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Water challenges in Guwahati: Solution lies in Nature

 EVERY YEAR ON MARCH 22, the World Water Day is observed globally. The theme of the World Water Day 2018 is the Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) to water scarcity.

The deliberation around the theme, expected to stimulate innovative ideas, broadens the operational horizon and provides direction for pursuing newer domain in overcoming the water challenges in the 21st century in a sustainable way.

NBS is relatively a ‘young’ and ‘umbrella’ concept to provide realistic and sustainable solutions to environmental, social and economic challenges, embracing ecosystem services. The NBS approach inspires, supports and encourages decision making through integrative thinking process. Preserving and enhancing nature's capacity, preventing its depletion, ensuring sustainable planet where people live in harmony with nature is the main focus of NBS.

Ecosystem, ecological engineering, natural infrastructure, etc., are some of the terms frequently used with NBS.

Ecosystem is comprised of all the non-living elements (abiotic) and living species (biotic). Abiotic includes water, air, sunlight, soil, etc., and biotic includes plants, microorganisms, insects, animals, etc.

Ecological engineering as a branch of engineering has developed over the last 30 years. Its aim is to restore, rebalance and renew sustainable ecosystems that integrate human society with its natural environment for the benefits of both.

Natural infrastructure (forest, wetland, etc.) is nature-powered visible and functional infrastructure, capable of supporting the ecological system.

Water is finite, renewable, vulnerable natural resource, essential building block and lifeline of our civilisation. Misuse and indiscriminate exploitation of fresh water resources have been posing growing risk to human existence and sustainability of the planet.

Concerted action to reverse the current detrimental trend and initiate need-based steps for overcoming environmental challenges caused by climate change, pollution, flood, draught, etc., should be given topmost priority.

To ensure sustainable development of the humanity in particular and the planet in general by 2030, the global community has embarked on collective journey along the path charted in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) composed of 17 goals and 169 targets. The Vision Assam 2030 clearly articulated the commitment and determination of the people of Assam to create Xuroxhito Axom, Vikaxito Axom, Xarbsreshtha Axom by 2030 by achieving the goals and targets as set by SDGs.

Goal No. 6 of SDGs is to ensure access to water and sanitation for all by 2030. Goal No. 11 is to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Scarcity of safe drinking water, flash floods, pollution of the rivers Bharalu and Brahmaputra are some of the major water related challenges in Guwahati.

Solving these challenges are a continuous process and important steps towards achieving SDGs.

What is needed is to enhance the efficiency of NBS by individual and collective actions. Right understanding, knowledge, skill and process are most important for resolving water related challenges in Guwahati. Following are some of the prerequisites:

n Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) to be revitalised to enhance its capacity to act as nodal agency to guide citizen movement.

n To get most from nature, innovative and creative ideas of citizens of Guwahati to be channelised, adopting co-creation approach.

n NBS intervention should be made at individual, household, institutional, ward and city levels, etc.

n Citizens of Guwahati should be inspired to be closer to nature, partnering and engaging in natural processes.

n Effective Social & Behavioural Change Communication (SBCC) strategy with strong persuasive element to be put into place.

n Generating new social aspirations among citizens to live a nature-friendly lifestyle is the most important intervention of NBS.

n Living resource efficient and nature-friendly living are ongoing learning processes. Definitions of quality of life vary from individual to individual based on their values, embracing innovative, smart and green solution in the day to day work schedule.

n Preservation of the three wetlands Deepor, Silsako and Borsola-Sorusola will not only help in controlling floods, but these wetlands also act as reservoirs of rainwater runoff and refuge for migratory and local birds. There is no doubt that wetland is an important natural infrastructure for NBS intervention.

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