Cleaning Indian rivers has been a major issue that our country has been grappling with for many years. Despite cleaning of rivers being a major agenda for the Government, there is a significant decline in water quality – arising from growing population, increasing urbanisation and industrial growth, which needs to be tackled with expertise.
Against this backdrop and with an aim to address the foremost challenges in water resource management, Coca-Cola and TERI University organised a ialogue on ‘Cleaning of India’s Rivers – Design of Participatory Approaches’. The symposium brought together key stakeholders to deliberate on a collaborative approach in the area of cleaning Indian rivers.
Delivering her address, Uma Bharti, Union Minister for Water Resources, said, “We need to analyse why rivers, that were unpolluted for thousands of years, have suddenly become severely polluted during the past 40-50 years. Today, even animals cannot take a dip in the waters. We need a judicious mix of knowledge from global and national best practices to clean up our rivers. The most important task is to ensure minimum biological flow of the river. Even treated water should not be allowed to flow into the river.”
She added, “We need a participatory approach from various stakeholders, including industries, to make cleaning the Ganga a success. The industry needs to realise that if rivers die, the industries would die too. It is easy to dwell on the problems, but difficult to come up with solutions, or even to know where to start.”
Dr RK Pachauri, Director General, The Energy and Research Institute, said, “India’s rivers are polluted to an extent that does not allow any life to survive in them. The result is not only widespread economic loss, but also the spread of disease on account of pollutants, toxic waste and disease carrying organisms being transported by our rivers. For this reason, Government of India is placing emphasis on cleaning of the country’s rivers. However, success in this regard would involve not merely action by the Government, but the involvement of all stakeholders, ensuring participatory action by all.”
Speaking on the occasion, Venkatesh Kini, president, Coca-Cola India and South-West Asia, said, “The National Water Policy states that the lack of adequate trained personnel for scientific planning, utilising modern techniques and analytical capabilities incorporating information technology constrains good water management. It is here that the Coca-Cola Department of Water Studies can help the Government’s plans on holistic water management. Also, as we move towards making India the growth engine of Asia and bring about well-rounded development, we will need some very innovative approaches to water management. This will include efficiency in water usage projects as also ways to provide access to clean water at low costs and with minimum ;wastage. We are hoping that this department will generate enough intellectual capital to cater to the needs of a modern India”
“TERI University is preparing its students to provide systemic solutions to the critical sustainability challenges that we face today. We have spent an enormous amount of time and resources in trying to clean our rivers unsuccessfully. While large-scale, centralised technological solutions are undoubtedly important, they are obviously not sufficient to deal with a complex river system – avoidance has to be invested in as much as treatment and decentralised solutions have to be part of the package of measures. And&nb sp;for this, we need proper policies, regulations and incentives to engage people in both water conservation and protection,” Dr Leena Srivastava, Vice Chancellor, TERI University, said.
The Dialogue marked the formal beginning of The Coca-Cola Department of Water Studies with 21 students joining the various courses in the first year.
The Coca-Cola Foundation, Coca-Cola India and TERI University have collaborated to launch the Coca-Cola Department of Regional Water Studies for Master’s level programme on Water Science and Governance. The Department aims to develop a globally competitive cadre of young water management professionals, scientifically manage water resources in the country with the help of research, development and new technologies, as well as build capability for various stakeholders who can influence policy and implement research effectively.