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Analysis of Yojana Magazine: Riverfront Development Policies and Regulations

Introduction

  • Connecting people to rivers has been an essential component of initiatives taken by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) to sensitize people towards rivers and their ecology.
  • The Development of riverfronts has been part of the objective to establish a people-river connection.
  • NMCG has also been working with different stakeholders to make river sensitive urban master plans. NMCG has published many significant publications in this regard.

National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) and Riverfront Development

National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has been prompted to develop a balanced approach to urban riverfront development (URFD), where ecological, environmental and social concerns are addressed harmoniously along with development to accrue multiple benefits to people and riverine ecosystems and also generate economic dividend for cities.

About National Mission for Clean Ganga(NMCG)

  • National Mission for Clean Ganga(NMCG) was registered as a society on 12th August 2011 under the Societies Registration Act 1860.
  • It acted as the implementation arm of the National Ganga River Basin Authority(NGRBA) which was constituted under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act (EPA),1986.
  • NGRBA has since been dissolved with effect from the 7th October 2016, consequent to the constitution of the National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of River Ganga (referred to as National Ganga Council).
  • The Act envisages five-tier structure at the national, state and district levels to take measures for prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution in river Ganga and to ensure continuous adequate flow of water so as to rejuvenate the river Ganga as below;
    1. National Ganga Council under the chairmanship of Hon’ble Prime Minister of India.
    2. Empowered Task Force (ETF) on river Ganga under the chairmanship of Hon’ble Union Minister of Jal Shakti (Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation).
    3. National Mission for Clean Ganga(NMCG).
    4. State Ganga Committees and
    5. District Ganga Committees in every specified district abutting river Ganga and its tributaries in the states.

What is Connect Karo Initiative?

  • Connect Karo is WRI India’s flagship event that brings together Indian and global leaders and policymakers committed to designing inclusive, sustainable and climate forward Indian cities.
  • This year Connect Karo, with the theme ‘Clean, Green & Just’, held virtually starting September 13, 2021.
  • Through the event, focus remain on addressing critical challenges faced by Indian cities with an emphasis on our deep dive cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Kochi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru.
  • Held over five days, it will be engaging with decision makers, thought leaders and experts in urban planning, water infrastructure, air quality, transport, electric mobility, child friendly cities, safer streets and more, to gain insights and share key learnings.

What is present Urban water scene?

  • Water is an important defining element of settlements across the world and can be traced back through a city’s historical structure and morphology. The relationship between a city and its waterfront is unique and always changing, depending on the functions carried out on adjoining land.
  • While the rivers serve as the lifeline for both rural and urban areas that get dependent for drinking water, cities are fast running out of water, with borewells turning dry, and groundwater plummeting to unimaginably low levels even as erstwhile lakes and tanks remain only on record.
  • This is so even when rainfall is more than normal in a year, resulting in flooding of low lying areas, chiefly because of the rainwater failing to percolate into the ground.

 What is the guidance framework of NMCG for Riverfront Development?
Analysis of Yojana Magazine: Riverfront Development Policies and Regulations_40.1

  • National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has developed a high-level guidance framework integrating water, ecology, environment and climate resilience related considerations within the existing framework of urban riverfront planning and development.
  • Patna riverfront is one of the first riverfront development project under NMCG, which successfully addresses urban waterfront development as a collaborative and multi-layered enterprise.
  • A balanced approach to urban waterfront development, where ecological, environmental and water concerns are addressed harmoniously along with development can accrue multiple benefits to people and ecosystems while generating economic dividend for Indian cities.
  • With these 5 step-up ideas, the upcoming urban waterfront projects in India can leverage the value of the treasured urban blue-green asset for the city and its people.
  • Under the Smart Cities Mission, many cities have taken up riverfront projects.

The Modern Concept of URFD

  • Urban Riverfront Planning and Development in India is limited to commanding and controlling river waters and exploiting its floodplains for the use and convenience of people, as well as for commercial gains realised from real estate development.
  • The modem concept of URFD in India has originated with Sabarmati riverfront development in Ahmedabad, which involved a grey infrastructure-based development for a stretch of around 10 km.
  • Following this, several other URFD projects have been approved.This list includes Godavari riverfront development in Maharashtra, Patna riverfront development in Bihar, Dravyavati riverfront development in Rajasthan, Gomti riverfront development in Lucknow, etc., besides similar development proposals for other rivers across India.

Pressure on Rivers due to Development Activities

  • It is common knowledge that many rivers across the globe are succumbing to development pressures. The situation is no different in India.
  • For example, according to an estimate, 63 per cent of sewage flows into our rivers untreated every day.
  • It is even more common knowledge that urban areas have largely been responsible for the deterioration of our rivers. In the quest for socioeconomic development, cities have bitten the hand that feeds them.
  • What, however, may not be very common knowledge is: how do cities set things right? Cities have been a huge part of the problem, and will need to be a part of the solution as well.
  • The solution starts with a fundamental understanding that a river cannot be managed in isolation. It is a system. A system that encompasses diverse elements from the river itself, to its surrounding ecosystem and related services, and the livelihoods, cultural, spiritual and recreational activities it supports.
  • When the upstream and downstream connotations are added to this, the understanding of river systems becomes more holistic and robust. Once city officials develop this understanding, it will become resoundingly clear that managing an urban river is not only about cleaning up the pollution. River clean-up activities are end-of-pipe solutions that mean nothing unless the drivers of the problems are fixed.

How to make optimal use of land?

  • The main challenge in designing the riverfront development is to improve the quality of the runoff entering into the river while maintaining the infiltration rates in its surroundings.
  • The optimal land-use planning for the riverfront areas by adding green spaces along the river edges is most suitable for balancing the river environment. The creation of such recreational areas makes riverfront accessible to public to serve more than one purpose.
  • The riverfront is not a hard boundary, but a zone that shifts with time and topography. The riverfronts and river bank floodplains are ecologically very dynamic and meant to be undeveloped for maintaining bank storage, floodplain biodiversity along with natural tributaries and wetlands.
  • Decision-makers and planners can invest time in carrying out analysis to create potential blue-green spaces around the river. Under no conditions should the riverfronts and riverbanks be concretised where the ecological biodiversity is protected, restored and enhanced — irrespective of any amount of commercial and profit-making values.
  • Development and conservation need to go hand-in-hand where water and vegetation are seen together to shift from ‘hard’ to ‘soft’ engineering approaches.
  • For example, the Yamuna biodiversity park located on Yamuna riverfront was developed by Delhi Development Authority (DDA) with the technical help of Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems (CEMDE), University of Delhi. It serves as an alternative habitat for migratory and resident bird species. It was also designed to conserve wild genetic resources of agricultural crops, enhance groundwater recharge and augment freshwater availability.

Way Forward

  • It is important to point out here that there is no universal model to manage urban rivers. Every city is unique. This is why, each city’s plan to manage the river within its stretch will also be unique.
  • Most cities already have a good enabling environment at the top in terms of relevant legal and regulatory mechanisms.
  • Furthermore, there are a number of low-hanging fruits that can be targeted under each item of the 10-point agenda. These, coupled with the right intent, can certainly set the stage for the envisaged transformation.
  • For successful future interventions of blue-green infrastructure solutions, it is necessary to learn from our past mistakes.
  • Recognising what did not work may provide us with directions needed to improve future projects and avoid poorly designed and costly interventions with no social and environmental benefits.
  • The solutions need to be multi-dimensional, holistic and should involve all relevant stakeholders. The river front development should involve the community to be the key agents for action to mitigate problems related to river pollution.
  • There are many inspiring examples of community-driven river revival efforts in India that show that we need tremendous amount of efforts for a strong public awareness.
  • For example, youngsters come together to clean Mithi river in Mumbai every weekend. In Tamil Nadu, a local non-profit Clean Conoor, organises clean-up drive for river Conoor.
  • At the same time, it is essential to understand that the existence of river’s ecology is defined by its watershed and not by administrative boundaries. For successful interventions, it is critical to acknowledge the river’s flow regime, morphology and scale and align it with characteristics of local urban form.
  • The uses and functions can be selected in a way that work for a diverse community and provide multiple benefits, including good flood management performance, ecological function, improved aesthetic and health benefits.

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