GUWAHATI, May 7 � 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 like pipes!�
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 environmental flows.
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 other wetlands.