With most sources of water pollution traced to urban areas, there is a need for nature-based solutions and better planning in cities to tackle the issue in metropolitan areas, said experts at the 2021 edition of the World Resources Institute (WRI’s) annual flagship event, Connect Karo, on Friday.
The experts also highlighted the need to secure urban riverfronts and critical ecological and social challenges along these sensitive zones, mainly due to rapid urbanisation, pollution and extreme weather events driven by climate change.
The event also saw the launch of a book, titled ‘Guidance Note for Environmentally Sensitive, Climate Adaptive and Socially Inclusive Urban Riverfront Planning and Development’, by WRI-India for conserving the river Ganga under the Union government’s ‘Namami Gange’ project.
Launching the book, Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, director-general, National Mission for Clean Ganga, said in his keynote address that water restoration is required in all its forms, be it for rivers, groundwater, rainwater or other small water bodies.
“This book is a pathway to look at urban riverfronts as social spaces and thriving ecosystems…,” said Mishra.
He added that cities need to combat climate crisis by adopting various water conservation strategies. “People are the most important part, therefore connecting them with water is key. Several initiatives such as friends of river/wetlands/science club etc are being established. By providing amenities, promoting a sense of ownership for riverfronts and ghats, these can become pleasant spaces,” he said.
Experts said that ecological and environmental heritage are as important as the city’s heritage.
“The current riverfront development plans are more focused on built environment and potential economic benefits. There are limited considerations of social, hydrological and ecological impacts. The objective of the guideline is to act as an appraisal tool to support decision-making, inform about environmentally sensitive, climate adaptive and socially inclusive riverfront developments,” said Samrat Basak, director, Urban Water, WRI-India.
Also, experts highlighted the need for a fundamental change in managing water and rejuvenating landscapes, beginning at the top of catchments areas.
Victor Shinde, lead, water and environment, National Institute of Urban Affairs, said that sustainable economic development cannot happen without integrating rivers to the city’s planning. “Water is the primary medium through which climate crisis manifests its impacts. Urban rivers have a strong role to play in this,” said Shinde.