By - N. Munal Meitei
“Rivers are the arteries of our planet; they are lifelines in the truest sense.” this is the word by the founder of world river day, Mark Angelo.
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 treat different nations with various people having different language, culture and religions as loving mother along its entire course. Rivers are the most beautiful objects seen from the outer space.
In 2005, the United Nations launched the “Water for life decade” to create a greater awareness and care for our water resources. With this, the World Rivers Day was started in a proposal initiated by internationally renowned river advocate, Mark Angelo, a Canadian conservationist.
World river day is celebrated 4th Sunday of September and in India we are celebrating on last Sunday, the 29th September, 2019. Now everyone should join hand to strengthen the movement for rivers and water. Together, we have to raise our voices to bring the attention to the urgent needs and threats facing with our rivers, and stood for hope and solidarity as we are to find the solutions to protect our rivers.
Rivers are a part of our communities. We cannot impact 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.
World Rivers Day highlights many values of rivers and strives to increase public awareness and hopefully encourage the improved stewardship of rivers around the world. 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. With celebration of World Rivers Day, it encourage us to come out and participate to make the rivers as the world’s most pristine, scenic, and free-flowing streams.
Many of the world’s rivers are endangered. Pollution, deforestation in catchments, water extraction, drought, dams and invasive aquatic species threaten the health and future of our rivers.
In Manipur basin, Imphal river valley occupies 28.4%, Barak valley 40.5% and Eastern catchment drain to Chindwin 31.1% with many river systems and their tributaries. The scintillating rivers of Manipur make 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 electricity along with a hub of adventure sports like whitewater river rafting.
Rivers have served as socio-economic-political lifeline of Manipur and Rivers were used strategically as the boundaries by the then kings of Manipur. 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.
Amongst the rivers in Manipur, the Barak River and Manipur River are most popular. Manipur River has many major rivers with its tributaries like Imphal River, Iril River, Thoubal River, Sengmai River and Kuga River etc. The Ithai barrage is really a very important point of talk for bring a big change in all our aquatic Biodiversity. Almost all the fishes which are 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 the amount and timing of its flow. “Environmental flows” is a system for managing the quantity, timing, and quality of water flows below a dam, with the goal of sustaining freshwater and estuarine ecosystems and the human livelihoods that depend on them. Environmental flows can restore to improve water quality, sediment deposition, addressing the life-cycle needed of fish and wildlife, and restoring the livelihoods of river-based communities.
In a candid concession, besides heavy rain and discharge, the urban and rural encroachments in the river basin – including infrastructure such as buildings, roads, expressways and other business facilities, played a negative role in creating bottlenecks, which exacerbated the floods to the tune of 15 to 20%. Nambul and many other rivers in our state are also facing the same acute problems. It is therefore emphasizes the need for better infrastructural planning in the floodplain instead of encroaching and building on the river banks which are 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 to 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. And the flow of freshwater to estuaries prevents saline intrusion into coastal aquifers. 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. We cannot do without the goods and services that aquatic ecosystems provide, and we cannot replicate them. Protecting our rivers is therefore the health insurance policy for all of us.
A river is much more than the flowing water. Its ever-shifting bed and banks, the groundwater below, its surrounding forests, marshes and floodplain are all parts of river life. A river carries not just water, but more importantly nutrient-rich sediments and dissolved minerals that replenish the land. The river’s estuary, where fresh water mixes with the ocean’s salt, is one of the most biologically productive parts of the river – 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. As Richard Bangs, wrote in his book River Gods, “Wild rivers are earth’s renegades, defying gravity, dancing to their own tunes, resisting the authority of humans, always chipping away, and eventually always winning.” We all win when rivers are allowed to flow freely.
Now, almost all the Rivers of the world are under threat and thus celebration of World Rivers Day has the immense meanings. Our development is moving fast, the population is exploding, pollutions are maximizing, climate change 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 all Rivers on earth to death. 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 objectives of World Rivers Day, celebration, “Join in and celebrate a river near you,” let’s ensure that everyone is aware of the importance of river stewardship and let’s promise not to do any harm, threat and endanger to our Rivers from today onwards for the sack of future generations.