When a person hears any reference to the word ‘endangered’, birds and animals are the obvious names that pop up in one’s mind. But in reality, the most endangered in India are not the flora or fauna but the rivers.
Indian rivers are facing a major threat from encroachment, pollution, deforestation and corporate practices. The massive construction of dams and hydro-electric projects on the river banks have led to lethal outcomes for not just the free flowing, biodiversity-rich rivers, but also the aquatic life and communities dependent on these rivers for their livelihood.
To discuss the role of the convention in conservation of these rivers and biodiversity dependent on it, the South Asian Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) held a panel discussion to raise its voice and call for government’s attention. “Even after building so many dams, nationally, there has been no increase in the net irrigation area. The government of India conducted a survey and an estimated 17.71 million hectares has been calculated as the net irrigated area in 2010. Since then, there has been no increase in this figure,” Himanshu Thakkar from SANDRP explained. He also said that about 35-40 per cent of power was lost in transmission of energy.
Hitting out at the UN, Himanshu said the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) through its Clean Development Mechanism provided carbon credits to projects in developing countries. “It is promoting something that is against conservation of biodiversity in some areas,” he quipped.
Nachiket Kelkar from the Nature Conservation Foundation discussed effect of dam construction on rivers, that leads to huge changes in the aquatic habitat. “There has been a steady decline in the number of species and a lot of them have shifted their place of habitat due to the constructions,” he said.
One of the founders of Kalpavriksh Ashish Kothari said, “I think governance should start at the local level. Structures and functions of the ecosystem should be maintained, there should be more social and cultural impact assessment and involvement of indigenous people in income procedures and impact assessment.”
So how can CBD help? “Role of CBD is perhaps something even we are looking at. We have three questions to the Convention. ”