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River Watch

Quiet flows the Gundia river: A video on the biodiversity hotspot in the Western Ghats, threatened by proposed hydroelectric projects

Source of video:kesaricom

Wither Gundia: A short film that explores the impact of a proposed hydroelectric plant in this pristine biodiversity hotspot 

Rivers originating from the Western Ghats provide water to one in every 20 human beings on this earth. Gundia river basin, lying in the Western Ghats, is a biodiversity hotspot, home to diverse and varied flora & fauna, many of them already on the endangered list.

Karnataka state government plans to harness and bind this free flowing water , threatening the ecology and economy of this region. The perennial streams dotting the landscape may become seasonal an d even disappear if this happens. The rich forest and pristine green patches too may deteriorate and eventually vanish. The submerged land will displace villages and atleast a thousand people.

Saving these forests from further fragmentation will save us from the vagaries of climate change and global warming, and keep this thriving eco system intact.

This film by Kesari Harvoo, has been selected as a finalist for the International Forests Short Film Festival, by the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat partnered with the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.


Experiences from a civil society initiative to restore stretches of toxic Yamuna: Report of a conference organised by PEACE, Thames River Restoration Trust and WWF India at New Delhi in March 2013

The Thames River Restoration Trust, UK, WWF-India and PEACE Institute Charitable Trust, Delhi held a conference on “Sharing experiences and lessons learnt from the Thames and Ganga Twinning Project” on March 1, 2013 at the India International Centre, New Delhi.

Dr Peter Spillet of the Thames River Restoration Trust shared that the Trust was the recipient of the 2010 Theiss International Riverprize funds on behalf of many organizations involved in the restoration work on river Thames in United Kingdom. He said that the Trust had shared the money for twinning projects in various countries including in India.

This conference presents the results of the 2011-13 twinning programme. The Trust collaborated with PEACE and WWF to work with local communities working on Yamuna river restoration, he said.

Dr Ashghar Nawab, Senior Projects Coordinator, WWF-India noted that they ran the project on the Upper Ganges river at the Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh to re-introduce the endangered Gharial and other wildlife there and in the lower Yamuna river area. At the same time they helped local people improve their agricultural practices to improve their standard of living.

The long term plan was to ensure a viable population of Gharial with a favourable habitat through increased capacity support from the local communities. The project was to benefit fish population, freshwater turtles, Ganges river dolphins and other riverine species in the lower Yamuna river such as otters and water birds, he said.

Field survey

Intensive field surveys were conducted to monitor species diversity and evaluate threats to habitat (Image courtesy: WWF-India)

In the stretch between Bateshwar Ghat, Agra to Dibholi Ghat, Etawah the frontline forest staff was trained in monitoring and assessing the Gharial population and habitat, thereby transferring WWF-India expertise in this field to the Forest Department.


Female Gharial recorded with about 18 hatchlings; this is the first record of Gharial ‘nesting’ in river Yamuna (Image courtesy: WWF-India)

In this project, work was done with the local communities to reduce dependency on river resources. Alternative livelihood options were provided by creating links with government village development schemes. Local Youth Conservation Forum was built to instill a sense of ownership for the protection of the species.

Dr Nawab stated that biodiversity conservation was inextricably linked to the protection of habitat in terms of availability of prey and suitable sites for shelter. Biodiversity recorded represents endangered species like the Ganges Dolphin, Gharial and the black-necked Stork. Peripheral areas of the National Chambal Sanctuary fall in the Yamuna, which are used as seasonal migratory routes by endangered species like Gharial.


Small population of Ganges river dolphin were observed near Pathewara village, Hamirpur (Image courtesy: S R Taigore)

Such habitats maybe recognized or proposed as conservation units needing effective protection measures on urgent basis. Technical assistance is being provided to the Forest Department in the development of a Biodiversity Conservation Action Plan for Yamuna. Riparian communities with stake in long term future of freshwater species and habitats across the region must be fully engaged in the development and conservation planning processes. This will help assure the future sustainability of associated livelihoods and the ecosystem services provided by fully functioning freshwater ecosystems.

Manoj Misra stated that PEACE’s work on the river Yamuna has evolved, and the partnership with TRRT and WWF-India is a part of this process. It started with devising and testing a People’s River Health Index (PRHI) in 2010 supported by a two-year grant from the UNDP-SGP. Findings from the PRHI project became the activities under the Twinning Project. The activities were spread over ten grids along the river Yamuna.

Nadi Mitra Mandalis (NMMs) were set up as formal registered societies at each grid and acted as instruments for action addressing the “non point” threats to the river. The focus of the project was on promotion of natural or organic farming, improved sanitation and waste water management, solid and farm refuse management, catchment restoration, river and village health assessment, institutional strengthening and outreach to school children.  

Activities taken up included development of plantation, recharge well, pond and well restoration, solar lamps, eco-san toilets and repair of village drains. 6,000 trees have been planted along the river at ten locations. Monthly monitoring of river health (water quality, quantity and biodiversity) and village health parameters was being done at all the grids by the NMMs.

Dave Wardle, Twinning Project Chairman discussed the work of the Thames River Restoration Trust in improving the biologically dead river. He provided an account of how the Thames system suffered from problems such as pollution, physical alteration, low water flows and loss of wildlife habitat. The work of the Trust in improving the Thames system was discussed. He shared how TRRT helped restore the Thames and its tributaries through its policy lobbying work and by helping produce the Thames River Basin Management Plan, London Rivers Action Plan and Thames Water Resources Plan. The river is as free of pollution as possible and has been able to meet water quality standards.


Thames river (Image courtesy: Thames River Restoration Trust)

Dr. Robert Oates, Director of the Thames River Restoration Trust stated that significant stretches of the river have been restored to a natural structure, to enable functioning natural processes and sustainable ecosystems.

The technical sessions led by Bhim Rawat and Sita Ram Taigor of PEACE along with representatives of the Nadi Mitra Mandalis elaborated on the activities taken up in each grid and the experiences therein. 

Download these documents : Size
River restoration techniques - Presentation by Manoj Misra, PEACE (2013)7.55 MB
International river prize - Presentation by Dave Wardle, TRRT (2013)13.92 MB
Mainstreaming biodiversity conservation in river Yamuna - Presentation by Asghar Nawab, WWF India (2013)12.93 MB
Thames Ganga Twinning Project - Presentation by Peter Spillett, TRRT (2013)2.58 MB
Bateshwer grid in Yamuna - PEACE (2013)5.55 MB
Ekdala grid in Yamuna - PEACE (2013)5.59 MB
Gadaya grid in Yamuna - PEACE (2013)5.66 MB
Hamirpur grid in Yamuna - PEACE (2013)7.02 MB
Kanalsi grid in Yamuna - PEACE (2013)15.99 MB
Katapathar grid in Yamuna - PEACE (2013)13.23 MB
Kharadi grid in Yamuna - PEACE (2013)8.22 MB
Oba grid in Yamuna - PEACE (2013)8.03 MB
Pachnada grid in Yamuna - PEACE (2013)5.04 MB
Ramra grid in Yamuna - PEACE (2013)10.37 MB

The forgotten and fading Mithi river of Mumbai: A comic strip depicting its state

Mithi river_Comic strip

The story of Mumbai’s haphazard, clustered growth and expansion that has taken place at the expense of river Mithi is illustrated in this comic strip by Dhwani Shah. It depicts how a free flowing river, on whose banks the initial settlement grew, today is conveniently termed as a ‘nallah’.

The river has been taken over by the planners and the well wishers of society, sabotaged in the name of development. Pollution and encroachment have aided in the rivers degradation. Unfortunately even the average Mumbaiker is blissfully ignorant of this colossal loss.

View the comic.


Video: ‘Water futures - It’s everyone’s business’: A talk by Rohini Nilekani

Bhogilal Leherchand Institute of Indology was started to sponsor and promote research in indology and aspects of Indian culture. It organises a highly prestigious yearly event, the Bhogilal Leherchand Memorial Lectures ,  calling on people of eminence to speak on variant topics highlighting the institutes moral vibrancy and intellectual reach.Read More

Stuffed rivers of Vrishabhavathi-Arkavathi from the Cauvery system – Lecture by Leo Saldanha and Bhargavi Rao at the “Living rivers, dying rivers” series, IIC, New Delhi

Guest post: Amita Bhaduri

The eighth lecture in the series titled "Living rivers, dying rivers" was delivered by Leo Saldanha and Bhargavi Rao of the Environmental Support Group (ESG). The lecture held on January 28, 2012 at the India International Centre, New Delhi highlighted the complex challenges faced by the much abused rivers of Karnataka because of anthropogenic threats like mining in catchments, dam construction and waste disposal into rivers. The series coordinated by Prof. Ramaswamy R Iyer aimed at understanding what has been happening to rivers across India and in drawing appropriate lessons.  

Bhargavi Rao speaking on the stuffed rivers of Cauvery system

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Stuffed rivers of Vrishabhavathi-Arkavathi from the Cauvery system – Lecture by Leo Saldanha and Bhargavi Rao (2012)12.49 MB

India’s rivers are drying, fresh water biodiversity being destroyed, and people seriously threatened from mega hydro-electric projects - Can CBD help?

Guest post: SANDRP

Twenty years after ratifying the Convention on Biological Diversity, and ten years after promulgating the Biological Diversity Act, India continues to use doublespeak in dealing with its rivers and their biodiversity. 

These issues were discussed at a side event on “Impact of dams on biodiversity: Socio ecological dimensions in changing climate”, organised by SANDRP and 5 partner organizations: Himdhara (Himachal Pradesh), Himal Prakriti (Uttarakhand), Samvardhan (Maharashtra), River Basin Friends (Assam and North East India) and International Rivers (South Asia) at the COP 11 of CBD now ongoing in Hyderabad.

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"Living with floods" – A film by Sanjay Barnela and Samreen Farooqui, about Nav Jagriti's work with farmers in flood-affected Saran district in North Bihar

Sanjay Barnela and Samreen Farooqui put together this award-winning documentary which takes a look at the serious situation created by the North Bihar region's rivers bursting their banks almost every year. Homes are wrecked, people lose their lives and livelihoods and the damage is estimated to be lofty. Communities had developed coping mechanisms that were integral to their culture. The film looks at the development models chosen and implemented by the state to “protect people from floods”. In particular the embankments have led to man-made floods and water logging over vast agriculture land leading to widespread pauperization of people. The film sheds light on many aspects of water logging in the area and highlights the work of Nav Jagriti in coping with floods.

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Citizens voice alarm over recent Supreme Court judgement on interlinking of rivers: The directive urges the Government to begin work on the proposal

Guest post by: Amita Bhaduri

The Supreme Court of India has in its judgment of 27 February 2012 on the interlinking of rivers project, given categorical directions to the Executive Government to implement the ‘project’ as a whole in a time bound manner and has also asked the Centre to appoint a Special Committee to work out the modalities and oversee the implementation of the project. Prominent experts, concerned citizens and neighboring countries have raised concerns over the recent judgement and have urged the Supreme Court to put this order on hold and reconsider the matter.

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