Riverse

Reviving and Nurturing Water Ecosystems for cleaner, greener, healthier and more bio-diverse cities and settlements.

This work aimed at addressing the dimension of water ecosystems where a pattern of misuse, disuse and neglect has turned rivers, a major public resource and community asset into a public liability.  In Mumbai, where this initiative began, there are four rivers – Mithi, Dahisar, Poisar and Oshiwara – that have become ‘nalas’ – conduits for storm water drainage and sewage waste. In the context of climate change, these patterns of waste production and disposal need a rethink and rivers returned to the city as they were. To do this, Riverse was initiated by a group of urban professionals, who founded Water Environs in 2010-11 and began their exploration on the Dahisar river. In 2013, INHAF was brought in as a mentor in collaboration with River March, a movement active local residents concerned about the health of rivers.

The issue of urban waters was considered in two broad categories :
a) State Agencies and Industries: municipalities, infrastructure, industries and large scale occupations affecting the water ecologies, and;
b) the Community – local to the water body’s catchment area and the global community.

The initiative meant to build a network of citizens and organizations working on Reviving and Nurturing Water Ecosystems for cleaner, greener, healthier and more bio-diverse cities and settlements. It was meant to inform, address and periodically review the policies and undertake the advocacy measures at the State level. The strength of the initiative has been its success in bringing together various stakeholders, students, and activists, and organizations to work on Riverse. Despite the political interest garnered by Riverse, current policies including the Smart cities mission have focused on concretizing the banks of existing rivers and their beautification from an economic vantage point rather than the cleaning of long neglected water bodies.  

 

Milestones:

  • 2013, River March was organized at all 4 rivers in Mumbai received 17,000 registrations and was extensively covered by the media. 
  • 2016, River March and Water environs hosted the Riverse exhibition at the Mahim nature park.
  • Political representatives saw potential in the effort and the State mooted the idea of ‘Each city adopt a river campaign’.
  • Prepared the ‘Declaration of Rivers’ and ‘City specific River Policy’.
  • 2017, the project was adopted by FES (Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung is a non-profit German foundation committed to the values of democracy and social justice) as a Seed Project.
  • Following citizen engagement, Riverse actively began involving schools across the suburbs of Mumbai particularly around Dahisar river and travelling exhibitions to communities. It has eventually led to steps to actively engage the Mumbai Municipal Corporation and in October 2018 a meeting was also held with the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.

The meeting highlighted that only a small number of construction workers had returned to work (about 50 percent) in the cities; the abrupt decision to impose the  lockdown has had adverse impacts on the workers and the employers both; workers wanting to return faced many obstacles , in the villages and the cities and as a result work uptake in the construction sector was  slow. Labour contractors were bearing higher expenses and more labour management compared to earlier. As workers were coming back to the sites, contractors have had to ensure safe and  improved working conditions on the sites. .

The INHAF effort—possibly the first in the urban sector in the country and the only one—is
a) to highlight the need for and the virtue of the bottom-up way of defining and measuring poverty, a subject of national concern and development planning and action ( the poor who live poverty are well equipped to define it )
b) to develop and demonstrate a participatory, consultative and community engaging methodology in doing so
c) to contribute to demystification of the poverty line, at the top and the bottom, at the government and the city slum level
d) to highlight the known deficiencies and inadequacies of the existing definition and the measuring method—the uni-dimensional, nutrition-based poverty line—to ascertain that poverty is a multifaceted and a multidimensional phenomenon.

Pune has several dynamic unions and organizations of the hard working urban poor who are sensitive to the impact that poverty line has on their entitlements, benefits and development. With these member-based unions and organizations of the poor as partners, INHAF is piloting Poor Defining Poverty Line Initiative in Pune.

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