Study on 'environmental flows' of rivers must
GUWAHATI, May 7, 2012
Ignoring the crucial linkages of a river's upstream, midstream, and
downstream flows can endanger not just the river, but human communities
and ecology sustained by it. A disregard of 'environmental flows,' by
construction of dams, has already harmed many rivers in the Western
Ghats, giving rise to political as well as environmental issues.
This was emphasized by noted expert on water resources, Latha Anantha of
the River Research Centre, Kerala, in a workshop held at Guwahati yesterday.
Presenting a Primer on Environmental Flows, which she had co-authored
with Parineeta Dandekar, she said, 'There is need to study the
environmental flows of rivers in the North East, before they endure the
impact of dams and closure of basins… as dams are the direct and often
irreversible modifiers of flows.'
With reference to the scenario in Western Ghats, the environmentalist
said that dams on some rivers have adversely affected the ecology and
agricultural prospects of many communities. It has also resulted in
conflict of interest among states such as Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and
Kerala, which have seen no resolution for decades.
On the proposed interlinking of Indian rivers, she criticised the plan
describing it as 'tweaking' it with nature. 'Who are we to twist rivers
Anantha, from her experience in peninsular India, pointed out that many
dams have witnessed siltation. Moreover, in the Himalayan rivers such as
Bhagirathi, the effects are much more telling – the Tehri dam had
substantial silt accumulation after a two-year period.
According to her, disruptions in river flows due to human intervention
affected not just ecological, morphological and hydrological spaces, but
also undermined economic, spiritual and cultural values related to
rivers. Therefore, a concerted effort involving technical experts and
local communities was needed to ensure that rivers can maintain their
Inaugurating the workshop on environmental flows organised by the
conservation group Aaranyak and River Research Centre, with support from
International Rivers, Prof Dulal Goswami said that the concept of
environmental flows has gained more relevance in recent times. Its
application could bring in better understanding about some of the major
rivers in the Northeast.
Other participants who took part in an open house session mentioned the
threats to several rivers in the Northeast, and agreed that increased
community involvement was required to shape the policy on rivers and
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