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Mainstream River-Centric Thinking into Academia’s fabric – Faculty Roundtable

Organised by National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA)

In a significant leap toward addressing the pressing concerns surrounding urban river management, the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) recently organised a pioneering event that brought together academia from diverse backgrounds to discuss, deliberate, and propose tangible solutions for mainstreaming rivers into Academia.. Held on Thursday, August 10, 2023, this event shed light on the critical importance of strengthening river considerations within academia.

Prof Ajay Raina, Prof Kanupriya Taneja and Prof Pradipta Biswas from the Institute of Design, Nirma University were invited to the faculty roundtable for discussion and deliberation along with other invitees from academic institutions.

The event began with an introduction highlighting NIUA’s initiatives in urban river management, emphasizing the social, cultural, and ethical concerns related to water bodies in urban landscapes. NIUA introduced its Urban River Management Framework, stressing the need for a comprehensive approach to address urban river challenges.

One of the key discussions revolved around the integration of river management into academic curricula. Recognising that education plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of rivers, participants deliberated on the importance of mainstreaming river-related subjects into the curriculum. NIUA also showcased its online courses, aimed at bridging the knowledge gap and equipping students with the necessary tools to contribute effectively to sustainable urban river management.

During the event, faculty members from various academic institutions, primarily hailing from backgrounds in architecture and planning, had the opportunity to share their initiatives related to water, rivers, and water bodies. These initiatives encompassed a wide range of topics, including innovative wastewater treatment methods, sustainable technologies for water treatment, preserving cultural heritage tied to water, and understanding and preserving traditional knowledge systems.

Capacity building emerged as a recurring theme, with a call for educational institutions to empower students with the skills to address urban river challenges effectively.

Research topics proposed during the event included the impact of water on human wellbeing, community-river relationships, water’s cultural influence, and governance strategies. The proposed contributions by the Institute for Design, Nirma University included acting as a bridge for communication between stakeholders involved in river management, including government bodies, city commissioners, academic communities, and city residents. This initiative would be aimed to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and ideas for effective river management and conservation.

Furthermore, the Institute of Design proposed to contribute to develop informational and educational materials such as posters, brochures, digital and analog advertisements, and user-friendly kits to enhance public understanding and awareness of river management issues. Visual storytelling in the form of documentary films was highlighted as a powerful tool for raising awareness and advocating for river conservation and other issues.

In conclusion, NIUA’s event aimed to empower academia to address urban river challenges comprehensively, integrate river education into curricula, and foster research and awareness. Collaboration between academia and NIUA can help achieve these goals.

Author Prof Kanupriya Taneja. PhD