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4th Odisha River Conference Concludes with Resolute Call for River Conservation

Angul: The 4th Odisha River Conference held on March 21-22 in Angul concluded with a resolute commitment to bolster river conservation education across all sections of society, aiming to rejuvenate the state’s dying and decaying rivers. Organized by Water Initiatives, Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), and 53 partnering organizations worldwide, the conference coincided with the International Day of Action for Rivers and World Water Day, drawing over 150 participants from diverse backgrounds.

The conference, inaugurated by veteran Sarvodaya leader Krishna Mohanty, underscored the imperative to view rivers as living entities deserving respect, nurturing, and care. Ranjan Panda, Convenor of Water Initiatives, highlighted the heightened participation of youth in this year’s conference, aligning with the strategic planning for the next phase of actions under the Youth4Water campaign initiated during the 3rd Odisha River Conference in 2019.

Throughout the two days of intense deliberations, participants engaged in general and technical sessions, emphasizing the critical role of rivers and interconnected ecosystems in sustaining life. Discussions were led by a distinguished lineup of speakers, including experts from various fields, civil society leaders, and community representatives, who advocated for collective efforts to elevate river conservation education across society.

Swapnasri Sarangi, General Manager of FES, emphasized the collaborative nature of the conference, with 53 partners committed to fostering a water-secure future amidst the challenges posed by climate change. Bishakha Bhanja, chairperson of the conference organizing committee, highlighted the holistic approach adopted to conserve rivers as interconnected ecosystems, rather than isolated entities.

The conference also recognized outstanding contributions to river conservation through the 4th Odisha Water Honours. Farmer leader Saroj Mohanty received the Odisha Jala Joddha Sammana 2024, while the Budanpipali Community Forest Protection Committee from Kandhamal was honored with the Ajira Bhagiratha Sammanna 2024.

In addition, the inaugural Youth4Water ‘Water & Climate Impact Award’ was bestowed upon local youth Urmila Behera for her dedicated efforts in water and forest conservation. The conference also witnessed the announcement of the Green Picnic Awards – Season 2, recognizing initiatives promoting plastic-free picnics.

A River Rally held on World Water Day saw experts, conference participants, and local students converge at the banks of Lingara River to demonstrate their commitment to river conservation. The event culminated in pledges by local youths to spearhead river cleanup and conservation initiatives.

Reflecting on the conference’s outcomes, Ranjan Panda emphasized the need for collective action to reverse the declining state of rivers and underscored the pivotal role of youth in driving conservation efforts. By fostering dialogue, awareness, and strategic planning, the conference aims to galvanize collaboration for river conservation, livelihood resilience, and climate action in Odisha and beyond.

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