State of Rivers in Assam:Challenges & Need of Sustainable Management for Ecological& Human Wellbeing

By Dr. Partha Jyoti Das

Rivers should not be considered only as a water carrying channel meant for optimum exploitation for hydropower, irrigation and navigation. We must change our attitude towards rivers as a resource meant only to be exploited for economic benefit...

The Brahmaputra near Guwahati.

Photo: Udayan Borthakur

Why are rivers important?

Rivers are natural water ways that carry flowing water and sediment, form floodplains, make valleys, gorges and deltas before merging with seas and oceans. Rivers are a part of the natural hydrological cycle and they act as conduits for driving global bio-geo-chemical cycles. Rivers act as drainage channels to carry and distribute water, sediment and nutrients to the valleys. Deltas are formed and maintained by sediment delivered by rivers. River deltas are among the most important agricultural regions of the world that support and feed about 500 million (about 6.7% of global population) poor and vulnerable people.

Draining nearly 75% of the earth's land surface, rivers are lifelines for sustenance of human societies and natural ecosystems. Human civilizations dawned and flourished on riverbanks because rivers facilitate soil fertility, agriculture, irrigation, navigational transport, congenial climate and diffusion of culture. It is because of the ecohydrological functions and services provided by rivers and riparian ecosystems that enable people to get and produce food, water and livelihoods. Rivers provide food and habitat for many aquatic organisms such as fish, dolphin, herpetofauna and aquatic vegetation.