By Charles Bartlett
A meeting at the UN Water Conference between Susan Gardner, Director of UNEP’s Ecosystems Division, and Barry Rassin of Rotary International, sparked the idea for UNEP and Rotary’s Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group to hold a side event at the Rotary International Convention in Melbourne, Australia, on 26-31 May. See more here.
The event will highlight Adopt-a-River challenges, achievements and lessons learned and plot a way forward in encouraging other Rotary Clubs from around the world to join the initiative.
The event will also report on an ambitious Rotary-UNEP Adopt-a-River project in India that started on 18 March 2023. The aim is to clean up and restore the heavily polluted River Bhavani, a 217 km perennial river which flows through the states of Kerala and Tamil in southern India.
The project envisages public education on the damage caused by clothes washing in the river and littering, educating pilgrims on environmentally-friendly rituals, planting trees and/or bamboo along river banks, developing riverside parks, removing hyacinth in some places, organizing waste recycling drives on specific days, forming student groups alongside Rotaractors/Interactors to run frequent awareness campaigns, working with the government and police, as well as companies large and small.
The Adopt a River for Sustainable Development partnership is developing and is the centerpiece of an ongoing discussion on areas of cooperation between Rotary and UNEP on issues including wastewater, ecosystem restoration and mobilizing youth for environmental action.
A new framework for collaboration between UNEP and Rotary International envisages programmes of measurable impact, the facilitation of partnerships and decision-making at the regional-level, and the need for a mapping exercise between the two organizations to identify meaningful opportunities for collaboration that would build local capacity and accelerate change to foster resilient river basins and their local ecosystems.