A Blue Print for Rivers –
Conservation & Non Impedance of Flow in Real Time
Rivers have fascinated me since childhood as they have always fascinated many children in schools and colleges. This is not because they are an enigma but because they symbolize all that is sacred in every culture and religion, more so in India and the subcontinent. Children who grow up in cities are not aware of the phenomenon called the river and I too don’t claim that I know much too. This is because children in cities are essentially deprived .In the modern world a deprived individual is one who does not have adequate resources for education or food and nutrition or decent home and a lifestyle. This is as per a standard dictated by certain economic hierarchy. But I don’t consider these factors to term all children as deprived .City dwellers too are deprived of decent space to play or good air to breathe and of rivers to swim and fish and frolic.
A river is a not only a symbol of flow and hence of life it is Life personified. A river is essential component of water cycle of which we are a miniscule part much lowly than the mighty water bodies termed rivers .Rivers are a part of the ancient and primordial system set by the nature in its original form. A river is a natural pathway of the water movement on the planet Earth and I write Earth with capital E as it is a proper noun .This is just as the same water flows in our bodies too in form of blood with its formed and unformed elements. A river sustains all life in its vicinity just as circulating blood sustains tissues and cells. We are a part of that system of water circulation as much as any river, for our bodies are islands seemingly dissociated from the water cycle but as much an integral part of the great cycle. It is our ego and ignorance that makes us believe that a river is an inanimate water body and is much low down in priority in our plan for life.
It is this belief and misunderstanding that makes us alienated from truth and hence disrespect rivers and desecrate them. In doing so we disrespect all our ancestors who were a part of river civilizations that thrived on their banks and managed to sustain and develop to the level of progress that current societies have made. The biggest and worst blunders are committed by so called educated elite, when standing on shoulders of tall giants they kick the ladder proclaiming them as Free Citizens .Free that has connotations that we have no past and are omnipotent. Free this portends that we have no desire to acknowledge earlier mankind which we construe to be savage and illiterate. Free here has an overtone of distaste for history, culture and all that is traditional. This is gross and unacceptable and wretched. We owe our current level of sophistication to all the goodness that went down as nurture so that we can rise and shine to enjoy the fruits whence bygone generations toiled and sweated creating the wealth that we witness. All this was possible because the River gods were benevolent and merciful.
Thus to defile a river is like defiling the rains the winds the soil and the land. To defile a river is akin to defiling a society, state and a nation. It is a bigger crime than those committed by terrorists because terrorists commit crime against fellow beings whereas, desecrators commit crime across species.
What then are the acts of desecrations? Let us list some of them:
1) Intellectual Desecration
4) Turning course
Let’s take one at a time
Intellectual Desecration: This is the offence of ignorance of basic information pertaining a river /rivulet .This ignorance can arise due to inadequate information available or inadequacy of generation of Data. The latter is the job of the state and district government and they can be held responsible. This ignorance can be purposeful or incidental and can therefore be an act of omission or commission. Every river or rivulet has to be marked on every map of the region whether political or otherwise. It is an integral part of the region its landscape and the ethos and omission of its presence should be a liable offense. It is necessary here to clearly articulate this aspect, as a river has no voice of its own but any act of omission or commission can be directly affecting the flora and fauna of the region while taking any decision pertaining the region or it can be affecting the river system directly or indirectly. This type of desecration is rampant due to activity of ‘development lobby’ who out of their narrow-minded objective cause damage to group or groups of individuals through their ill informed activity be it construction of a bridge or commissioning a project on or near the bank of the river. Example is not to depict the river in the project report submitted for licenses or for granting NOC from ministry of Environment or Forest or Tribal Welfare and Labor etc
.Intellectual desecration can further be by creating confusion regarding the origin course the tributaries and geological data pertaining the soil, riverbed, the water quality and quantity in different seasons and its misrepresentation in any text or document which can cause harm to the interest of a ‘river’ who like a company can litigate in a court of law and right minded citizens can represent the interest of the river acting as its custodians and patrons. These patrons should have no conflict of interest either political or financial when appearing for the river. Any data generated by any agency should be a property of the corpus of the said river and it has to be used to further the interests of the existing river and its free flow .The local government has duty to make all data pertaining the river available to any party who has any business to furthering interest of the river. Misuse of name or misnaming of rivers and rivulets should be liable to harsh penalties. A river is not a public property as projected by governmental and financial institutions as it has its existence before people arriving on the scene .It had to be deemed as an independent living and surviving entity just as an individual or group of corporate individual .Any misrepresentation about history or geography or geotechnical / Hydraulic aspect should be liable to harsh penalties. Any unscientific or scientific exploitation of a river should be condemned and resisted by interested parties. This desecration can be across borders in case of rivers flowing in two states or nations and any desecration upstream or downstream should be dealt by an independent transnational river authority set up and whose constituents have to be interested individuals on both sides to further the interest of the river. It is high time that no river should be declared as a natural resource to humans alone but to all living creatures in and around the river and it should be declared as them having equal right on waters .Thus no human habitations should be allowed at sites in rivers where there is natural tendency for alligators and crocodiles to breed and promote their progeny. All human development done at cost of the river should be declared as null and void and therefore liable.
Pollution: River pollution is an unpardonable act of violence against a river which is a living system. In a river the water only forms a matrix for unicellular and multicellular organisms dwelling on its bank or in its body. Any effluent discharged thus into this matrix can affect the life and hence rights of resident flora and fauna .It can change the color, turbidity, composition chemical or biochemical and cause huge trauma to the water system .Any activity of releasing any form of pollutant into the river or its tributaries or any water body before extracting the unnatural substances is a act of cowardice and a threat to wildlife. If wildlife ought to be protected then Rivers should be at the forefront for protection from hazardous pollution due to discharge of Pollutants into the river especially from factories and any manufacturing facilities. Pollution reduces the utility of water for washing, drinking for humans and animals that is potability and also its usage for land irrigation for farming, apart from changing its sustainability of life by affecting the oxygen contents .It affects the micro flora which affects aquatic life systems and reduce the rivers ability to act as a source of generating food for birds and animals and humans too.
Chemical desecration has to be met with stringent laws and any such act has to be instantly reported to River authorities. As this forms a part of global water cycle any pollution should be declared a crime and any court anywhere in the world should be able to admit cases .Countries where judiciaries are robust and administratively competent can earn huge foreign exchange as they will tend to dispense justice and conserving environments for making the planet perpetually habitable. This will be true globalization and not just transfer of capital for earning huge profits and returns. Rivers will teach us the true meaning of going global. It is a right of any law abiding citizen anywhere in the world to question river pollution across borders since it is a true community concern and transcends boundaries a farce created by false nationalistic tendencies to gain power and clout. Let Rivers show us the way to integration of mankind for conservation of its natural god given water systems.
Pollution caused by religious activities at pilgrim sites should be a subject of the local municipalities and religious bodies who oversee gathering of vast number of pilgrims during Kumbh Melas.It is the work of these organizations to have an adequate spread of religious activity so as not to cause significant burden on BOD and other parameters. Defecation should be made punishable acts and facilities made available at these sites expeditiously and in adequate number. Any increment in E coli count in a river at any site should be considered as gross desecration and such public bodies made liable to imprisonment and loss of livelihood and suspension from job. Throwing dead decomposed bodies into the river or of carcasses is an act of ignorance and lack of educations and Public Health departments should make arrangements of all deceased so that get a decent funeral and burnt 100% to ashes. Such ashes posited in a river are of no harm.
Damming: Although considered a superior method of water conservation and management. It is now recognized as a selfish and discriminatory practice to benefit a few communities and detrimental to populations at large. Damming is childish way to hoard water which submerges huge areas of land under water changing the ecology and generates a threat to freedom of many communities who lose their livelihood and land to the monster of dam. There is change in seismic activity as well and Koyna is a classic example. During heavy rainfall there is a sword of Damocles hanging in the form of flash floods when the sluice gates are opened due to the fear of the dam rupturing as a result of pressure of the increasing water level .Damming changes microenviroment.It also causes preferential and unjust distribution of water to big farmers and corporate with uneven distribution and further marginalizing small farmers who at times are forced to commit suicides due to bankruptcy. Damming is very heinous act of impeding the flow that wipes out water creatures downstream who have equal right on water just as humans. If mankind thinks that all water has to be available of development of his species and not for the others, it is a cruel joke .Moreover the unnatural act of desecration of river by damming dries the river bed downstream meeting unlawful hardships on farming communities who are systematically excluded from the benefits of the dam due to poor representation and participation in the usage of water. Damming is thus damned and a shameful act of interfering with the natural right of any river which has flown for centuries .It is an act of desecrating land as well as forests and villages which have been established centuries ago. The fruits of progress due to hydroelectric power generation are also uneven as affordability of electricity depends on income of the family and is never indexed to his basic income. The poor thus do not have electricity in their household even after sacrificing for the dam build on a river in his own vicinity.
Turning Course : This is a dastardly act and should be considered as a taboo and an act of violence against natural justice and human kind and animal kind. If done for any reason by state or municipality or nation should be made liable and ruthless penalties should be imposed on perpetrators. A river is essentially NOT a national property. It is not any ones property, to consider it as a property is to restrict its scope and ambit. It is invaluable and not a product or natural resource for all resources stand to be exploited and given the fact that distribution of wealth is uneven and arbitrary and preferentially allocated it behoves that river are beyond the domain of economic goods in its form and nature. It is an asset to all who matter across the globe. Thus turning course is a act of might and denotes forceful submission of an ancient water body which do not fit in the tenet of morality. A course of any river is decided by natural relief of the land and its topology. To change its course and push it into another basin is an ungodly act analogous to rape of the river and the father/motherland towards which we have taken oath primarily as citizen of a country which embodies the land and its form of mountain and valleys and plateaus and bays and peninsulas etc.All water bodies in the form of rivers and rivulets and streams or lakes be left alone and kept uninterfered.
Turning course of a stream, rivulet a river or a major river is bound to cause significant damage to the local ecology and climate and displace groups of people who are unprepared or uninformed. This can cause hardships and farmers may have to abandon their properties and agricultural land and may be used to harass or cause nuisance to those who may be employing their right to resist certain activities done by another set of strongmen and thus forced to accept a proposal. It will also tend to violate rights of farmers to enjoy produce of farms which they will be deprived and will cause loss of income .It will displace wildlife which has been indigenous and native. Turning course of a polluted rivulet may spoil quality of soil in newer high yielding farms and result in fall of produce and income and contaminate crops with toxic effects on the populations.
Constriction: This essentially means reducing the breadth of the river by landfills and unapproved impediments without knowledge of the consequences for monetary gains. This is unpardonable crime against those enjoying the current waters and against the river causing stagnation and material blow to the quality of the water and hence the fish and other water borne aquatic life including water plants. Deposition and dumping of debris from construction sites or from factory or other trade wastes like electronic goods and waste products can cause irreparable harm to the river where aquatic life may become impossible to survive whereby gross crime against the national and state interests will be perpretated.Dumping of plastic and oil wastes along the banks cause severe obstruction to free flow .Dumping wreckages into the river and constriction at key sites may cause significant damage even with a constriction of few meters. It is necessary to have a full plan of any river documented by satellite imaging and satellite photography and surveillance of river banks should be done by monitoring every river and rivulets by the river authority in the vicinity .Citizens should exercise right to information if they find any abnormal impediment done by individual or any NGO or State or National Body or corporate house.
Corporates, Traders, Business Houses have much to gain by nefarious activities along the banks of rivers with licenses from state government and central government on pretext of generating employment. This should be considered a breach against the right of the way to the river and prosecution and imprisonment carried on against the said group of individuals in favor of aggrieved river and its custodians / patrons. A custodian or Patron of the river is essentially not an elected representative from polity but such persons who reside near the river and have a long record of acts of conservation in interest of the said river. These individuals are social workers, activists, naturalists, wild life experts drawn from scientific community, academics or traditional natives who have stake in maintaining the milieu of the river and its ecology.Dr Medha Patkar of Narmada Bachao Andolan is a model patron and custodian.
Construction: Construction of Bridges is a necessity for transport and can be surely allowed in such a manner so as to provide for during monsoons when it swells up and should allow all the water to pass beneath it. These Bridges may be for Road or Railways and it should in no way spoil the innate beauty of the river or should not make it look ugly. Any construction on any island in a river should be demolished and no further construction allowed how so ever small the island or how so ever small the construction. This will surely violate the sanctity of the river .Construction of Buildings for any purpose should be beyond costal regulation zone decided for that river depending on the site and the breadth of the river .No construction should impede the flow and or constrict the river at any given season.Cosnstruction of jetties for river cruises should be controlled by the river authorities concerned. Any activity such as recreation on the river will be a privileged activity and discouraged .Tourists can be allowed to take a canoe or row boat but speed boats disallowed due to noise and spillage of oil. Ferries can be arranged provided it keeps the sanctity of the river and any opulence of any type even if affording to few should be forthright a taboo. Research Labs along the river can be constructed to do specific studies about the river at key sites to help maintain the river in its natural form .Crematorium on the river should be beyond CRZ .Any place of worship should be beyond the CRZ. Illegal places of worship along the banks should be demolished. The River itself is a god and no other religion or god allowed near a river front.
Drainages: This is draining the river of its contents for purpose of any commercial activity other than agriculture and consumption for household purposes. A canal can be constructed to only drain excess water and not cause shortage downstream. The canal has to be designed and constructed at such places and in such fashion that it will prevent flooding and devastations of the delta and catchment areas. The quantity of drainage has to be recorded and accepted by all parties who are beneficiaries in the said locality. Drainage for any other purpose should not be allowed except under special circumstances provided it does not affect the quality and composition of the water. Effluents from human settlements cannot be drained into the river to cause biological contamination with garbage and organic material from human activity. Such effluents have to be discarded into landfills whose run-off is not into any river in the vicinity. Such effluents have to be adequately treated in effluent treatment plants and then the final volume used for farming purpose.
It is very natural for storm water to get mixed with municipal effluents and then coumaflaged to be let into rivers stealthily by municipalities. This is gross violation of the ‘Right of the River ‘for peaceful co-existence. Example is the rivulet which drains into Godavari in Nasik city under Old Balaji Mandir situated on the banks since 400 years causing health hazard to pilgrims.
Aesthetic Desecration: This is serious matter and comes in the way of right of a river to exist in its natural form. A river can get desecrated to such an extent so that it looks like a gutter by compulsion and accepted as such by all residing on its bank with activities which continue to confer such degraded status onto it without impunity. At Dharavi in Mumbai the River Mithi has been systematically desecrated and considered as a gutter to throw away all garbage and waste material arising out of illegal industrial activities and which led to the massive floods in Mumbai during a cloudburst .This took lives of many unrelated citizens as a result of constriction, construction and dumping into the river.
The river repulsed the desecration by size of the draft and topology and swelled up submerging huge areas of North Mumbai and marooning life and property .Such reactions from the river is considered as acts of vengeance by the river. At such instances a river gets personified .This is gross injustice to personify a river when it poses grave threat to life and property surrounding it and then at other times to consider it as a dead entity and desecrate it with pollutants and violating its flow and form. Construction on the river so as to totally change its image to a five or seven star hotel or resort is a type of desecration and should be downright condemned .This is aesthetic desecration for a river is expected to look like a river and not housed in a manner so that it becomes a property .
Mining : A river is not for humans alone and hence mining activity should be halted immediately. Sand mining is very deleterious for charging water beds and hence forthright declared illegal and all licenses withdrawn. No mineral or metal mine located in the coastal zone of the river allowed to fill the state or corporate coffers.land,sand ,mineral, water ,flora, fauna is itself wealth in its natural form and exploitation of these for making someone rich is folly. Stone quarrying of marbles like in Bheda Ghat in Narmada should be stopped. It is gross destruction of natural heritage. All rivers are a natural heritage and a single stone taken from a river bed of river bank is robbery .If a Nation ravages its own river for feeding its masses then there is something grossly wrong with its monetary system which ought to be set right. Wealth made in such a way will have its own repercussions and create deficit eventually by Natural Justice. The cost of mining will be much high in long way due to degradation of environment and ecological loss which will be have to be paid with compound interest by posterity .
Murder : Desecration of a river by single or combined means as outlined above till no vestige is available to consider its existence is termed as murder o f the River. Capital punishment should be meted out to such parties who kill the river. River authorities should try such cases and River tribunals set up in global courts for sentencing of the offenders.
Nations and States were created by Man. Mountains were created by Gods. And Rivers were created by Gravity!
Post Script :
Post Script :
Vikramgad is a forest area in Jawhar District west of Nasik where one can approach via Eastern Express Highway from Mumbai Ahmedabad road or From Nasik via Trimbakeshwar or Via Khodala from Kasara. This is predominantly a Adivasi area and I have seen this area during my two visits once at Diwekar Wadi in Vikramgad proper and once at another resort .There is a dam named Dhamini Dam probably on River Dhamini .Now just as I posted my Blog on River a small news item appeared in Sakal today. There is a small village called Kunj which is inhabited by the Natives Adivasis who lost their land during construction of the Dam due to submergence. Now even when huge quantity of water is available in the Dam, the Adivasis are without water. It is reported that one politician from a party mediated and it is through his efforts the local beaureaucrat has assured to supply water from Bhatsa Canal No 1 by lifting water 100 feet so that the village can get supply by gravity. Now Bhatsa is to southeast of Dhamini and I am wondering how this is possible. The point is that these adivasis were deprived of water from the dam even in summer. Damming should be Damned and secondly why the obligation from the politician. It was a basic right of the Natives to get water but this remained a unmet need highlighting the water based politics in this country!!