By Waleed Tariq:
Rivers have been very useful to people in all parts of the earth since very early times. They provide water to satisfy the thirst of men, to fertilize their lands and to provide a means of communication for the goods that are transported from place to place.
Rivers not only provide water for our domestic needs and agricultural purposes but also serve travel and communication purposes.
All over the world, there is a growing concern for the state of environment and threats against nature. Rivers and water sources are another essential sources facing near extinction.Â One of the greatest challenges facing us today is to end this unjustifiable destruction of nature. In our quest for solution, we must fight for policies which meet the needs of time.
For this reason, river restoration is currently at the forefront as a tentative step. River restoration is assisting the recovery of ecological integrity in a degraded watershed system by reestablishing hydrologic, geomorphic, and ecological processes, and replacing lost, damaged, or compromised biological elements. Moreover, it is the act of working with a degraded river or stream in order to return it to a pre-disturbed condition.
River restoration is also undertaken for a variety of other goals including provision of functional recreational corridors in urban areas, and to improve water quality.
We have abundant illustrations of countries which are in a dire need of river restoration.
Pakistan is in real threat of running out of water. To provide for its growing population, it is estimated that by 2025 that Pakistan will need more water than the country has available at present. Rural communities in Pakistan by now face inadequate access to water. Streams, rivers, lakes and other sources of freshwater are exposed to reduced water flow and contamination.
Looking at China, its rivers are also slowly dying away. The Yangtze lakes and rivers eco region is China’s most significant freshwater ecosystem. Home to over 400 million people, this ‘land of fish and rice’ is one of the cradles of Chinese civilization. In the lower reaches of the river, the plenty of flat land and water has facilitated the growth of densely populated and heavily industrialized cities.
From the last many years, the Yangtze River is suffering from deforestation, wetland reclamation, and pollution due to human activity and economic development. Its biodiversity has decreased considerably, repeated floods have driven people from their homes, and clean water has become a luxury.
Therefore, the Chinese Government has announced an integrated flood control policy emphasizing wetland restoration and reforestation. In partnership with WWF, it is working with local governments and communities to reconnect lakes in the Hubei region of China with the Yangtze River and restore wetlands for migrant birds, fish and other wildlife. Through education, demonstration, communication, and policy dialogue, they hope to gradually recover a ‘living Yangtze’ within 25 years.
Besides the environmental benefits such as reduced risk of flooding and drought, the project encourages local communities to adopt environmentally friendly livelihoods such as eco-tourism, fish farming and growing aquatic vegetables.
Moving on, as Africa is the world’s most arid continent; its rivers are also of great importance. Most of Africa’s rivers are characterized by annual climate cycles that interchange seasonal rainfall with seasonal drought. There is hence a need for international collaboration if these large African rivers are to come up to their full potential in balancing the demands of meeting human needs and sustaining ecosystems.
In Japan, many rivers were synchronized to prevent flood damage and to make advanced land-use possible, to cope up with the rapid urbanization and economic growth during the 1960s. The great result has been achieved from the viewpoint of river improvement. However, the river environment is spoiled and in such conditions, river management in consideration of environment is called for increasingly and the establishment of the international network becomes important.
European rivers and their floodplains are also used for many purposes and are among the habitats most severely affected by human activity. The quality of both water and river habitat quality has been seriously degraded in numerous European rivers due to pollution and as a result of poor physical conditions. Nevertheless the need for protection of our freshwater ecosystems has now been recognized. In general, it has two objectives: to secure access to clean water and to protect aquatic biodiversity.
So the growing environmental consciousness and concern for the loss of biodiversity and rivers and floodplain habitats have prepared the political route for river rehabilitation and restoration. Physical stream restoration is becoming a priority for many countries and an increasing number of river restoration projects are being introduced.
In my opinion, river restoration is undoubtedly one of the measures essential to obtain the goals of “good water status resulting in the desired physical, ecological and economic benefits.”