From harboring some of our earliest civilizations to being rewarded the status of a living entity, rivers have been an integral part of the human narrative. Our rivers also harbor an astonishing amount of biodiversity - 25% of all the known vertebrates which includes 10,000 species of freshwater fish. Yet, only a tiny 3% of the earth's surface water exists in the form of rivers. From its origins, in the form of ephemeral rivulets, till it joins the sea - the river is a dynamic system, much like a fabric in time and space. Rivers continuously interact with the channel which carries it, transporting nutrients between the land and the sea, providing various eco-system services along its course. However, it is this very fabric that has been constantly perturbed by the ever-growing human use, or the misuse of it. The human dependency on rivers has severely impeded their flow, often by the construction of dams and reservoirs for societal benefits. Although such benefits are deemed necessary, our exploitation of rivers have fundamentally changed the way they flow with devastating impacts on the aquatic biota which is sustained by the rivers, on the forests where they originate, and on the people who depend on it for their livelihood.
This talk will throw light on the importance of free-flowing rivers, socio-ecological impacts of flow alteration and other emerging issues that threaten our rivers. Using the case of burgeoning small hydro-power project (SHP) on the rivers of Western Ghats in Karnataka, the talk will further instantiate the ecological issues associated with reckless and unregulated hydro-power development. Lastly, the talk will touch upon some science-based policy suggestions which are imperative for the conservation of the riverine ecology and its sustainable human use.
About the speaker:
Suman Jumani is a Senior Research Fellow with the Foundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy and Learning (FERAL), Bangalore, India. Her research interests include freshwater ecology, with a focus on applied interdisciplinary research. Her current research involves assessing the socio-ecological impacts of small hydropower projects in the Western Ghats, India