By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: India’s rivers are dying with decreased discharge
into the sea. The reduced outflows into the sea have led to untold
damage to the fragile ecology and biodiversity of the Indian river
Environment experts attending the 11th Conference of Parties (COP) to
the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity warn that India
will lose its mega biodiversity tag if the river systems were not
Himanshu Thakkar and Parineeta Dandekar of the South Asia Network on
Dams, Rivers and People and other activists point out that dams, both
big and small, had upset the life forms living in the fresh water
ecology. They quote the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute,
which says that there is 30 per cent reduction in nutrients reaching
the sea in the last 50 years. And this is attributed to the
obstruction of free flow of rivers in the form of dams.
“India is considered a mega diverse country in the context of
freshwater biodiversity. New freshwater species continue to be
discovered at a rapid rate. Also, millions of people depend on the
riverine biodiversity and rivers for their needs and livelihoods.
Hundreds of community conserved fish reserves exist across the
country,” they said adding that this riverine ecology is fast eroding
Hundreds of small and mega dams are being built or proposed to be
built on nearly all rivers, blocking their free flow, tunneling their
waters almost through the entire length. It is destroying the fresh
water diversity, they said adding that the threats from hydropower
projects are so serious that “free flowing, biodiversity rich rivers
are today India’s most threatened species”.
“None of the conservation laws have been of much help for rivers and
related biodiversity. There has not been any credible
enviro-socio-cultural impact assessment of hydro-projects, considering
riverine biodiversity,” they pointed out.
Most of those impacted upstream and downstream, particularly if not in
direct submergence zone, are not even considered as areas affected or
project affected for compensation or rehabilitation, leave aside
participatory decision making or benefit sharing.
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