Environmental flows within river basins

Evolving Criteria and Institutional Framework for Environmental Flows in River Basin Planning
“The health of our rivers is the principle measure of how we live on land”- Luna Leopold. It is a shame that the present health of our rivers shows that most of them are over exploited and have degraded to a point that a few of them have even stopped flowing. There is a need to look at the river in a comprehensive bio-geo-hydro-socio-cultural –ecological basin framework embedded into thinking and planning of river water use. The present study is an attempt to develop an institutional framework for river basin planning and management in order to meet the basic needs, livelihood and ecological needs, by keeping dams and environmental flows as centre stage. The major objectives of the study are:

  • Development of important principles and modalities for evolving an inclusive, participatory, bottom up approach for river basin planning.
  • Development of important criteria/ indicators for allocation of environmental flows based on multi-stakeholder process.
  • Recommend policy, institutional and river basin management framework within the Indian context.

The study is being conducted in the Hasdeo- Mahanadi river basin and the activities that would be carried out to achieve and/ or support the objectives are summarized as follows:

  • Assessment of the ground situation through field visits and community consultations: A preliminary study of the Hasdeo-Mahanadi river basin was carried out by intern Prerna Prasad and a report of her study titled ‘Hasdeo-Mahanadi Sub-Basin report’ (ADD THE LINK in the intern resource section) was submitted to the Forum.
  • Comprehensive review of methodologies and indicators used for environmental flow assessment across the world and their application to Indian context.
  • Review of the literature and secondary data and information available on the basin. Carry out an in-depth situation analysis for river basin planning and implementation of environmental flows.
  • Organize multi stakeholder meetings initiated through appropriate river basin level organizations/groups to evolve modalities and criteria/ indicators for the framework of RBP, keeping dams and environmental flows at the centre stage.
  • Explore the policy and legal and institutional framework that will best suited for river basin planning in India.
  • Present the research work to the concerned ministries and institutions for consensus building.
  • Present the framework to the stakeholders in the basin for consensus building towards implementation and adaptation.

The research work will be documented from time to time and the major outputs of the study would be:

  • Detailed report of River Basin Planning with focus on Dams and Environmental Flows
  • One river basin report/ handbook based on multi stakeholder meetings that can be used by the basin groups and others concerned for dissemination and policy advocacy in their state
  • Policy brief on environmental flows within basin planning framework which will be used for advocacy with the State and Central Ministries/ other institutions.
  • One national and one basin  level workshop for dissemination and consensus building