India River Week-2016 to focus on State of India’s Rivers Since time immemorial, rivers have held a coveted place in the mindscape of Indians. Rigveda has dedicated suktas on mighty rivers like Sindhu describing not only the river, but its tributaries, its flow, its myriad paths, the glaciers and lakes which feed it. Across India, local cultures are replete with evocative river stories, river festivals and several rituals which bring rivers in the homes and hearts of people. And yet, Indian rivers remain some of the most abused in the world.
It’s natural for rivers to be in the news during the monsoon or a drought, but that is not the only reason why rivers are being discussed these days.
Rivers are indeed grabbing headlines, be it Cauvery or the Indus or the mindless plan of River Interlinking. But while that happens, are we discussing rivers at all? We are discussing conflicts and interstate issues, even geopolitics, but we have very successfully cut our rivers and the hydrological systems including the catchment, headwaters, groundwater, wetlands, lakes and estuaries into convenient pieces: water supply, water sharing, irrigation, hydro-power, drinking water supply, sanitation, pollution, flood control. It seems, most of the time, rivers are in the news for all the wrong reasons!
For example, the Cauvery is in the news for the never-ending dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu on sharing of its waters, a conflict that keeps rearing its head whenever there is a deficit year. Unfortunately, the dispute is about the Cauvery, but the poor river’s condition is on no one’s radar. Everyone is only talking about its water!
Similarly, Mahanadi is in the news for interstate water disputes. But none of states is particularly worried about the condition of the river. In the case of the Mahadayi, again, the states seem least bothered about the river itself, with Goa planning to allow navigation on it without any assessment of its impact on the river. Telangana and Andhra are locked in Krishna and Godavari water-sharing disputes, which are bound to spill over to Maharashtra and Karnataka, among other basin states.