Let the Rivers Flow
Rivers are meant to carry water and maintain a continuous flow throughout the year to sustain the riparian systems. For decades, state governments in India have fought for equal or enough share of river water and the ministry of water resources have toiled really hard to allocate appropriate share of river water to every state. However, one vital thing that everyone forgot or neglected in the process was that ‘rivers too need water to sustain’! Environmental Flow or e-flow is extremely important to maintain water levels of a river and keep it flowing throughout the year.
Planning pertaining to the distribution of water resources was always concerned about the total use of river water. Every drop of water from the rivers was up for distribution and in the process the rivers were left high and dry. This faulty water distribution policy has had a huge negative impact on rivers like the Ranganadi River in Andhra Pradesh (AP) and Narmada, which remain dry for a major part of the year. There are several other rivers which either has become stagnant, dead or dry while impacting the entire ecosystem and riparian communities.
The problem has been recently acknowledged in a three member committee report by India’s Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation (MoWR, RD & GR). The report is titled as the “Assessment of E-Flows” and there are several significant recommendations. There are several important points cited in the report and it recognizes the significant characteristics of environmental flow. E-flow is not just concerned with maintaining minimum water level in the rivers but also takes into consideration of the variation in flow. The variation in flow is needed to sustain the different functions and roles performed by the rivers.
Better implementation of Environmental Flow can be ensured when the Brisbane Declaration is adopted in principle by the government and Ministry of water resources.