The main
mechanism
involved for large-clast entrainment
is
a combination
of dispersive pressure and buoyancy
(Costa, 1984). This is reflected in the segregation
of the larger clasts within each unit away from the
lower bounding surface, a feature also recognized
by Hubert and Filipov (1989). The high clay content of 3% (Chamyal et al., 1994) and the clast
size governed the mobility of the debris-flows, the
former providing cohesive strength (by reducing permeability and increasing pore pressure) and the latter
determining the structural framework (Costa, 1984).
Clustering of clasts in nests of up to five may indi-

and
with

cate accumulation due to obstruction by a larger clast


(Ballance, 1984) or a tendency for clasts to migrate
towards regions of least internal shear (Allen, 198 1).
4.2. Gravel/sand-couplet

facies (GSh)

Description. The facies consists of horizontally


stratified gravel-sand couplets of 10 cm to 15 cm thick
(Fig. 6). The sand component of each couplet overlies
the coarser fraction. The clasts are pebbles and cobbles of spheroidal, discoidal and cuboidal basalt. The
clasts are subrounded to rounded and no distinct imbrication is observed. In the sand units pebbles are less
abundant and cobbles are totally absent. The sands are
discontinuous in some cases and individual units bifurcate laterally. The gravels are unsorted, polymodal
and lack internal stratification. The gravel/sand units
occur as up to seven vertically stacked cycles.
Interpretation. The suite of characters shown by
this facies suggest that the gravel/sand couplets resulted from sheet-flow processes. The deposition
of sand subsequent to gravel deposition implies a
suspension fall-out. The couplets also suggest low
turbulence in the flows that enabled the step-wise
deposition of gravel and sand with fall in the flow

lmbricotion

Direction

Fig. 3. Lithologs

GARUDESWAR
SITE: 3

RAMPURA SECTION
SITE:4

Im

- Gms

Gms

:5

lm I

SITE

TILAKWADA

:5

SECTION

(5-10 counts per level), maximum

-Gms

directions

SECTION

and imbrication

SITE

TILAKWADA

measured at various sites showing palaeocurrent

Direction

Paloeocurrent

Fl
&7J

Sand

Gravel

Plol-lor
Cross-Stratification
Trough
Cross-Stratification

a
m

llll
I
GAMOD
SITE :6

clast size and stratification

@
0

-Gms

Gms

types

Gms

268

L.S. Chamyul et al. /Sedimenrav

Fig. 4. Gravel-sheet facies (Gms). (A) Location


site 5. Height of field assistant 1.56m.

Geology

IO7 (I 997) 263-279

is site 3. Length of stick is 1.5 m; circled areas show nesting of clasts. (B) Location

is

269

L.S. Chamyal et al. /Sedimentary Geology 107 (1997) 263-279

Fig. 5. Gravel-sheet
stick is 1.5 m.

facies (Gms) showing

Table 1
Facies coding scheme modified

four cycles of aggradation

demarcated

by black broken

lines. Location

after Miall (1985)

Facies code

Description

Interpretation

Gms

Inversely graded cobbly to bouldery


gravels, having cross-sectional
lobate
geometry. Maximum clast size up to 150 cm.
Large clasts within each unit appear to
float. Clasts usually of subrounded basalt.

Debris flow deposits

GSh

Gravel-sand
couplets, stratified, but no
internal stratification. Sandier units
contain pebbles but cobbles absent. Clasts
usually of subrounded basalt.

Sheet flow deposits

Sm

Sand sheets, massive with lobate flow deposits


cross-sectional
geometry, no visible
internal stratification.

Sheet flow deposits

GPI

Planar cross-stratified
gravel, may occur as
solitary set or coset, shows normal grading
with clasts of subrounded basalt. At times a
cobbly basal lag deposit present.

Longitudinal
bars

Gp2

Planar cross-stratified
gravel with lensoidal
geometries. Normally graded and associated
intimately with the Gms facies

Rechannelized flows
genetically related
to debris-flow events

St

Trough cross-stratified

Channel-fill

sands

gravel

element

is site 4. Length

of

L.S. Char@

270

Fig. 6. Gravel/sand

et al. /Sedimentary

Geolo,~

couplet facies (GSh). Location

capacity. Similar couplets have been described by


Blair and McPherson (1994a), who interpret the couplets as due to changes in flow hydraulics, initiated
by flow expansion and decrease in slope gradient.
Equivalent controls seem to have been responsible
for the genesis of the couplets in the present case.
4.3. Sund-sheet facies (Sm)
Description. This facies comprises laterally continuous, internally unstratified, sheets of sand. The
units are usually 0.5 m thick and bounded by planar, non-erosive surfaces. Associated with the sheets
are occasional stringers of pebbly gravel. The facies
also occurs as sand lenses within the massive gravel
deposits (Gms).
Interpretation.
The sand-sheets
point to sheetflood events of low turbulence that led to the separation of the suspended sand-load and its deposition
further down the lobe. Deposition resulted owing to
reduction in flood velocity of the unchannelized
flow

107 (1997) 263-279

is site 4. Length ot stick IS

1.5m

(Blair, 1987). The association of the Gp2 facies (see


below) and sand-sheets points to the prevalence of
confined flows subsequent to the deposition of the
sand sheets.
4.4. Planar cross-struti$ed

gravel fucies (Gp)

The cross-stratified
gravel facies occurs at two
scales. At the smaller scale it contributes to the fan
architecture as lenses, whereas at the larger scale,
it occurs as pervasive, laterally continuous
gravel
ribbons. These two subfacies have different origins
and are described separately.
4.5. Large-scale

planar cross-stratijed

gravel facies

(GPI)

Description. The
subhorizontal planar
may also be erosive.
1.4 m in thickness,

facies (Fig. 7) is bounded by


surfaces. Locally these surfaces
The gravel units are commonly
with no significant change lat-

L.S. Chamyal et al. /Sedimentary Geology 107 (1997) 263-279

Fig. 7. Succession of interlayered


Length of stick is 1.5m.

gravel-sheet

facies (Gms) and large-scale

erally over a distance of -50 m. The foresets dip


consistently at an high average angle of 30 and have
concave-upward
surfaces. Within each foreset cycle

planar cross-stratified

gravel facies (Gpl). Location

271

is site 5.

the clasts are normally graded. The planar crossstratified beds occur as cosets as well as solitary
units. The clasts, which consist of granules and peb-

L.S. Chamyal et al. /Sedimmtaty

272

bles of basalt, are subrounded. A basal lag deposit of


pebbles and cobbles is observed in each set.
Interpretation. These cross-stratified gravels are a
result of the downstream migration of mid-channel
bedforms, the downstream accretion element (DA)
of Miall (1985). The high-angle foresets are the result of avalanching slip faces at the leading edge of
the gravel bar (Smith, 1990). The clast size indicates
derivation by surface winnowing of the debris-flow
units (Gms) by channelized
flows over the alluvial
plain. Identical facies have been attributed to deposition on longitudinal
gravel bars (DeCelles et al.,
1991).
4.6. Small-scale

planar cross-stratijed

gravel facies

Geology 107 (1997) 263-279

2
3
4
5a

6b10

((7~2)
t

Om
Description. These pebbly, clast-supported
gravels are characterised
by their lensoidal geometry.
The lenses are distributed as solitary units within the
ubiquitous Gms facies. They are usually less than
0.5 m thick and show an average foreset dip of 25.
At some sites these gravels are more sandy and occur in close association with the sand-sheet facies
described earlier in the text.
Interpretation.
The intimate association
of the
small-scale
clast-supported
gravels with the Gms
and Sm facies suggests a genetic link. These gravel
bedforms must have formed immediately
after a
debris-flow event, during a period when the gravelloaded flows were rechannelized
as small streams.
4.7. Trough cross-strati$ed

sand facies (St)

Description. Trough cross-stratified sand was observed at only one site. The unit is -2 m thick.
The normally graded foresets are large, concave up,
and tangential, dipping at an average angle of 25
towards the north. At the base, the unit begins with
small-scale sandy bedforms which are draped over
the underlying cobbly clasts.
Interpretation.
The trough cross-stratified
facies
represents the channel fill elements of rivers (Brierley
et al., 1993) that dominated the fan surface during intervening quiet periods between successive episodes
of fan aggradation. They are comparable with the Gpi
facies in their mode and time of formation.

10

20m

GmsFacie*

Gsh

El
=

Sm Fac~es
Gq FXIS

G?

Facies

Not

exposed

Fac~es

Fig. 8. Schematic cross-sections


of exposures showing the relative dominance of facies. Note that the Gms facies dominates
(>60%) the alluvial architecture at all sites.

5. Local occurrences of facies and facies


associations
At the sites studied, the abundance of each facies
type varies. However, the Gms facies dominates the
alluvial architecture
as can be clearly seen from
Fig. 8 and Table 2.
Site 1. This site is located at the geomorphic
divide between the mountainous
hinterland and the
adjacent alluvial plain (Fig. 9A). No exposures are
present, but the surface is littered with cobbles and
boulders of basalts and sandstones that should be
considered as remnants of the Gms facies.
Site 2. The surface in this area is covered by
a high concentration
of cobbly and pebbly gravels.
These gravels (Gms remnants) form also part of the
topsoil. The only section exposes a 10 m succession
of vertically stacked gravels of the Gms facies. The
gravels are dominantly basaltic, with an admixture
of Cretaceous Bagh sandstone, found in particular
around the topographic highs formed by the steeply
dipping, highly fractured Bagh sandstones.

L.S. Chamyal et al./Sedimentary

Table 2
Exposure

Distance

IlO.

apex

Area of
exposure

(km)

(m*) b

2.6
7.0
12.7
16.5
16.5
16.5
23.0
23.0

125
130
512
174
829
422
128
136

-~

213

summary

Site

2
3
4
5a
5b
5c
6a
6b

Geology 107 (1997) 263-279

a Linear distance.
b Length x height.
c Primary depositional

from

characteristics

Facies percentage
Gms

Sm

GSh

(%)

(%)

(%)

100

_
_

_
_

25

100C
68
64
91
100

4.5
_

89
100

in 40% of area destroyed

36
1.5
_

GP?
(%)

St

_
_
3
_

7
_
_

(%)

11
_

by erosion

Site 3. A well developed, 10 m thick section on


the left bank of the Narmada is dominated by the
Gms facies (Figs. 4A and 8; Table 2), interlayered
with friable sands whose origin cannot be ascertained
because of weathering and covers of reworked sediments. The matrix content of the gravel is high. Erosion by the Narmada river has led to the formation of
a bank attached bouldery lag deposit (Fig. 9B). Clast
contact is poor, and nesting is absent. The maximum
clast size of the lag deposit is -150 cm.
Site 4. Located 10 km northwest of site 2, the
cliff section of site 4 is a 15 m thick multi-storey
amalgamation
of various sedimentary facies (Figs. 5

Fig. 9. (A) Fan apex (shown by arrow) of the Narmada


Maximum length of clast in foreground is 150 cm.

GPI
(%)

and 8; Table 2). The succession begins with the


Gms facies, showing cyclic aggradation. Along with
basalts, a subordinate amount of quartzites, stromatolitic limestones, microfolded ferruginous bandedquartzites and breccia is noticed. The coarse fraction
has a maximum clast size between -50 cm and 45
cm (based on twenty counts for each layer). Where
the clasts are tabular to discoidal, imbrication
(towards the southeast) is present. Nesting of clasts
occurs. The Gms facies passes upwards into the GSh
facies via an interlayered St facies.
Site 5. The Tilakwada section illustrates the various characteristics of facies developments, both spa-

alluvial fan Location

is site 1. (B) Bank attached

bouldery

lag deposit at site 3.

274

L.S. Chamyal et al. /Sedimentary

Geology 107 (1997) 263-279

Fig. lr3. (4 Multi-storey architecture at site 5, showing interlayered Gms, Gpl and Sm facies, shown by arrows. The cross-: jectio nal
:tries of the Gms facies are indicated by dashed lines. Section is 24 m thick. (B) Amalgamation
of vertically stack :ed G;ms
lobate geomc
lobate geometries of the Gms facies are indic :ated bY
facies showi] ng lobate geometries of the debris-flow units. The cross-sectional
dashed I lines. Location is site 5. Length of stick is 1.S m.

L.S. Chamyl

et al. /Sedimentary

tially and temporally (Figs. 8 and 10; Table 2). 30


m thick bank scarps expose a succession of a ubiquitous packet of Gms facies. The facies is present
at the base of all exposures in the area. These gravels have lobate geometries, contained within which
are lenses of the Gp? facies. The clasts have thin
white veneers of calcite, which has also cemented
the gravel. The clasts are basaltic and some show
remnants of pre-depositional
spheroidal weathering.
Nesting of clasts is present. The Gpi facies occurs
intercalated between Gms gravels, and progressively
becomes more prominent towards the top of the section. The alluvial architecture, when traced over long
exposures using panoramic photographs, reveals the
major contribution of the Gms facies (Fig. 10).
Site 6. Along the banks of the river Aswan the 15
m thick succession of Gms facies (Figs. 8 and 11;
Table 2) is characterized by convex upward surfaces.
A major bounding surface separates two vertically
stacked packages, each containing four cycles of the
Gms facies. At the base of the succession a sandsheet deposit (Sm facies) separates the underlying
sheet of the Gms facies from the eight cycles of
debris-flows. The dominant clast size is 10 cm. Deviation from this size occurs in the form of -16
cm tabular blocky clasts. No St and Gp:! facies are
observed at this locality.
6. Discussion
The present data characterize the deposits previously termed the Older Alluvium (Allchin et al.,
1978). Dated younger deposits indicate that the gravels have formed during the Late Pleistocene (Hegde
and Switsur, 1973). The gravel facies was deposited
in an alluvial fan, whose apex is at Nawagam (Site
1). The geomorphic
divide between mountainous
hinterland and plains was provided by a segment of
the Narmada-Son
fault. A tentative boundary of the
Narmada fan is drawn (Fig. 1B) based on the farthest
exposures of the Gms facies, and the generally lobelike planimetric
geometry (Blair and McPherson,
1994a,b), so common in alluvial fans. The inferred
axial length of the fan is 23 km.
The alluvial architecture was constructed by both
confined and unconfined flows. Of the primary depositional processes that directly contributed to aggradation of the fan, viscous debris-flows played a ma-

Geology 107 (1997) 263-279

275

jor role, with a minor contribution


by sheet-floods.
Debris-flow deposits (Gms facies) make up over 70%
of the alluvial architecture. In this aspect the Narmada
alluvial fan may be classified as a type 1 fan (Blair and
McPherson, 1994a,b). Debris-flows aggraded the fan
at both proximal and distal ends. The maximum clast
size progressively decreases down-fan, in agreement
with the expected fall in flood velocity.
Evidence of intervening
quiescent periods between fan aggradation events is present in the form
of large-scale planar cross-stratified gravel (Gpt) and
trough cross-stratified sand (St) facies. Braided rivers
with longitudinal gravel bars dominated the surface
of the fan during these phases.
A major deviation from the norm is observed in
the clast roundness of the debris-flow deposits. Most
of alluvial-fan deposits (Larsen and Steel, 1978; Ballance, 1984; Costa, 1984; Blair, 1987; Hubert and
Filipov, 1989; Beaty, 1990; DeCelles et al., 1991;
Blair and McPherson,
1992; Brierley et al., 1993;
Kumar et al., 1994) are recognized by their angular
to sub-angular nature. Angularity of clasts has been
stressed by Blair and McPherson (1994a), and the
only exception they accommodate is a conglomeratic
provenance. In tropical alluvial fan settings, however,
sphericity is also attained by initial spheroidal weathering and subsequent abrasive rounding on river beds
(Evans, 1991). Fans formed under these conditions
are as a rule dominated by stream-flow processes
and abundant organic detritus. Both are absent in
the Narmada-fan deposits, which coupled with calcretization (case hardening), indicates that the deposits were formed under semi-arid conditions.
If
this is true, then rounding of clasts may be affected
also by other parameters. In the present case we invoke the greatly elongated catchment area upstream
of Nawagam (fan apex) as a determinant. Rounding
of clasts took place when the angular fragments were
transported as bed load along the lengthy course
of the Narmada (feeder channel), to be temporarily
arrested as channel bars upstream of the fan apex,
Hemispheroidal,
discoidal clasts also attest to such a
mechanism. The flat base suggests that these clasts
rested on a stream bed while the exposed surface
of the clast was modified to its present shape by
the stream flow. These subrounded clasts were then
eroded from the bars, remobilized and entrained in
viscous debris-flows during flash floods.

L.S. Chamyal et al. /Sedimentary

Geology 107 (19971263-279

L.S. Chamyal et al./Sedimentary

Geology 107 (1997) 263-279

6.1. Role of tectonics and climate in the history of


the fan
Alluvial fans form primarily because the feeder
channel experiences
a loss in confinement,
as it
emerges from the mountains onto the plains. Such
an abrupt loss in confinement is provided mostly by
a regional fault (Bull, 1977; Blair and McPherson,
1994a,b). Such a physiographic
setting is provided
by the Narmada-Son
fault. The inferred extent of the
fan (its elongated nature in particular) is considered
as evidence of the role of tectonics in providing a
structural depression in the area. The debris-flows
were thus not totally unconfined, but the magnitude
of confinement
was so low that it did not inhibit
flow expansion. Although the Narmada experiences
aperiodic floods of large magnitudes
(Kale et al.,
1994), fan aggradation is absent. The region has witnessed a lot of structural disturbances
represented
by slickensides, asymmetrical terraces, fault breccias
and fissures (Bedi and Vaidyanadhan,
1983). These
data in conjunction
with escarpment-like
banks are
suggestive of a major neotectonic event in the area.
Up to 10-m vertical scarps in alluvial fan successions
along river banks are taken to indicate earth movements (Jackson and Leeder, 1994). It is proposed
here that, due to the northward migration of the Indian plate, fractures along the Narmada-Son
fault
were re-activated during the Late Pleistocene. Lineament rosettes prepared for the path of the Narmada
and for the area covered by the fan show great similarity. This supports the view that these fracture sets
served as conduits along which the Narmada was
reconfined and now flows into the Gulf of Cambay
(Figs. 2 and 12).
Climatic fluctuations played a significant role in
the facies variations observed at all sites. The intervening periods between successive debris-flows are
represented by riverine sediments which document
time spans during which flood magnitudes
were
less. The role of climate in determining the alluvial
architecture is exemplified at site 4, where a transition from debris-flows to sheet-flows is observed.
The dominance of debris-flow over sheet-flow processes is due to a fall in the clay content, all other
parameters remaining constant (Blair and McPherson, 1994a). In the present case, since the basaltic
provenance remains unchanged, the variation in clay

Fig. 12. Simplified model invoked to explain the formation and


erosion of the Narmada alluvial fan. (A) Formation of the fan
due to flow expansion. The elongated lobe of the fan reflects
the shape of a structural depression shown by horizontal lines.
Diagonal lines represent highlands. (B) Generation of fractures
due to the northward drift of the Indian plate. The fractures
follow ENE-WSW, NNE-SSW and NW-SE trends. This stage
is accompanied
by vertical uplift. (C) Re-confinement
of the
feeder channel leading to loss in flow expansion and consequent
erosion of the fan along the rejuvenated fractures. This leads to
the occurrence of vertical bank cliffs.

content due to weathering of bedrock results from


fluctuations
in climate. A relatively moister climate aided by a vegetational abundance favours the
breakdown of basalt into clays. The transition from
debris-flows to sheet-flows consequently
documents
a trend towards aridity. A similar tendency has been
recorded from mainland Gujarat (Khadkikar et al.,
1996), northwest of the present study area. However, the dominance of debris-flows in these deposits
is attributed to a long-term semi-arid climate. No
signature of a clear role of tectonics in generating
debris-flow events was observed. We thus agree with
Frostick and Reid (1989) that since there is no record
of a direct observation of a debris-flow triggered by
earth movements,
whereas flood generated debrisflow events have been documented, it is climate that
controls the formation of debris-flow deposits.

278

L.S. Champ1

et nl./Sedimentq

7. Conclusions
The present study has important bearing on both,
the local stratigraphy and the alluvial fan depositional environment. Our results indicate:
(1) The deposits referred to as the Older Alluvium are alluvial-fan
deposits. These deposits are
unrelated to the present-day processes on the Narmada river.
(2) The alluvial fan is very large, with an axial
length of 23 km. The alluvial architecture is dominated by debris-flow deposits, which classifies the
Narmada fan as a type 1 fan (Blair and McPherson,
1994a,b). The dominance
of debris-flow deposits
indicates that the Narmada fan formed under the
semi-arid conditions that prevailed during the Pleistocene.
(3) A major deviation from the norm is the degree of rounding observed in the gravel clasts. This
rounding is ascribed to the elongated catchment area
of the Narmada river basin upstream of the fan apex.
(4) The erosion of the alluvial fan was due to
a major episode of tectonic re-activation
of preexisting lineaments. This led to the re-confinement of
the feeder channel, which prevents fan aggradation
in spite of high discharges.
(5) While tectonics was responsible for providing
the basin depression and the geomorphic contrast
necessary for flow expansion, climate controlled the
debris-flow,
sheet-flow and stream-flow processes
that built the alluvial architecture of the fan.
Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank Prof. S.S. Merh
for helpful suggestions
and discussions.
Mr. K.M.
Makwana and Mr. N. Vankar helped in the field. The
authors are thankful to A.J. Van Loon, G. Brierley
and an anonymous referee for their detailed constructive reviews. Financial assistance through DST grant
No. ESS/044/0 12/90 is gratefully acknowledged.
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