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Rivers, the arteries of our planet

by Rinku Khumukcham
0 comment 7 minutes read

By: N. Munal Meitei

World Rivers Day is celebrated on the 26th September, the fourth Sunday every year. It highlights many values of our rivers, strives to increase public awareness and encourages the improved stewardship of all rivers around the world.  Rivers form an integral part of the environment and they are vital for people and wildlife. So we need careful management of rivers because it’s our profound duty to take care of our rivers.
However, rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and increase in human population have caused tremendous damage to rivers. Also, there are many communities whose survival, livelihood and existence depend upon rivers. Rivers in every country face an array of threats, and this day promotes the active involvement of citizens to ensure the health of rivers in the years ahead. A new report states that just one third of the world’s rivers remained free-flowing rendering them more critical than ever.
Rivers carry water and nutrients to areas all around the earth. 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. Rivers provide excellent habitat and food for many of the earth’s organisms. Rivers provide humans with water to drink and fish to eat. Today in many countries rivers are used to produce hydro-electric power.
There is a lot of human activity that causes pollution and damage to a number of the world’s important waterways, and this is dangerous for the people who regularly use the rivers as a source of water and transport, as well as for the ecosystems they live in.
Flooding is the greatest risk for riverfront peoples. The risk of flooding increases significantly with rivers that have little or no flood control. The fallout from flooding could lead to extensive property damage and expensive, time-consuming repairs. But it’s true that rivers whose courses are virgin will never be flooded. Rivers connect the oceans, the valley and mountains as a linkage for biodiversity.
The rivers connect us. They have no political boundaries; no language and no culture but they can co-join different nations together on its courses. Thus rivers are part of a global movement to care for and protect-fiercely and unapologetically-our communities. The river acts as the prime role for the global biodiversity conservation and climate change.
You can go to enjoy the rivers and then you will really appreciate what needs to go on keeping the rivers clean and helping the local to keep a healthy river ecosystem.Walking along river banks and spending time in the natural space helps to reduce stress, anxiety and worry. 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.
Nearing to river also lowered heart and breathing rate and safe for better workouts. 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 body’s ability to absorb the oxygen. So people who reside near to rivers breathe deep and relax at home.
The second-longest river in Africa, theCongo River with 4,700 km is the world’s deepest river with 220 meters deep in some parts-too deep for light to penetrate. The cleanest rivers on earth are River Thames-London, Tara River-Bonsia-Herzegovina and the St. Croix River- Minnesota, North America. In India, the UmngotRiver in Meghalaya is undisputedly the cleanest river in Asia with its crystal clear water. The river is in the village of Mawlynnong in Meghalaya, which is touted as Asia’s cleanest village.
Saudi Arabia is the largest country while the Vatican City is the smallest which doesn’t have a river. Upper Neretva is the coldest river and6.4 km long,Shanay-Timpishka, a tributary of the Amazon River, is the hottest and only the boiling river on earth.
Rivers are a part of our communities. We cannot impart 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, our survival and for the future generations.
The significant key global river issues are the destruction in river courses,pollution, construction of dams and decline of fish populations. While dams are not always a factor in fishery decline, they can significantly impact the fish populations, river ecology and hydrology in upstream and downstream, affecting water quality, quantity and breeding grounds (Helland-Hansen et al., 1995).
The events of world river day include riverside cleanupssuch as litter clean or beach litter pick up, habitat restoration, nature walks, awareness programs, school projects, art displays, cycling, runs and parades. Citizens are encouraged to join the event in their own area and local rivers. Other different activities may include encouragements such as focus on the wildlife that lives in the rivers and enhancement of fish programs.A large number of communities depend upon fishing but the fish catches have been declined due to the high fishing pressure, use of chemicals, dynamiting, electro-fishing and the use of small-meshed nets.
It is a good idea to invite and involve the different organizations and gain local support in river conservation and we must get in touch with local clubs, business peoples, charity foundations, environmental groups and the government in river protection and conservation.
Now, many of the world’s rivers are endangered.  Pollution, deforestation in watersheds, water extraction, drought, dams and invasive aquatic species threaten the health and future of our rivers. Some of the worst impacts of climate change on both people and ecosystems will be felt through its impacts on water. Minimizing the impacts of climate change will require diversifying away from dependence on rivers for electricity generation and flood control.
Water security in a warming world will require the major improvements in water-use efficiency and in techniques such as rainwater harvesting and improvedgroundwater management and use ofearth-friendly body products and biodegradable cleaning products. After all, the chemicals all get washed down the drain, which means they end up going back into our rivers. Other tips include turning your tap off while you are brushing your teeth, timing your showers, and keeping a full load when you are using your dishwasher or your washing machine. Making such a small change in our habit can make a massive difference for the environment.
Around the world, climate change is melting glaciers that feed major rivers, contributing to drought-induced hydroelectricity blackouts and threatening the water supply and river resources of billions of people. Besides heavy rain and discharge, the urban and rural encroachments in the river basin – including infrastructure such as railway lines, expressway and other roads – played a negative role in creating bottlenecks, which exacerbated the floods to the tune of 20%. The need is for better infrastructural planning in the floodplain instead of encroaching and building on the wetlands and lakes that are a natural sponge for floodwaters.
We appreciate and aim to create a world where people not only have control over their lives, lands and waters, but where they can participate in protection and renewal of the precious rivers that sustain their lives and the climate.In a world where many of our rivers and their surrounding communities and ecosystems are struggling, threatened by multiple impacts of overpopulation, pollution, plastics, climate change and ineffective governance, itshould be our topmost priority on conservation and protection of our rivers for the sake ofmother earth and the future generations.
(The writer is Environmentalist; email- [email protected])

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