Himmotthan Society: How do we see our rivers as? Are they merely conduits for water that is to be used to its fullest extent? Or are they valued and revered ecosystems?
The Himmotthan Society, India with International Rivers, U.S.A. and WWF-India aimed to answer these questions by organizing a workshop on ‘Environmental Flows’ with the representation of over 50 participants from 20 national and international organizations at Dehradun, India.
Malavika Chauhan, Executive Director of Himmotthan Society, welcomed the participants by introducing the objectives of the workshop in understanding the science and politics of ‘e-flows’ used in environmental decision making for rivers in Indian Himalayan region.
Samir Mehta of International Rivers talked about the concept of e-flow and said that it becomes important to understand a major concept being used in current environmental decision-making on rivers in the countries called ‘Environmental Flows’ or ‘E-Flows’. He explained that while there are a range of definitions of E-Flows, the Brisbane Declaration 2007 defines them as: ‘Environmental Flows describe the quantity, quality and timing of water flows required to sustain freshwater and estuarine ecosystems and the human livelihoods and well-being that depend on these ecosystems.’
Ravi Chopra of PSI India gave an overview and history of the environmental flows in the rivers and the ways and means to conserve them. A Primer on ‘What, Why and How of environmental flows’, as authored by Latha Anantha of River Research Centre, and Parineeta Dandekar of SANDRP was also shared with the participants. The report talks about the necessity of environmental flows, considering the cumulative aspect in river planning and various environmental flow assessment methods in practice in India, with specific suggestions on the free-flowing rivers and controlled river management systems.
Himanshu Thakkar explained about the cumulative impact of a stretch of dams much higher than single dam, which in general is not considered, and the process followed at present is inadequate to address the environmental impact issues. Bharat Jhunjhunwala’s deliberation was on the cumulative impact assessment of aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity in upper reaches of Ganges as done by Wild Life Institute of India, through which he explained the difference between a right kind of cumulative impact assessment and the process agencies follow at present. An environmental flows assessment done in the upper reaches of Ganges was also shared by a team of WWF India.
It was also mentioned that rivers in the Himalayas and Peninsular India are in a very bad shape due to massive human interventions over the years. Many of the rivers have either stopped flowing to the seas or the outfall into the sea has dropped drastically over the years. Deforestation, dams and diversions, pollution and over abstraction can be cited as the main causes of such drastic reduction in flow of these rivers.
The speakers also explained the concept of e-flows. It was said that the e-flows assessment has now become a mandatory part of the Terms of Reference (ToR) for cumulative impact assessment of hydro electric projects across India. In order for us to make informed-choices about whether and how (on what terms) to engage with ‘E-Flows’ issues with respect to existing and proposed interventions on our rivers, it is important to understand the science and politics of ‘e-Flows’. Some of the important issues include: the concept, need, objectives and modalities of environmental flows; understanding diverse methodologies; who all should be part of the assessment, implementation and monitoring; what are the negotiable and non-negotiable while assessing flows; and risks associated with current implementation in the country.
This workshop had series of discussions on the concept of environmental flow, its necessity, the mechanics of assessment, policy needs and the action areas to actively engage the citizens in the discourse of advocating for a just and transparent process of environmental flow assessment in the rivers of India.
Press release: Himmotthan Society, Dehradun, India
Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on the mountain and climate related issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last two years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>