Kota Declaration on Riverfront

From 1st June to 2nd June 2024, activists and concerned citizens from across India gathered in Kota, Rajasthan for a National Consultation on Riverfronts Development in India titled, “Rivers at Risk: Riverfront Development and Socio-Ecological Crisis”. Below is the Kota Declaration on Riverfronts that the discussants released.

We believe all the rivers in India, which are passing through cities and towns, are under severe threat from pollution, encroachment and mutilation, from urban development authorities. Riverfront development projects, including those in Kota, New Delhi, Ahmedabad, and Hyderabad but not limited to, have become euphemism for land grabbing, displacement, concretization, channelization, gentrification, discrimination and corruption. All over India, this is latest urban development spin, built on the remnants of renewal missions, smart projects and other top-down projects, which is valued at Rs.10 lakh crores.

  • We reject cosmetic, beautification and expensive artificial architecture, including bridges, weirs and dams, that interferes with natural flows of rivers and that have reduced rivers to cesspools of dirty, industrial, black and grey water.
  • We reject various nomenclature of river front development projects, which do not consider the river as an ecological system in itself, such as urban river.
  • We want all rivers to be focused upon as live entities with a comprehensive view of river basin, and not limited to stretches in urban areas. The river basin approach is a sine qua non for all river restoration projects, which protects soil, trees, forests, grasslands, aquifers, water bodies and all other forms of life.
  • We call upon both central and state governments and municipal governments to give primacy to ecological niches, environmental principles, socially inclusive approaches and economic efficiency aspects of rivers.
  • We demand river restoration projects on River Chambal, Yamuna, Musi, Mula-Mutha, Kosi, Vishwamitri, Sabarmati, Tawi, Gomti, and all other more than 351 rivers, which primarily have the objective of protecting river dimensions and flood plains, prevention of pollution and increasing access to common people and build a socio-economic framework around them that has foundations of environmental justice, equity and ecological integrity.
  • We are committed to building a national campaign against riverfront development, that is planned, implemented or under-implementation, wherein principles of people’s participation, transparency and fair democratic governance have been violated.
  • We urge national and state governments and municipal bodies to ensure sustainability of the rivers passing through cities and towns, to regulate development along the river banks and active flood plains and link with climate action plans.
  • We demand that all riverfront development projects, past, current and future, to be subjected to public scrutiny, public hearing, studies (hydraulic, biodiversity, social impact, water quality, etc), implement standards (such as ISI on embankments) and environmental clearance mechanisms under a special category (not under category 8B).
  • We want a review of all the river front projects in India, the application of fundamental rights guaranteed by Indian Constitution, and the utilization of Article 32 of the Indian Constitution.
  • We call upon Union and State governments to strengthen the legal framework to protect rivers from their birthplace to their confluence.
  • We call upon these authorities to consider establishing river basin authority, primarily, for each of the rivers, in order to coordinate and plan comprehensive restoration and rejuvenation projects.
  • We call for a river policy that respects riparian rights, promotes river-based traditional livelihoods, invests in sustainable infrastructure and encourages eco-friendly river economy practices, especially focusing on natural farming.

2nd June, 2024 Kota, Rajasthan

Ravi Jain

Rajendra Ravi

Dr. Narasimha Reddy Donthi

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