Save Rivers-What Can We Do?

Cauvery or the Ganga of the south is slowly spiralling down towards death like the mythical Saraswati , as evident from the dry and patchy water areas in it. Its same with all the rivers in India . Just like the river Jordan which used to swell and flood and now its almost dry. Two photographs of water in river Cauvery shows how it has become in 15 years.

It used to swell and flow violently making a lot of noise . Though last year it got a heavy inflow for a short time but due to lack of prepared ness in maintaining the excess water we are back to square one this year.

Asked about some solutions on social media from a well know activist Leo Saldhana and here are the points he mentioned to revive Cauvery, valid for all other rivers.

1) Ensure shoals and tropical forests aren’t destroyed for dams, roads, cities or whatever. Allow them to recover. Any obstruction in the natural flow of rivers is an environmental disaster in waiting . Proper planted and maintained human free flood planes are a must for survival of the river. Planning to buy property check if it comes under river land.


2) Ensure all water guzzling crops, like sugar cane, are given up and low water intensive food crops are grown . Crops like cotton ,sugarcane and rice take up a lot of water and being a cash crop are exported. In this way we are exporting water out of our land. Sticking to crops grown traditionally per region is best to avoid extensive water usage.  We are virtually exporting water out of India , when we export crops like rice sugarcane and cotton . In 2014-15, India exported 37.2 lakh tonnes of basmati. To export this rice, the country used around 10 trillion litres of water. To put it another way, India virtually exported 10 trillion litres of water. Promote local crops and stop water export.


3) All cities must harvest rain and stop polluting This is something most talked about and least worked at. People think rooftop water harvesting will solve the problem and just make collection infrastructure . Infact water harvesting should be done at all levels possible only when we have less concrete and more open soil areas. Tiled roads, brick lanes and grassy grounds all harvest rain. One of the craziest practice I have seen in cities is to cement the median in the road with trees coming up from small holes in the cement. Medians if left open can stock up the water for trees on it and wont require extra watering. Use stand alone rainwater harvester, maintain open areas in societies , stop investing in more build-up properties.

balcony rainwater collection

4) All farms must shift to agro ecological farming – no chemical residues  

Agroecology shares much in common with other approaches to sustainable farming. Agroecology is farming that “centers on food production that makes the best use of nature’s goods and services while not damaging these resources.”  Patronise local small  natural farms .

5) Industrial water audits must be undertaken in collaboration with local panchayats and wards – no centralized clearance. This ensures less corruption in pollution monitoring.

6) All  tanks and ponds must be rehabilitated. This is to store as much water as possible.

7) Restore all open wells for storing water .

8) Build recharge wells. Water has to go inside the ground as we have sucked ground dry. Usually it should be surrounding every borewell.

Some water catching ponds in Kodagu District -The Cauvery catchment area!


9) No more sand mining in Cauvery.

Channel widening causes shallowing of the streambed, producing braided flow or subsurface inter-gravel flow in riffle areas, hindering movement of fishes between pools.  Riverbed becomes dry due to exposure to solar radiation decrease the surface and groundwater.  Depletion of sand in the streambed causes the deepening of rivers and estuaries, and the enlargement of river mouths and coastal inlets. It leads to saline-water intrusion. Removal of vegetation and destruction of the soil profile destroys habitat above and below the ground and faunal population decrease.

Illegal sand mining in Bhadra river –

10) Allow all village commons and grasslands to be grazed and rehabilitated.

11) Force cities and industries to stop pollution or strictly penalize (incl jail) senior execs who don’t care.

There is lot to be done if one really wants to save rivers and one has to start working now rather than wait for the authorities to work . The green wash that is “Linking Rivers” is a disaster waiting to happen  even if it is done immediately .




A physicist turned green living advocate.

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