India Rivers Week 2016: River health assessments highlighted during this year’s discourse

Posted on
06 December 2016
The second edition of India Rivers Week that took place from November 28- 30th 2016 witnessed a gathering of stalwarts in the field of river conservation, including activists, academicians and practitioners from across the country. This year’s theme ‘State of India’s Rivers’ highlighted the importance of arriving at a comprehensive way of understanding and assessing the health of our rivers. Over the three days, experts in the field discussed the methodology of river health assessment and deliberated on state wise reports prepared, with the aim of arriving at a list of rivers graded blue for wild/pristine, pink for threatened and red for critical or destroyed. 290 rivers across the country were assessed out of which 205 figured in the red list indicating that 70% of our country’s rivers are in a critical state, warranting immediate action.

Shri. Kapil Mishra, Minister for Water, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi, delivered the inaugural address calling for a joint initiative between all stakeholders to look at practical steps for river conservation and revival in our country. Mr. Mishra indicated that solution to the problems facing our rivers lies in developing small and action oriented steps and reaffirmed the commitment of the GNCT of Delhi to provide water to the growing population of Delhi - not from the construction of dams but through local harvesting and better management approaches.

“Rivers know just one religion – that is to flow” said Shri. Anupam Mishra, Chairman, Organizing Committee, India Rivers Week. While acknowledging greater investments and focus from the government’s side, he indicated that unless these are backed by right kind of measures to involve the communities long term success will not be achieved. Shri. Mishra called for the urgent need to work on small rivers which have so far not received adequate attention. Conservation and protection of small rivers makes ecological and economic sense added Shri. Mishra.
Speaking about the need for protecting river ecosystems, Dr. Kalyan Rudra, Chairman West Bengal Pollution Control Board stated that rivers are the critical terrestrial link of entire hydrological cycle. He lamented that the critical relation between groundwater and river flows is not well appreciated. There is a need to better understand and appreciate these linkages and design our conservation and management measures with an ecological engineering approach, added Dr. Rudra.

Former Union Minister and Member of Parliament Shri. Jairam Ramesh stressed on the need to develop legislation on the use and management of floodplains. “River is an ecosystem that encompasses both water and the land and the conservation of rivers needs to examine both these aspects” said Mr. Ramesh advocated cumulative assessment of impacts of projects on rivers and the need to understand and develop standards on environmental flow and developing basin management plans. He decried current government’s attempts to push through the Ken-Betwa rivers link without adequate studies.

Mr. Ravi Singh Secretary General and CEO WWF India in his welcome remarks indicated that improving the flow and quality of rivers is essential for improving public health outcomes. There is a role of the government in the governance and management of rivers but there is an equally important role of the communities and civil society to prevent the degradation of rivers and works for its restoration, added Mr. Singh. He urged the stakeholders working in areas of river conservation to look at freshwater habitats and aquatic biodiversity as an important parameter to assess river health.

Mr. Himanshu Thakkar spoke of rivers being the report card of the catchment. He indicated that a single common definition of rivers is lacking in India. Outlining the objectives of the coalition of the five organizations (WWF-India, SANDRP, Peace Institute and Toxic Links) he stressed that the survival of mankind is linked to the survival of rivers.

This year, the Bhagirath Prayaas Samman (BPS) award, a medium to showcase inspirational initiatives on river rejuvenation and recognise unsung heroes, the first of its kind in the country, was conferred upon Ritwick Dutta (Delhi), Dr. Dinesh Kumar Mishra (Bihar), Citizen’s Concern for Dams and Development (CCDD) (Manipur) and Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective (HP).

Shri Shashi Shekar Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources - River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation called for developing an alternate approach to man-made embankments. The restoration of wetlands and water bodies will be central to river revival in the country, added Mr. Shekhar. The Ministry is trying to put hydrological data online in public domain and will work towards greater data availability for use by citizens.
Furthering the work on developing the ‘State of India’s River Report, the list of river assessed and ranked will now be further refined and submitted to the Ministry of Water Resources to collectively arrive at a roadmap for conservation steps for selected rivers in each of the four (North, East, South and West) zones in the country. A Citizen’s report on the State of India’s Rivers is planned as an output from the Conference.

About India Rivers Week
A consortium of organizations comprising WWF-India, SANDRP, Toxics Link, INTACH and PEACE Institute under the guidance of Late Sri Ramaswamy Iyer, initiated the India Rivers Week (IRW) to deepen the discourse on rivers in our country. The first edition of the IRW conducted in 2014, saw the participation of about 150 river experts, enthusiasts and practitioners who brought out a Delhi Declaration – ‘Let our Rivers Live.’ IRW is designed as an annual get-together of individuals, organisations and communities who have worked on river rejuvenation in different parts of the country.

For details contact –
Suresh Babu (WWF-India); 9818997999;
Himanshu Thakkar (SANDRP); 9968242798;
Manu Bhatnagar (INTACH); 9810036461;
Ravi Agarwal (Toxics Link); 9810037355;
Manoj Misra (PEACE Institute); 9910153601;


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