Rivers and the International Day of Action for Rivers

Vimal Bhai, River Activist in Uttarakhand state of India
Domkhedi, Maharashtra, September 21, 1999
Domkhedi, Maharashtra, September 21, 1999
Harikrishna Deepa Jani

Nature has a unique way of generating water. Tiny droplets of moisture emerge from the clouds and fall across hills and plains, all over the earth and concentrated flows of these take the form of rivers. A river imbibes various elements of nature in herself and is both a giver and recipient of life. Every river emerges out of nature’s lap and sustains the existence of all life forms on earth. The human is only one of these many million forms of life.

Every river flows not just with a current but also has a rhythm, a symphony unique to itself. A flowing river speaks to us. She flows with a grace and grandeur unparalleled in nature. Making her way through hills and plains, and encountering boulders and criss-crossing boundaries, she charts her own trajectory, embracing the plains and making her way through narrow paths. The Himalayan River Basin is symbolic of a river and her diverse forms, be it the Ganga, Bharamaputra or Pinder.

Rivers sustain our life. But what is it that we have given back to these rivers? Besides contributing to pollution, damming rivers, literally killing the riverine ecosystem bit by bit in the name of the generation of electricity, domestic industrial and urban use etc. Every river is an ecosystem in herself and we have successfully managed to ruin these life sustaining ecosystems. Our uni-dimensional development paradigm has sounded the death-knell of rivers. We are collectively culpable of hydrocide.

A river must flow freely and fearlessly. She should have the freedom to choose her natural path and form. Those few of us who believe so and connect our self with the rivers, mark the International Rivers Day to celebrate ‘rivers and life’. It is indispensable for us to realise the inextricable bondage between a river and various forms of life (including humans). Just as we all have a right to live, every river also has a right to live its life. For a lifetime.

International Rivers Day is not and should not be reduced to mere symbolism, but should truly build respect for the voice and vision of a river. The struggle against the cascade of dams on rivers, deleterious pollution, unregulated sand mining or indiscriminate felling of trees and forests are all part of the struggle to save Rivers and Life. Without changing our lifestyle and developmental paradigm, any celebration of the International Rivers Day would be a mere teasing illusion. Our various struggles are for conservation and truly sustainable development of our rivers. We can garner confidence from the fact that every one of our struggles to save rivers and nature will be acknowledged and supported by nature itself.        

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Thursday, March 10, 2016