World River Day and our environment

N Munal Meitei
“Rivers are the arteries of our planet,” Mark Angelo
World river day is celebrated on 4th Sunday, the 25th September, 2022 and this year’s theme is, “Importance of river for biodiversity”. Now everyone should join hands to strengthen the movement for rivers, water and its biodiversity. Together, we can raise our voices to focus on the urgent needs and threats faced by our rivers and stand for hope and solidarity to find out solutions to protect our rivers.
Every river is unique in terms of its flow patterns, the landscapes, the species it supports and on its associated ecosystems. Rivers have no political boundaries; they connect the different Nations together along its entire course having different language, culture and religions as a loving mother. Thus rivers are part of a global peace and protect-fiercely and unapologetically- our communities. Rivers are the most beautiful objects seen from the outer space.
Rivers are a part of our community. We cannot segregate our local river systems without ultimately impacting our own health and well-being. These issues are not solely river issues; they are issues for human communities and for the future generations.
Rivers in every country face an array of threats, and only our active involvement will ensure their health in the years ahead. Most of the rivers in Indian cities have changed their dresses with plastics. We are reminded of the rivers as the world’s most pristine, scenic and free-flowing streams. Many of the world’s rivers are endangered with rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and increase in human pollution, deforestation in catchments, water extraction, drought, dams and invasive aquatic species.
Rivers form an integral part of our environment and they are vital for people and wildlife. Also, there are many communities whose survival, livelihood and existence depend upon rivers. A new report states that just one third of the world’s rivers remain free-flowing rendering it more critical than ever.
Rivers connect the oceans, valley and mountains as a linkage for the biodiversity. They play a very important role in the water cycle, acting as drainage channels for surface water. Rivers drain nearly 75% of the earth's land surface and provide excellent habitat and food for many of the earth's organisms. It’s axiomatic that rivers whose courses are in virgin state will never be flooded.
Walking along river banks and spending time in the natural space helps to reduce stress, anxiety, worry and also lowers heart and breathing rate. The added benefit of living by a river is the air surrounding the water contains added oxygen and moisture as well as a large dose of negative ions that increase our serotonin to absorb the oxygen. Rivers play a crucial role in our well-being, happiness and physical and mental health. Research has shown that being in and near the river or water can provide a long list of benefits for our mind and body, increasing an overall sense of well-being and happiness.
In Manipur, Imphal river basin occupies 28.4%, Barak valley 40.5% and Eastern catchment drain to Chindwin 31.1% with many river systems and their tributaries. The scintillating rivers of Manipur make an important part of our topography. We may call Manipur a land of many rivers and the beauties of these streams adorn the State even more. Some of the rivers in Manipur also form the natural boundaries both domestic and international. Rivers in Manipur are also an important source of food, irrigation and with a hub of adventure sports like whitewater river rafting. Rivers are considered sacred by the people of Manipur. Hence, if we have any pride of being a Manipuri, then we should not throw any wastes, dirt and plastics into our rivers, otherwise our river will be choked.
Among the rivers in Manipur, the Barak River and Manipur River are most popular. Manipur River has many major rivers with its tributaries like Iril River, Thoubal River, Sekmai River and Khuga River etc. The Ithai barrage is really a stump block except for Chakpi river to bring a big change in our aquatic biodiversity. Almost 18 fish species which need saline water life cycle have been extinct from our soil due to the dam. When a river is dammed, one of the most obvious changes is the disruption to “Environmental flows.” Environmental flows can restore to improve water quality, sediment deposition, addressing the life-cycle needs of fish and wildlife and restoring the livelihoods of river-based communities.
One of the distresses for Manipur is there is no snowfed river which can neutralise any extreme conditions like prolonged droght. Pollution contiues to dog many of our rivers, most notably Nambul and other rivers from the discharge, due to urban and rural encroachments on the river bank – including infrastructure such as latrines, pig sheds, buildings, roads, other business facilities with plastics,
(To be contd)