Environment

World Rivers Day 2022 and our Environment

Rivers are considered sacred by the people of Manipur. Hence, if we have any pride of being a Manipuri, then we should not throw any wastes, dirt’s and especially plastics into our rivers and otherwise our river will be choked and may become to death.

ByN Munal Meitei

Updated 23 Sept 2022, 7:12 pm

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

“Rivers are the arteries of our planet,” Mark Angelo.

World Rivers Day is celebrated on every fourth Sunday of September, with this year’s theme,“Importance of rivers to Biodiversity”. Now everyone should join hands to strengthen the movement for rivers, water and its Biodiversity. Together, we can raise our voices to bring attention to the urgent needs and threats facing our rivers and stand for hope and solidarity to find solutions to protect our rivers.

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 part of a global peace and protect-fiercely and unapologetically- our communities. 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 dresses with plastics. We are remind, the rivers as the world’s most pristine, scenic and free-flowing streams. Many of the world’s rivers are endangered with rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and increase in human pollution, deforestation in catchments, water extraction, drought, dams and invasive aquatic species.

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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 upon 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% 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, worry and also lowered heart and breathing rate. The added benefit of living by a river is the air surrounding the water contains added oxygen and moisture as well as a large dose of negative ions that increase our Serotonin to absorb the oxygen. So people who reside near to rivers breathe deep and relax at home. 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.

In Manipur, Imphal river basin occupies 28.4 per cent, Barak valley 40.5 per cent and Eastern catchment drain to Chindwin 31.1 per cent with many river systems and their tributaries. The scintillating rivers of Manipur make up an important part of our topography. We may call Manipur a land of many rivers and the beauties of these streams adorn the state even more. Some of the rivers in Manipur also form the natural boundaries both domestic and international for the state. Rivers in Manipur are also an important source of food, irrigation and with a hub of adventure sports like whitewater river rafting. Rivers are considered sacred by the people of Manipur. Hence, if we have any pride of being a Manipuri, then we should not throw any wastes, dirt’s and especially plastics into our rivers and otherwise our river will be choked and may become to death.

Among the rivers in Manipur, the Barak River and Manipur River are most popular. Manipur River has many major rivers with its tributaries like Iril River, Thoubal River, Sengmai River and Kuga River etc. The Ithai barrage is really 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 our soil due to the dam. When a river has been dammed, one of the most obvious changes is the disruption to “Environmental flows.” Environmental flows can be restored to improve water quality, sediment deposition, addressing the life-cycle needs of fish and wildlife and restoring the livelihoods of river-based communities.

One of the disadvantages for Manipur is there is no snowfed river which threatens us from any extreme conditions like prolonged drought. In a candid concession, Nambul and many other rivers in our state, besides heavy rain and discharge, the urban and rural encroachments in the river bank – including infrastructure such as latrines, pig sheds, buildings, roads, other business facilities with huge plastics, played a negative role in creating bottlenecks, which exacerbated the floods to the tune of 15 to 20 per cent.  It therefore emphasizes the need for better planning in the floodplains and river banks which acts as the natural sponge for floodwaters.

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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 pulses move sediment that maintains the form and function of rivers. Seasonal inundation of floodplains and wetlands supports groundwater recharge. Hence it 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’s 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 land– and of the planet. Although the planet's 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.

Our developments are moving fast, the population is exploding, pollution are maximizing, climate is erupting, global warming intensified, scanty rainfalls frequently repeated, melting of glaciers accelerated, extraction of construction materials from riverbeds overloaded, mushrooming the number of dams for irrigation and hydro-electricity on every lengths and draining of a huge quantity of harmful industrial waste in the rivers have made our rivers to suffocate.

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 our rivers. But it seems, we are always forgetting that the rivers are also the living entities and they support our entire environment and ecosystems. Therefore, with the coming of World Rivers Day, let’s ensure that everyone is aware of the importance of river stewardship and let’s take an oath not to do anything that harms, threatens and endangers our rivers from today onwards for the sake of the future generations.

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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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