(Feature image: Protesters hold placards during a demonstration against the killings of 13 protesters in Tuticorin. Photograph: Arun Sankar/AFP/Getty, Source The Guardian report. )
In a remarkable refreshing order, the Madurai bench of Tamil Nadu High Court has held that protest against environmental violations like that of Sterlite factory is a fundamental duty of citizens. The Madurai bench has reasoned that the duties of the state in protecting the environment are basically the rights of the people. The bench relied on Article 51-A (g) of Part IV-A (Fundamental Duties), which deals with the duty to protect and improve the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures. A liberal interpretation of Article 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the constitution enabled the bench to hold that right to environment, free of danger of disease and infection is inherent in it.
The World Rivers Day[i] (WRD) is celebrated annually on the fourth Sunday of September. The event strives to highlight the invaluable ecological, hydrological services and cultural, recreational values offered by the rivers. Indeed, the most of the once wild, scenic, free flowing rivers across the globe are facing existential crisis on account of various anthropogenic activities hastened over the past century.
However, there are small but significant steps being undertaken by individuals, organizations and governments to restore some of the flowing eco-systems. This account attempts to compile some such positive developments that have taken place in the one year.
We have already published a compilation of the positive river stories of India on the occasion of International Day of Actions for Rivers being held on March 14 2020. In addition to Indian rivers, this compilation also covers some remarkable development concerning river conservation worldwide. There could be many more stories and developments happening, we invite readers to send us such stories they know about.
GANGA Uttar PradeshFloodplain set to be demarcated for 1st time State government has demarcated the Ganga’s floodplain and submitted a final report to the Jal Shakti ministry. The NMCG under Jal Shakti ministry would be the final authority to decide the floodplain. Once the report is approved, the centre would notify Ganga’s floodplain in the state for the first time.
In the first phase, the river stretch from Haridwar till Unnao has been covered. At least 200 metres from the embankment in the city and 500 metres from the embankment in rural areas might be marked as the river’s floodplain. A floodplain is the maximum area that a river has flooded in 25 years. Though the river may not rise that high every year but the demarcating it will mark the area that a river may engulf.
Dams and reservoirs make rivers sediment-starved and menacing manifold downstream. While heavy rainfall is also a key factor behind the floods, hungry water had a more pronounced effect, says D. Padmalal, Scientist and Head, Hydrological process group, National Centre for Earth Science Studies.
– “When the sediment transport is interrupted, the potential energy of the hungry water released from dams will scour the river banks downstream, uprooting trees or riparian vegetation and damaging bridges and other engineering structures,” explains Dr. Padmalal. Overloaded with silt and clay from the eroding river banks, the highly turbid and viscous water clogs drainage channels. Subsequent discharge of water from the dam will lead to inundation and waterlogging of large areas.
– Hungry water can also develop in high gradient river channels devoid of adequate quantity of sand and gravel, especially during periods of high rainfall. “Years of uncontrolled sand mining have left most of the rivers in Kerala depleted or exhausted of sand and gravel. This creates a situation similar to the release of hungry water from dams,” notes Dr. Padmalal. When the river channel has adequate supply of sand and gravel, the potential energy of the water is used to transport the mixture. The water does not scour the banks or turn muddy.
Finally, tribals struggle wins, sends Jispa HEP company packing upFacing stiff opposition from the tribal community against the construction of 300 MW Jispa Dam in Lahaul-Spiti valley has forced the Himachal Pradesh Power Corportaion Ltd (HPPCL) to suspend the project for the time being. The dam which was declared a project of national importance now has residents from 14 villages oppose it. HPPCL has invested Rs 3 crore and has stated that it would begin study work only when locals extend their support.
Since 2009, people from the Todh valley in Lahaul-Spiti district were opposing the Jispa Dam project proposed over Bhaga river, a tributarJy of Chenab at Jispa village. The government had sanctioned Rs 7,000 crore for this project but local residents did not allow officials to work in smoothly for three years now.
Confirming the development, managing director, HPPCL, D K Sharma told that some people were continuously opposing the project without realizing that construction of project could have ushered development in the area. He said constant opposition of local people had resulted into wastage of limited human resource so HPPCL board had decided to withdraw the manpower as project was only at investigation stage.
Everything about this song: its words, its music, its picturisation and Sachin Deo (SD) Burman’s evocative voice mesmerizes me (I’m one of many others, I’m sure). I loved this song’s connect with rivers and used to repeat it over and over, till my (visibly exasperated) husband told me, “But did you not know? Rivers have influenced SD’s music a lot. He has talked about his lone ramblings on the Gumti in Tripura, listening to folk music based on rivers many times”. I did not know that.Continue reading “Bhatiyali: The Eternal Song of the River”→
Indians and South Asians dont need a reason to celebrate our rivers. Rivers, in their myriad avatars, are celebrated and worshipped across the Indian subcontinent, by religions like Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism alike.
Most of our rivers are dying and the living, healthy and free flowing rivers are increasingly threatened. Indian Rivers have NO legal protection and there is no law that says that rivers should have freshwater! In the absence of political will and transparent and democratic governance more and more rivers are being damaged, diverted, destroyed and dried.
The species of flowing rivers are dwindling, the communities that depend are them are becoming increasingly vulnerable, governance surrounding rivers is becoming more and more non-transparent, strait jacketed and ecologically destructive. Decision makers are refusing to accept the dynamics, linkages, interdependencies and LIFE of rivers.
Religions too, have FAILED miserably in protecting rivers that they seem to worship so publicly.
We need to understand and appreciate the meaning and value of a healthy, flowing and giving river. Is river only a channel supplying drinking water? Is it only an irrigation canal? Is it only a powerhouse of electricity? Is it only an open drain to transport our sewage and effluents? Is it only an abstract religious idea in which we wash our sins?
What is the worth of a flowing river for us and the decision makers?
We do need every excuse to celebrate, nurture and contemplate our rivers. We need to take time and think more deeply about our connected future.