September 27, 2020

Significance of Rivers and World River Day 2020

Water is the most fundamental resource for human survival besides the air we breathe. It is used in practically every human endeavor one can think of. Water is essential to life because it heavily influences public health and living standard. Water covers 71% of the Earth’s surface and is vital for all forms of life. Water conservation includes all the policies, strategies and activities to sustainably manage the natural resource of fresh water, to protect the hydrosphere and to meet the current and future human demand. Population, household size and growth and affluence all affect how much water is used. Factors such as climate change have increased pressures on natural water resources especially in manufacturing and agricultural irrigation. One of the most important problems in today’s world is environmental problems. Although climate change has been attributed to various reasons during the period from the Industrial Revolution until today, scientists have reached a consensus as to the fact that environmental problems with regard to climate have emerged due to human activities. Most people are unaware of how important water is and why it should be conserved. As populations increase so too does the demand for water. Water conservation therefore, has become an important consideration for countries, governments and cities. To develop effective water conservation policies and intervention strategies aimed at encouraging water saving behavioral change (including both the adoption of water efficient appliances and the implementation of water saving practices) an understanding of users’ perceptions, attitudes, and values is needed. A water secure world reduces poverty, advances education, and increases living standards. A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. Rivers are the arteries of our planet; they are lifelines in the truest sense. In some cases a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without reaching another body of water. Small rivers can be referred to using names such as stream, creek, brook, rivulet, and rill. There are no official definitions for the generic term river as applied to geographic features, although in some countries or communities a stream is defined by its size. Many names for small rivers are specific to geographic location; examples are “run” in some parts of the United States, “burn” in Scotland and northeast England, and “beck” in northern England. Sometimes a river is defined as being larger than a creek, but not always: the language is vague. Rivers are part of the hydrological cycle. Water generally collects in a river from precipitation through a drainage basin from surface runoff and other sources such as groundwater recharge, springs, and the release of stored water in natural ice and snowpacks (e.g., from glaciers). Rivers and streams are often considered major features within a landscape, however, they actually only cover around 0.1% of the land on Earth. They are made more obvious and significant to humans by the fact that many human cities and civilizations are built around the freshwater supplied by rivers and streams. Most of the major cities of the world are situated on the banks of rivers, as they are, or were, used as a source of water, for obtaining food, for transport, as borders, as a defensive measure, as a source of hydropower to drive machinery, for bathing, and as a means of disposing of waste. Potamology is the scientific study of rivers, while limnology is the study of inland waters in general. A river begins at a source (or more often several sources), follows a path called a course, and ends at a mouth or mouths. The water in a river is usually confined to a channel, made up of a stream bed between banks. In larger rivers there is often also a wider floodplain shaped by flood-waters over-topping the channel. Floodplains may be very wide in relation to the size of the river channel. This distinction between river channel and floodplain can be blurred, especially in urban areas where the floodplain of a river channel can become greatly developed by housing and industry. Rivers can flow down mountains, through valleys (depressions) or along plains, and can create canyons or gorges. The term upriver (or upstream) refers to the direction towards the source of the river, i.e., against the direction of flow. Likewise, the term downriver (or downstream) describes the direction towards the mouth of the river, in which the current flows. The term left bank refers to the left bank in the direction of flow, right bank to the right. The river channel typically contains a single stream of water, but some rivers flow as several interconnecting streams of water, producing a braided river. Extensive braided rivers are now found in only a few regions worldwide, such as the South Island of New Zealand. They also occur on peneplains and some of the larger river deltas. Anastamosing rivers are similar to braided rivers and are quite rare. They have multiple sinuous channels carrying large volumes of sediment. There are rare cases of river bifurcation in which a river divides and the resultant flows ending in different seas. An example is the bifurcation of Nerodime River in Kosovo. A river flowing in its channel is a source of energy which acts on the river channel to change its shape and form. In 1757, the German hydrologist Albert Brahms empirically observed that the submerged weight of objects that may be carried away by a river is proportional to the sixth power of the river flow speed. This formulation is also sometimes called Airy’s law. Thus, if the speed of flow is doubled, the flow would dislodge objects with 64 times as much submerged weight.
One of the ways that we can celebrate River Day is by planning an event. It is a good idea to select an event that is going to use local resources and expertise, and which will address local issues, customs, and interest. It is a good idea to look to involve different organizations and groups from the community so that we gain participation and local support.
In mountainous torrential zones this can be seen as erosion channels through hard rocks and the creation of sands and gravels from the destruction of larger rocks. A river valley that was created from a U-shaped glaciated valley, can often easily be identified by the V-shaped channel that it has carved. Rivers that carry large amounts of sediment may develop conspicuous deltas at their mouths. Rivers whose mouths are in saline tidal waters may form estuaries. Throughout the course of the river, the total volume of water transported downstream will often be a combination of the free water flow together with a substantial volume flowing through sub-surface rocks and gravels that underlie the river and its floodplain (known as hyporheic zone). For many rivers in large valleys, this unseen component of flow may greatly exceed the visible flow. Most but not all rivers flow on the surface. Subterranean rivers flow underground in caves or caverns. Such rivers are frequently found in regions with limestone geologic formations. The Subglacial streams are the braided rivers that flow at the beds of glaciers and ice sheets, permitting meltwater to be discharged at the front of the glacier. Because of the gradient in pressure due to the overlying weight of the glacier, such streams can even flow uphill. An intermittent river (or ephemeral river) only flows occasionally and can be dry for several years at a time. These rivers are found in regions with limited or highly variable rainfall, or can occur because of geologic conditions such as a highly permeable river bed. Some ephemeral rivers flow during the summer months but not in the winter. The meltwater from large hailstorms can create a slurry of water, hail and sand or soil, forming temporary rivers. Rivers can generally be classified as either alluvial, bedrock, or some mix of the two. These rivers are further categorized by the pattern of their water flow – in other words, the direction the river flows in. These classifications include: wandering, straight, braided, meandering, and anastomose. Rivers have been a source of food since pre-history. They are often a rich source of fish and other edible aquatic life, and are a major source of fresh water, which can be used for drinking and irrigation. Rivers help to determine the urban form of cities and neighbourhoods and their corridors often present opportunities for urban renewal through the development of foreshore ways such as river walks. Rivers also provide an easy means of disposing of waste water and, in much of the less developed world, other wastes. Rivers have been used for navigation for thousands of years. The earliest evidence of navigation is found in the Indus Valley Civilization, which existed in northwestern India around 3300 BC. Riverine navigation provides a cheap means of transport, and is still used extensively on most major rivers of the world like the Amazon, the Ganges, the Nile, the Mississippi, and the Indus. Since river boats are often not regulated, they contribute a large amount to global greenhouse gas emissions, and to local cancer due to inhaling of particulates emitted by the transports. Rivers have been important in determining political boundaries and defending countries. Fast flowing rivers and waterfalls are widely used as sources of energy, via watermills and hydroelectric plants. In short, Rivers and lakes are of a great value to human beings. They help to develop hydel power, provide water for irrigation, drinking, industries and they help to develop fisheries. They will enhance natural beauty and help in the development of tourism and provide recreation. Rivers are often managed or controlled to make them more useful or less disruptive to human activity. They are increasingly managed for habitat conservation, as they are critical for many aquatic and riparian plants, resident and migratory fishes, waterfowl, birds of prey, migrating birds, and many mammals. Rivers have diverse socio-religious uses and play a central role in many religious ceremonies and rites. Water and rivers as mentioned in Hadiths by the prophet Mohammed (pbuh). The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said, “A man felt very thirsty while he was on the way, there he came across a well. He went down the well, quenched his thirst and came out. Meanwhile he saw a dog panting and licking mud because of excessive thirst. He said to himself, “This dog is suffering from thirst as I did. ” So, he went down the well again and filled his shoe with water and watered it. Allah thanked him for that deed and forgave him. The people said, “O Allah’s Messenger “Is there a reward for us in serving the animals? ” He replied: “Yes, there is a reward for serving any animate (living being). ” In other place, The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Among what continues to accrue for a believer of his good works after death are the following: knowledge that he learned and then imparted to others, a pious child whom he left behind, a copy of the Qur’én that he bequeathed, a mosque that he built, a guest house he built for travelers, a river that he made to flow, and charity he spends from his wealth when he is in good health — all of this continues to avail him after his death” [Sunan Ibn Majah and Sunan al-Bayhaql — and graded as good (hasan) by al-Albani] . Every country around the world almost have at least one river flowing through it. We need a Rivers Day as almost everyone is aware of numerous rivers around the world but some people aren’t aware of how under threat some of them are. There is a lot of human activity that causes pollution and damage to a number of the world’s important waterways, and this is dangerous for the people who regularly use the rivers as a source of water and transport, as well as the ecosystems that could be living in them. The main aim of Rivers Day is to ensure that everyone is aware of the importance of river stewardship and that we all do what we can to limit the threats that could potentially endanger our rivers. The very first Rivers Day was celebrated in 2005 and since then it has been gaining in popularity with many events being organized around the world. In this same year, the United Nations also launched its Water for Life Decade, with the aim of increasing the awareness of the need for taking better care of the world’s waters. Rivers Day was launched alongside this new initiative, all thanks to a proposal that was put forward by Mark Angelo, who was already an international river advocate. Rivers Day is all about celebrating the waterways of the world. It is a day that highlights the importance of rivers, aiming to heighten awareness and encourage people to preserve our important and beautiful rivers. There are a number of different things that we can all do in order to protect our rivers like using earth-friendly body products and biodegradable cleaning products. After all, these chemicals all get washed down the drain, which means they end up going back into our rivers. Other tips include turning our tap off while we are brushing our teeth, timing our showers, and keeping a full load when we are using our dishwasher or our washing machine. Small changes like this can go a very long way. This year World Rivers Day is set for Sunday, September 27, 2020 and this year’s World Rivers Day theme is once again, Waterways in our Communities, in recognition of “the incredible natural, cultural and recreational values of our rivers and streams and the extent to which they add to our quality of life.” Public safety is a top priority for World Rivers Day, so given the uncertainty of where we might be in different parts of the world with the COVID-19 virus, we’re encouraging groups to plan events that comply with safety recommendations of their particular locale. And the various types of river-related celebrations and events that can take place are limited only by our imagination and creativity. We can celebrate this day via social media, channels, Facebook etc. There are so many ways we can all get involved with Rivers Day. One of the ways that we can celebrate River Day is by planning an event. It is a good idea to select an event that is going to use local resources and expertise, and which will address local issues, customs, and interest. It is a good idea to look to involve different organizations and groups from the community so that we gain participation and local support. We can also head to the World Rivers Day website and sign-up for updates and alerts regarding the different events that are going on around the world. No matter how we choose to spend the next Rivers Day, we are sure that it will help us to appreciate our local waterway a lot more than what we might do right now. If everyone did, imagine how clean our rivers could be!
( Dr Bilal A Bhat is Associate Professor at S K University of Agriculture Sciences & Technology-SKUAST Srinagar and Aliya Mehraj is a Lecturer in J&K Government’s Education Department. Views are their own)
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