It is an honour for me to be offered this opportunity of Chairing the Indian Himalayan River Basins Council (IHRBC). This Council was formed under the mentorship of Jalpurush Dr Rajendra Singhji, to connect the hearts, minds, and action of people with the rivers in the Himalayan River Basins.
There are 23 states that are covered under Himalayan River Basins, ranging from the Union Territory of Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, to flood-prone states like Bihar, and parts of desert and arid regions of Rajasthan. The ecology includes the highest altitude desert in the world – Ladakh, the coastal areas of West Bengal, the Sunderbans, Majuli island, the largest riverine island in the world in the Brahmaputra, and the drought-prone Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. This tremendous diversity in geography, biodiversity, geology, climate and people has shaped culture, food habits, language and indigenous wisdom. Depending on this diversity, traditional wisdom allowed for water security through appropriate water conservation measures and agricultural production. Civilisations grew along riverbanks.
What is interesting about these river basins is that rivers here originated in the mountains and forests of these mountains and were often joined by tributaries and rivers that originated from the plains. Springs also contributed to the flow. In fact, Himalayan rivers predate the Himalaya, and existed even the Himalayas were being created. They got pushed up along with the mountain range through which they flow. These rivers are therefore older than the mountains. These river basins also reflect the dynamic and symbiotic relationship between groundwater and surface water.
Rivers in the Indian Himalayan River Basins, in fact in India and the rest of the world are under threat, due to disruption of flow, encroachment, overextraction, unbridled mining and pollution. River health is directly connect to human health and the health of the planet. It is with this in mind that the Indian Himalayan River Basins Council was formed under the mentorship of Jalpurush Dr Rajendra Singhji, to rejuvenate rivers, nature and society.
Our focus is river literacy, involving people across the board in river literacy and river work and rejuvenation of rivers, streams and springs through collective wisdom and action. It is to spread ‘nature nurture’ rather than ‘denature.’ We have so many people across the states who are involved in this and many more out there, with whom we need to connect and from whom we can learn.
I do hope that you all will join us in this endeavor. The Himalaya need us, just as we need the Himalaya.
Indira Khurana, PhD