Sustainable Water Management

Environmental flows (or simply e-flows) are defined as the flows required for the maintenance of the ecological integrity of rivers, their associated ecosystems, and the goods and services provided by them. E-flows are a pattern of flows required by the river to sustain its functions (socio-cultural, geomorphic or sediment transport, supporting biodiversity and livelihoods) and to fulfil the aspirations of the people.

Past Work:
E-flows are increasingly recognized as a key to maintaining the ecological integrity of rivers, their associated ecosystems and the goods and services they provide. E-flows are multi-dimensional and their assessment is technical as well as social. It is a process with societal choices as its core; only society can define what it wants its river to be.

Realizing this, the Living Ganga Programme brought together civil society groups, national and international experts and government officials to deliberate and develop a methodology to assess e-flows — the Building Block Methodology (BBM). A holistic and robust method was selected and improvised to address the uniqueness of the problems in the upper basin. Different components included hydrology, hydraulics, fluvial geomorphology, water quality, biodiversity, socio-cultural perspective and livelihoods. The work on e-flows provided a useful reference for future work along the river. The Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, has assigned consortia of seven IITs, premier technology centres, to prepare a Ganga River Basin Environment Management Plan (GRBEMP), to which WWF-India is a contributor. This platform has agreed to integrate e-flows assessment using BBM into GRBEMP. It is expected to become a guiding principle for future water resources planning work in the basin.

Progressing under Rivers for Life
Rivers for Life will build on the success of its environmental flows work under the HSBC Climate Partnership and the programme will work on e-flows assessment (Ganga and Ramganga) to find out how much water is needed to keep the river and its ecosystem alive. The team will continue to be the convener of the e-flows working group of the consortia of IITs entrusted with the job of preparation of the Ganga River Basin Environment Management Plan (GRBEMP). Under this initiative, e-flows assessment will be done for the entire stretch of River Ganga (2,525 km) at 2232 locations in association with the consortia of IITs. These are critical locations from river health point of view. Rivers for Life will work towards ensuring that the Building Block Methodology developed and tested in the Upper Ganga basin is used in assessing e-flows. Rivers for Life will also work towards integrating recommendations on e-flows in the GRBEMP.

The programme envisions for adoption of sustainable abstraction policies and practices by government and key stakeholders, leading to environmental flows in the Ganga and its key tributaries including Ramganga and also, to focus on implementation on sustainable water abstraction practices.

E-flows Report (1)
Rivers for Life programme recently carried out a scientific assessment of e-flows for a healthy Ganga during Kumbh 2013 to ensure adequate release of flows in the Ganga and to build consensus on environmental flows among key stakeholders. The e-flows assessment was based on socio-cultural aspirations, ecological and geo-morphological considerations at Sangam, Allahabad during Kumbh 2013.

The assessment was carried out with key partners such as Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, technical and research institutes such as CIFRI (Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute) and NGOs such as PSI (People Science Institute) and experts among others. A report on benefits of e-flows with recommendations has been developed and shared with key policy-makers including the Government of Uttar Pradesh to ensure maintenance of flows during Kumbh 2013.

More details of the report can be found in ‘Environmental Flows for Kumbh 2013 at Triveni Sangam, Allahabad’.
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