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Best practices followed in successful river restoration projects

By Pavanesh Narayanan

1) Cleaning up of Singapore River and Kallang Basin
Time period: 10 years (1977-87)
Initial state: In 1977, the river basin was contaminated and foul-smelling. The river was
considered dead. A turnaround plan was introduced in 1977, when the Ministry of the
Environment drew up an Action Plan.
Summary of work done: First, the source of river contamination was identified. This
included about 16000 people living in squatter colonies who directly or indirectly
contaminated the river with human wastes; 2800 pollution causing trade industries; 5000
street hawkers; 610 pig farmers and 500 duck farmers. The people living in squatter colonies
were shifted to new houses with proper sewage systems, developed by housing
development authority of Singapore. The industries were shifted to new industrial area with
better waste/pollution treatment facility. The street hawkers were shifted to food centre
premises with sewer and waste disposal facility. The pig and duck farms were shifted.
After the source of pollution was identified and removed, the river was dredged to remove
debris. Since the river was flowing through the Singapore city, the problem of littering and
contamination from grey water sources still persisted. To maintain cleanliness, engineering
methods were incorporated. Vertical grating was installed in drains leading to river. In
addition float booms were installed at strategic locations. These installations prevented
litter and debris from entering the main river, which were cleared daily. Program was also
carried out educate people against littering and discharge of water in river.
Key reasons for success were:
 The success of the project can be attributed to the following factors:
Introduction of an environmental management strategy - i.e. prevention,
enforcement, monitoring and education.
 Implementation of land use planning - i.e. ensure that developments are properly
planned and are compatible with surrounding land uses to achieve a quality
 Putting in place comprehensive environmental infrastructure, such as the sewerage
system and refuse collection system.
 Putting in place legislative instrument and enforcement measures as well as
monitoring programmes.
 Cultivating an environmentally conscious population through environmental
 Cooperation amongst the various government agencies implementing the various
programmes e.g. provision of public housing and industrial workshops, relocation of
farms, etc.
 Ownership of Singapore River and Kallang Basin by the 3P (People, Private and
Public) sectors.
 Above all, the critical factor for the success of cleaning up of Singapore River and
Kallnag Basin is the political will of the government.

Sewage from London and the surrounding area is now treated and then exported for further processing. and hence didn’t support the growth of fishes and other living creatures. has now set about removing many of these old concrete barriers that contained the rivers. But years of feeding agricultural runoff. Untreated New River water passing through four microbial treatment cells at Las Arenitas is then . The following measures have significantly improved the state of the river:  In the late 1990s California-Mexico Bi-national Relations Council was set up to built the Las Arenitas and Zaragoza Wastewater Treatment plants. The key initiatives that lead to the success of the river restoration are:  Strict legislation now prevents industry from dumping polluted effluent into the river and its tributaries.telegraph.  Earlier the idea was to get water as fast as possible from point A to B through smooth concrete channels. flows to Mexico and reaches Salton Sea. USA New they are completely barren when it comes to life as nothing can get a grip there. The Environment Agency. Fifty years later the river is home for 125 species of fishes and another 400 species of invertebrates that live in river mud (river banks/floor). In 1957. Piles of rubble at the side help to capture sediment that provides a rich habitat for invertebrates and molluscs that are food for many other species.iges. dizziness. they have tried putting sediment behind wooden panels along the walls. during  Earlier the river was contained by concrete on both the sides. the pollution was so high that the river was declared biologically dead. adopted on 23–Oct–2010 is a big step in this direction. eye irritations. which was born out of 1904 Colorado River flooding. nausea. This would not allow any plants to grow.or. Allowing the river to follow its own path helps in growth of species and improves the health of the river.html 3) Cleaning The New river. The EU water framework directive. along with local authorities along the Thames. However. asthma in both adults and children.  To ensure sustainability of clean water in the rivers. Residents complained of skin rashes. was severely affected. the pollution flowing into river greatly increased and remained unchecked. In areas where they have been unable to remove the barriers completely. London The level of pollution in Thames River began to increase with the start of Thames. on the bank of new river. Instead they have been building up mud banks and allowing reed beds to take hold. persistent headaches and chronic coughing. Source: http://apfed-db. raw sewage and pesticides into the river left the New River with a reputation as the most polluted river in America. Singapore continues to plan. coordinate and implement programmes to prevent pollution from entering into the rivers. Source: http://www.php?no=23 2) Cleaning Thames river. With the opening of North American Free Trade Agreement in 1990s. unfit to sustain any living forms. The city of Calexico. This essentially turns what would have been a horizontal mud bank on the river floor into a vertical one.

 Fats. the next plan is to remove the floating wastes like plastics bags. is the accumulation of mexicali-environment/?#article-copy 4) Project clean river.  In 2001. food service establishments. 76 food establishments . nitrogen and other nutrients at a rate that impressed even the project’s architects. All the trash that comes through those culverts will get caught. The process eliminated about 99.S.7 wet acres and the Alamo site is largest at 55 acres with 23 wet acres. Source http://www. The rule applies to all licensed food service operations or licensed retail food establishments that produce. to a landfill or even to a hazardous waste site. Historically. Zaragoza treats agricultural waste and raw sewage before returning it to the New River much cleaner. suspended solids. After the wastewater treatment plant went online (in 2007) the dissolved oxygen. six of which are actual wet acres. plastic containers. The Brawley wetland occupies nine acres. oils and grease (FOG) in the sanitary sewers. City of Columbus. Ohio. They plan to design and install trash screens and a diversion system. chlorinated and fed into a re-forestation project along the Rio Hardy area. USA A series of steps as part of project clean river are being taken by city of Columbus to maintain the water sources in the city and nearby area. grease-containing wastewater discharged to the city’s sewers. which is a key parameter in the river quality. clean. The greasy waste enters the sewers through connections from homes. people began planting marsh grass and digging sediment ponds at three sites along the river. oils and grease control: A leading cause of sewer blockages across the U. The wetlands divert river water into a series of ponds before returning it to its natural course stripped of heavy concentrations of fecal coliform. overnight. The proposed rule will be a proactive rather than a reactive approach. or may produce. which will be lifted out of the river and diverted to wherever it needs to go. BMPs have been required only after a food service establishment has been identified as a grease blockage source. Imperial is a 43 acre site with 22.7% of the bacteria. It took about 7-9 days for the water to go from the inlet of the wetlands to the outlet. clothing etc. The BMPs work well: since 2001. Significant initiatives are:  City water runoff and sewer water are planned to be treated by green infrastructure. just jumped. The proposed project requires all food service establishments to develop and implement a Best Management Plan (BMP) to handle grease wastes. Green infrastructure is an engineered solution that mimics nature and filters pollutants that otherwise would be washed directly into the streams. and industrial wastewater dischargers. pet waste and other urban discards.utsandiego.  The town of Mexicali took the extra step of encasing the last three miles of New River under a broad new thoroughfare to limit random dumping such as sofas.  As part of ongoing restoration efforts. which stretches to the Sea of Cortez.

only four have required follow-up enforcement for repeat blockages Source: http://columbus. Progress of River Restoration in http://columbus.  Wetland was found to help cleaning the river water. Chinese government has taken many steps in this direction. have been placed on a program.  Research was conducted in the area of Stress caused by major hydro-projects. Source: Dong Zheren. The soil organic matter content also increased as water passed through the wetlands. However such a fast growth has caused large scale damage to the ecology and deterioration of water resources.aspx?id=38173 5) River restoration efforts in China Chinese economy is one of the fastest growing economies and has maintained close to double digit growth in the last two decades.  To control the ill effects of previously constructed projects and to propose counter measures towards damage control and restoration. Ecological Engineering 35 (2009) 1090–1103 .  Survey was taken to determine the wetland that has high risk to be degraded or which are already degraded. China.aspx?id=62707 http://columbus. River health assessment and adaptive management of river the Environment impact assessment Act was enacted. Some of the notable efforts taken are:  To conserve water resources and enforce justified use of water resources. Zhifeng Yanga. Beijing Baoshan Cuia. Cui et al. Zhang Jing.  The Water Resource Ministry directed the formation of river basin  Strict rules (in phased manner) were introduced to control the discharge of urban sewage into water Wetland conservation projects were started to protect these regions. which was tasked to maintain the river in good state. A research conducted by B.  The water bodies that have dried out because human interference and which were ecologically important were replenished by pumping/diverting water from nearby water sources. the Water Act was enacted.  Thousands of strategic and ecologically important sites have been labelled as Nature conservation region.aspx?id=41799 http://columbus. Sun Dongya. nitrogen and Phosphorus content after the water passed through the wetlands. China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research. Kejiang Zhang. Qichun Yanga. Evaluating the ecological performance of wetland restoration in the Yellow River Delta. Zhao Jinyong. Zhai Zhengli. in the yellow river delta showed a significant reduction in salinity. Plan was also created to prepare a permanent solution. To solve the problem and restore the water ecology.

• Stakeholders educated on the new Water Act (2002) and Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA.Key stakeholders were mobilised and facilitated to form three CFAs to manage Transmara Forest block. • Develop and promote recommendations for the development of an integrated water resource management strategy for the Mara River Basin. shared between Kenya and Tanzania. economic development and protection of the natural resources. Further problems are caused by the loss of forest cover in the upper catchments and along rivers. of which about 65% is located in Kenya and 35% in Tanzania. Kenya/Tanzania The Mara River is an international river. and mining. poor urban dwellers and women) for effective and sustainable IRBM. • Document best practices and failures in terms of sustainable management and conservation.6) Mara River. The Mara River Basin is about 13. • Gather and disseminate appropriate information on conditions and threats to the Mara River Basin for land-use planning and management of the Mara River Basin and raise awareness about the importance of catchment management. • Facilitate the ongoing process of stakeholder dialogue on integrated water resources management. This limits attempts to alleviate poverty and improve healthcare. • On-farm tree planting campaigns has been institutionalised within the established Mara River Water Users’ Association in the upper catchment of the basin. including appropriate policies and laws to secure sustainable management and conservation. pollution threats from urban settlements. food security. maps etc. Local communities and other stakeholders in the Mara River Basin are increasingly facing water shortages as well as problems with poor water quality and environmental degradation. • Start and facilitate a process to introduce or revive existing community organisations. and support local people’s involvement in the inter-sectoral integrated river basin management (IRBM) dialogue through capacity-building and advocacy. with measures instituted to control water flows. 15. the source of the Mara River. unsustainable agricultural practices (including irrigation). where forums and working groups have been established.5 hectares of the forest area were rehabilitated through enrichment . • Operational Community Forest Associations (CFAs) formed . • The concept of water thirsty crops is now clear to stakeholders in the Mara River Basin. One CFA has been registered. community exchange visits and communication measures. ranging from local people to high level policy makers. and promote the sharing and exchange of these lessons through demonstrating measures in the field. • Build capacity amongst key stakeholders including vulnerable groups (small scale farmers. • Over 1. 1999). and management actions in the catchment are becoming more sustainable.000 families have installed energy conservation stoves.750 km2. • Successfully sensitised the government authorities and lobbied political leaders for the re- establishment of the original forest boundaries and the eventual removal of people who invaded the Mau Forest Catchment. Some of the steps taken to restore this river were: •Carry out baseline surveys and as far as possible fill information gaps with documentation in the form of reports.

• Facilitated the formation of 14 Water Users Associations as legal entities in accordance to the National Water Policy requirements. several laws were enacted or amended that promote nature restoration: the Specified Non-profit Activity Promotion Law (the NPO Law) (1998) supports NGO activities for nature restoration. and people started to again recognize the value of natural landscapes and good living conditions. clean up later’ was the theme during this period.”  In the 1990. an energy crisis stopped rapid economic growth. • Catchment Management Strategy has been developed and led to the development of catchment Joint Water Resources Management Plan. Five nurseries are operational with total of 50. Since then. several laws were enacted to conserve and improve river environment. Source: http://wwf.000 indigenous seedlings to be planted in the forest. The River Bureau launched the Nature-oriented river works initiative. Although these projects were conducted for recreational purpose rather than for ecological purposes. Within a few decades. most rivers had been constrained. the Seacoast Law (1999) was amended for seacoast environment protection. Suitable tree and fodder species were planted to stabilise terraces and provide fodder for livestock. The major step was the amendment of the River Law in 1997. From 1990 to 2004 more than 23000 river restoration projects have been 7) River restoration effort in Japan The economic boom between 1950 and 1970 caused severe water pollution throughout the country. rivers provided the last remaining open space for amenities and recreation. they helped to turn people's eyes back to “nature. Rapid urbanization enlarged the area of impermeable landscapes.became an important keyword. • Supported Tanzania’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation which rehabilitated 13 completely stalled river gauging stations. Countless “Shin-sui” parks and playgrounds were opened along rivers. and further increased flooding risks.  In addition. • Information and data documented on environmental.820 farmers were supported to establish terraces on 995 hectares of farms to control soil erosion and improve water conservation. impounded and polluted. In urban and suburban areas. many steps were taken by the government and people. • 25 Community Action Plans for water management and other natural resources have been prepared and are under implementation. some of them are listed below:  In the early 1970s. “Shin-sui” – ‘playing with water’ . • Capacity built amongst vulnerable Community-Based Groups involved in Income Generating Activities. • 995 hectares under soil and water conservation . hydrological and social conditions. and using technologies that support sustainable natural resources and conservation. To reverse the trend. ‘Develop now. 18 kms of riverine vegetation were also protected. planting and reforestation under CFAs. the Environment Impact Assessment Law (1999) is of . and now being disseminated.

Members of this NGO voluntarily visited Germany and Switzerland to learn about ecologically sound management practices. great improvement has been made in the quality of water and many of the contaminated sites have been cleaned. It is equipped with three 800-m long experimental channels of different geomorphic styles. grassroot movements can be key drivers of environmental and social change. ARRC is also an important education and training centre.  In 1990. a local NGO was seeking an environmentally sound river management scheme to conserve the Oda River. the Nature Restoration Promotion Law (2003) calls for a sound scientific underpinning of restoration projects and it has stimulated countless restoration projects throughout the country. Their zeal led to the launch of the nation-wide “Nature-oriented River Works” program in 1990.nakamura. river restoration began by the activities of a small citizen group. which is one of the largest facilities worldwide devoted to restoration ecology. more than 20.go. Hundreds of dams were built in tributaries thereby blocking the migratory fish movement and degrading water quality. primary importance to conserve and protect nature. and the Land Improvement Law (2001) for agricultural modernization was amended for conserving the rural environment. especially between 1800 and 1972. Water and sediments have been contaminated with toxins and invasive plants and animals have taken shelter of the Shoreline and wetlands have been altered.pdf 8) Hudson river restoration.for controlled field experiments. River flow has been directed to single channel. as the other channels were filled with the dredged sediments. In particular. In Japan. The River Bureau launched the “National Census of the River Environment” to gather nation-wide baseline information on the ecological state of river corridors.  In 1998.000 people visited the centre. a research institute of The River Bureau opened the Aqua Restoration Research Centre (ARRC).which includes a research station . the Public Works Research Institute (PWRI). New York The Hudson River has been greatly disrupted by human. Numerous research institutes are using the ARRC facility . Thus. As the result of Clean Water Act (1972) and other laws. grassroot initiatives).  In Japan most river restoration projects are driven by local groups and small NGOs (i.pwri.e. a local NGO called “Asaza Project” initiated the largest lakeshore restoration project in the country. Many of the . In the case of Lake Kasumigaura. In Ikazaki. Discharge can be manipulated by an upstream gate. The ARRC is designed to experimentally study the ecological effects of flow manipulation along differently impacted river channels. This intensive monitoring not only provides important information on long-term trends in biodiversity but also improves our scientific understanding of river ecosystems.080601. Within the first six years. Source: http://www. relocated or eliminated along the 152 mile length of estuary. Although small NGOs have limited financial and technical resources they can connect local people with scientists and river authorities and therefore trigger very large projects.

Tributary Restoration (fish passage and dam removal) Source: Miller. Intertidal and Shallow Habitat Restoration 2. a draft was made with recommendation to improve the condition of river further. appropriate and feasible actions for meeting and develop a monitoring system for measuring success. Dam Removal and Culvert Right-Sizing  Promote and implement use of ecologically enhanced shoreline treatments  Implement programs to control Invasive plant species  After implementing the restoration process. Some of the key recommendations for actions to be taken are:  Preserve existing estuary habitat – As the cost of preserving is far less compared to restoration of a degraded ecosystem. Following are the areas in which scientific research and understanding is required: 1. http://www. design.. adaptive management principles should be followed. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.dec.html . Lessons Learned and Adaptive Management ‐ Information and experience gained is published and made available to improve the quality and reliability of ongoing and future restoration Shoreline Restoration 5.ny. Daniel E.  A proper understanding of river restoration science is a pre-requisite for a successful implementation of restoration project. Project Monitoring – Physical and biological response is monitored and compared with reference and baseline condition to determine project success. prioritize.strategic locations have been taken over by New York State and government agencies to maintain and implement habitat conservation efforts. 2013. Collection of baseline data is essential to the process of understanding the results of restoration actions and improving the reliability of future efforts 2. The main objective of the draft is: 1) Plan. carry out and evaluate habitat restoration projects 2) Advance the state of our knowledge about the habitat needs of priority species 3) Develop understanding of how to best carry out meaningful restoration projects 4) Guide habitat protection efforts that will support adaptation to sea‐level rise and promote ecosystem resilience 5) Coordinate and document habitat restoration and restoration science projects. Hudson River Estuary Habitat Restoration Plan. Baseline Data and Project Design – Project managers collect environmental data from the restoration site and a reference site to identify project goals. 3. Construction ‐ Project managers implement project designs. 4. Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Restoration 4. To further improve the condition of the river.  Restore Side channels  Promote and implement Fish Passage. Tidal Wetland Restoration 3. Hudson River Estuary Program. The general steps in adaptive management are: 1.