Rejuvenating the Mumbai Rivers

River March, InHAF, NEERI, in conjunction with Maharashtra Nature Park, unveiled RiVERse- A WORKSHOP & EXHIBITION on revival and Nurturement  of Mumbai Rivers & Water Bodies in the heart of the Maharashtra Nature Park in Dharavi, on 29-30 January 2016. Established by a group of citizens who intend to rehabilitate the Environment in Mumbai, River March is a community collective of individuals and organizations working towards a common goal of rejuvenation of Rivers of Mumbai having been active in the area around Dahisar river since July 2011.

A not for profit event organized through voluntary participation and contributions from individuals and organization believing in the cause, the event intended to engage and involve all the stakeholders- communities (Societies, Urban Villages, Informal settlements); Management of Social Infrastructure (Schools, Hospitals, etc.); commercial establishments and enterprises (washer men, tabelas, etc.); related departments of MGMC, MMRDA and the state and central departments and the Elected Representatives and Community leaders.

Inaugurated by Dr. Rajendra Singh, Jal Biradri; Keerti Shah (InHAF) and Avinash Kubal, Director- Maharashtra Nature Park, the event focused on the revitalization of the four rivers of Mumbai, viz., Dahisar River, Oshiwara River, Mithi River and Poisar River (unfortunately known as Nallahs today, owing to the unplanned human encroachment). Ms. Kimaya Keluskar, an Environmental Architect of Water Environs presented, while Mr. Chandan Mohanty a Bioremediation professional on threw emphasis on the subject of waste water treatment. The event witnessed participation form Students of SP Jain college of Engineering presenting operatives of phyto-remediation as also students of KRVIA showcasing a thought prooking film on stakeholders of the Dahisar River. A concerned Senior Citizen and photographer Mr. Anand Udeshi presented a documentary on Dahisar River by River March.

Exhibiting pictures and demonstrations, RIVERse highlighted facts about the challenges of the urban rivers with a presentation of the conditions of rivers four decades ago, as against their prevailing condition. During the 1960s, these river waters were not only potable and fit for domestic consumption, but also inhabited biodiversity and possessed an aesthetic charm. Conversely, these rivers called Nallahs are popularly synonymous with silt, sewage, stench and a breeding ground for diseases, thereby perceived as a threat to human habitats in Mumbai.

In the process of urbanization the mangrove forests, rivers, and wetland systems (NATURE) that protected the coastal suburbs from high monsoon tides and floods were compromised, leaving the city vulnerable to tidal waves, floods, erosions and the consequent rise in sea level. Sea levels are rising due to climate change. According to the World Bank, Mumbai ranks as one of the most vulnerable cities to sea level rise in the world – fifth in terms of overall cost of damage and seventh in terms of damage measured as percentage of GDP. Deforesting wetlands has made the city vulnerable to tidal surge, causing storm water drains to overflow back into the city during high tide, thereby giving roots to diseases like Malaria and Dengue.

Throwing light on the significance of the River March movement, Dr. Rajendra Singh India’s waterman and winner of the 2015 Stockholm Water Prize said, “We will have to have a dialogue with everyone and involve all the stakeholders, including local politicians the civic body officials as well as people who are involved in activities leading to pollution of the river and the residents of the area where the river flows. This will help in ensuring that the rejuvenation work is carried in a proper manner and the civic body does not simply end up constructing concrete walls on the sides and convert the river into a nalla.”

“ Rivers across India and also elsewhere in the world are seen getting polluted as soon as they enter the human habitations i. e. Urban Areas or Cities. Rivers in Mumbai like Dahisar, Poinsar, Oshivara or Mithi are also no exception. Dying of rivers creates many issues including health hazard for people living around it. River Rejuvenation, as in case of Dahisar River, which is initiated by the citizens under the leadership of Waterman of India Dr Rajendra Singhji, is a beginning of one such positive initiative. Awareness generated through such initiative shall provoke the thought process in the mind of masses to take action for the need of a River Rejuvenation, particularly in the urban areas.” , added Avinash Kubal.

“Our objective is to spread awareness about Rivers, their condition & it’s consequences, aiming at River & River Front Restoration”, said a River Marcher. “We are striving for our larger goal of enabling the flow of fresh water in Mumbai Rivers, coupled with the growth Flora and Fauna which will encourage Recreational activities at River front, give life to water-beings, thereby providing sustainable ecology for the present and future generations, “ added another River Marcher.

River March envisages the rejuvenation of Rivers in India as rich, healthy with clean flowing water free of pollutants as they once were.

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