Experts call for a National River Policy

Participants of the International Conference on Rivers for Future (RFF-2020) held in the city has urged the Central government to put in place a National River Policy, introduce ‘health cards’ for rivers, and focus on integrated river and wetland development.

RFF-2020 was organised at Karyavattom earlier this month by the Department of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries of the University of Kerala in association with the Centre for Innovation in Science and Social Action (CISSA).

The conference recommended Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu to establish State-level River, Biodiversity and Climate Interpretation Centres (RBCIC) for initiating awareness programmes, conducting surveys, and monitoring rivers and wetlands with the participation of the civil society.

In the era of climate change when dependence on rivers was only going to increase, there should be a master plan for river restoration for individual rivers, participants of the conference said.


A National River Policy is important in this context, as rivers face ever-increasing threats related to carrying capacity, dams, decline in water quality, non-perenniality and overexploitation of river resources, and degradation of riverine features such as flood plains and wetlands.

The policy should incorporate, among other things, concepts such as the right for existence of the river, sand auditing and river bank mapping, creation of green buffer zones along river margins, and geo-spatial mapping of rivers, watersheds, and floodplains, it said.

It should also incorporate ‘health cards’ for individual rivers, decentralised watershed development plans and ecosystem-based integrated river restoration programmes with the participation of all stakeholders.

The conference also wants river festivals and a National River Day to be part of the policy.

“This ecosystem approach places river restoration within the wider context of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) and sees river basins as Sources (upland water gathering grounds and the origins of floods), Pathways (rivers and floodplains) and Receptors (downstream communities impacted by flooding and pollution),” RFF-2020 organisers said in a statement.

Water flow patterns, annual sedimentation and carrying capacity of reservoirs should be assessed periodically along the Western Ghats, the conference demanded.

“Further, the lateral connectivity of the rivers with wetlands should be reinstated, and the wetlands along the watersheds and flood plains should be reclaimed, besides creating artificial wetlands to receive flood waters and managing flood,” it said.

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 8:38:00 PM |

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