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In March 2020, a dialogue focusing on Rights of Rivers in South Asia was hosted in New Delhi, India

co-organised by Kalpavriksh, International Rivers and LIFE. The participants included activists, lawyers, academics, researchers, and community members. A primary goal was to unpack and support the emerging Rights of Nature movement with a focus on rivers in South Asia.

The full report of the dialogue can be accessed here.

Recognising the need for transboundary collaboration, an alliance called ‘Rights of Rivers South Asia’  (RoRSA) emerged as a follow-up to the dialogue. RoRSA is committed to representing the interests of free-flowing and healthy rivers, and their dependent communities, in South Asia. Evolving as a network of organisations, individuals, and other networks from South Asia and across the world, RoRSA is non-hierarchical, horizontal, democratic, inclusive and non-centralized.

RoRSA aims to foster dialogue and collaboration around the concept of Rights of Rivers, and to enable community empowerment, regeneration, conservation & responsible policymaking. Inspired by the worldviews of local and indigenous communities across South Asia and the world, we recognise that systemic changes that honour the deep interconnections between humans and nature are essential in order to transform destructive current paradigms of development.

Image by Manuel Meurisse
  • Rivers have a right to be healthy and flow unhindered. 

  • A river must be able to maintain three types of continuity - linear (along the direction of its flow), vertical (with the ground) and horizontal (over its floodplains).

  • Our definition of a river is at ecosystem level which includes the entire watershed and its residents. We also acknowledge human dependence on this ecosystem.

  • Accommodating traditional/local/subsistence uses must be considered within any definition of the rights of rivers. There should also be a priority/hierarchy of uses with regulation or prohibition on large-scale/commercial uses. 

  • In South Asia, an essential addition to the Declaration is the ‘right to its own spirit’ since rivers and the water contained in them have spirits, too.

inputs from participants at the Rights of Rivers meeting in New Delhi in March 2020

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