Healthy Urban Rivers as a Panacea to Pandemic-Related Stress: How to Manage Urban Rivers
During the lockdown imposed due to the first wave of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, there were several media reports of citizens flouting the lockdown rules in the United States. Upon closer investigation it was found that the rules were flouted mostly so that people could spend time outdoors in natural environments. This exemplifies the role of the natural environment as a panacea to the mental stress created by pandemics. River ecosystems are perhaps the greatest natural feature of any city. Efficient management of urban rivers, therefore, is strongly correlated to crisis management during pandemics like COVID-19.
However, urban rivers, today, are facing multiple challenges, such as river pollution, drying up of river stretches, encroachment of rivers into floodplains, and biodiversity losses. These can be attributed to the various urban development activities, due to which cities have inadvertently short-changed the rivers. Managing an urban river, especially a degraded one, requires several transformational solutions that may have to be implemented over long and sustained periods in order to reap the optimal benefits. Many such solutions are often started with great enthusiasm but get derailed over time because of the lack of a long-term institutional mechanism required to support the overall outcome. A Master Plan is a good instrument to address this challenge. This paper describes a set of tools and avenues within Master Plans that can be used to address typical river-related challenges in Indian cities. It also showcases the example of the Urban River Management Plan for Kanpur city, where these tools and avenues have been used to inform the Master Plan of the city.
WORKING PAPER NO: 1349