Environment

Better planning for river rejuvenation needed to strengthen biodiversity

This World Rivers Day 2022, let us ensure that everyone is aware of the importance of river stewardship. Let us pledge not to do anything that harms, threatens and endangers our river.

ByN Munal Meitei

Updated 24 Sept 2022, 6:54 pm

Barak River (PHOTO: Guihiamliu Riamei_IFP)
Barak River (PHOTO: Guihiamliu Riamei_IFP)

 

World Rivers Day, which is celebrated every fourth Sunday of September, is being observed across the world to raise public awareness on conservation of rivers. This year’s theme is “Importance of rivers for Biodiversity”. This global event calls for all to join hands to rejuvenate the dying rivers, protect the existing rivers and strengthen our biodiversity. This World Rivers Day 2022, we can raise our voice to the urgent threats facing our rivers and find solution to protecting the water bodies in our surroundings.

In Manipur, which is known for its vast wetlands, rivers make up an important part of the state topography.  Imphal river basin occupies 28.4 per cent, Barak valley 40.5 per cent and Eastern catchment drain down to Chindwin 31.1 per cent.

We may call Manipur a land of many rivers and the streams add to the beauty of the landscape.

Some of the rivers in Manipur also form natural boundaries, both domestic and international, for the state. Rivers in the state are also an important source of food, irrigation and adventure sports like white-water river rafting.

Rivers are considered sacred by the people of Manipur. Hence, one should not throw any wastes, especially plastics, into the rivers.

Among the major rivers in Manipur, the Barak River and Manipur River are most popular. Manipur River has many tributaries like Iril River, Thoubal River, Sengmai River and Kuga River among others.

The Ithai barrage is a stump block except for Chakpi River to bring a big change in our aquatic biodiversity.

Almost 18 fish species which need saline water life cycle have been extinct from the state due to the dam.

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When a river dam is constructed, one of the most obvious changes is the disruption in “Environmental flows.”

Restoration of environmental flows is needed to improve water quality, sediment deposition, addressing the life-cycle needs of fish and wildlife and restoring the livelihood of river-based communities.

One of the disadvantages for Manipur is the absence of snow-fed river, owing to which the state faces the threat of extreme conditions such as prolonged drought. Then there is the flood-like condition every year during the rainy season.

Besides heavy rain and discharge, the urban and rural encroachments in river banks such as Nambul and many other rivers in the state, including infrastructure such as latrines, pig sheds, buildings, roads, other business facilities with huge plastic wastes, play a negative role in creating bottlenecks, which exacerbated the flood situation to the tune of 15 to 20 per cent.

Therefore, there is a need for better planning in the floodplains and river banks which acts as the natural sponge for floodwaters. A river's flow is its heartbeat. Freshwater plants and animals have evolved with and intimately depend upon natural patterns of hydrological variability. Naturally high and low water levels create habitat conditions essential for reproduction and growth and drive ecological processes required for ecosystem health.

Flood move sediment that maintains the form and function of rivers. Seasonal inundation of floodplains and wetlands supports groundwater recharge. Hence, all depends on healthy river flows.

Healthy rivers are the lifelines of our planet. Rivers and their watersheds – and the rich variety of life they sustain – provide people with water, food, medicines, building materials, land-replenishing silts and more.

They mitigate floods and droughts, support forests, recharge groundwater supplies, sustain fisheries, and provide byways for travel. Protecting our rivers is therefore the health insurance for all.

A river is much more than the flowing water but it is the bed and banks, the groundwater below, its surrounding forests, marshes and floodplain are all parts of the river life. A river carries not just water, but more importantly nutrient-rich sediments and dissolved minerals that replenish the planet. Although the rivers are in crisis, overtime, we can take comfort that rivers have a natural ability to self-heal. We all win when rivers are allowed to flow freely.

Developments are moving fast. Population is exploding. Pollution is increasing. Climate is erupting. Global warming is intensified. Rainfalls are becoming scanty. Melting of glaciers is accelerated. Extraction of construction materials from riverbeds is overloaded.

Also, mushrooming of dams for irrigation and hydro-electricity and draining of a huge quantity of harmful industrial wastes into the rivers have made our rivers to suffocate.

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In a world where our rivers and the surrounding communities and ecosystems are struggling, threatened by multiple environmental impacts, it should be our topmost priority to conserve and protect the rivers. But it seems, we are always forgetting that rivers are also living entities and they support our entire environment and ecosystems.

Therefore, this World Rivers Day, let us ensure that everyone is aware of the importance of river stewardship. Let us pledge not to do anything that harms, threatens and endangers our rivers from today onwards for the sake of the future generations.

Every river is unique in terms of its flow patterns, the landscapes, the species it supports and on its associated ecosystems. Rivers have no political boundaries; they connect the different nations together along its entire course having different language, culture and religions as a loving mother. Thus, rivers are a part of a global peace. Protect them fiercely and unapologetically. Rivers are the most beautiful objects seen from outer space.

Rivers are a part of our communities. We cannot segregate our local river systems without ultimately impacting our own health and well-being. These issues are not solely river issues; they are issues for human communities and for the future generations.

Rivers in every country face an array of threats, and only our active involvement will ensure their health in the years ahead. Most of the rivers in Indian cities have changed their feature with plastics. Many of the world’s rivers are endangered with rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and increase in human pollution, deforestation in catchment areas, water extraction, drought, dams and invasive aquatic species.

Rivers form an integral part of our environment and they are vital for people and wildlife. Also, there are many communities whose survival, livelihood and existence depend on rivers. A new report states that just one third of the world’s rivers remained free-flowing rendering them more critical than ever.

Rivers connect the oceans, valleys and mountains as a linkage for biodiversity. They play a very important role in the water cycle, acting as drainage channels for surface water.

Rivers drain nearly 75 per cent of the earth's land surface and provide excellent habitat and food for many of the earth's organisms. It's an axiom that rivers whose courses are in virgin will never be flooded.

Walking along the river bank and spending time in the natural space helps to reduce stress, anxiety and worry also lowered heart and breathing rate. The added benefit of living by a river is the air surrounding the water. It contains added oxygen and moisture as well as a large dose of negative ions that increase our Serotonin to absorb the oxygen.

Rivers play a crucial role in our well-being, happiness and physical and mental health. Research has shown that being in and near the river or water can provide a long list of benefits for our mind and body, increasing an overall sense of well-being and happiness.

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pollutionbiodiversityworld rivers day 2022world rivers day 2022 themerivers importance

N Munal Meitei

N Munal Meitei

Range Forest Officer, Kakching, Manipur

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