Latha Anantha

Ashoka Fellow
India,
Fellow Since 2012
River Research Center

Citation

This profile was prepared when Latha Anantha was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
A river that does not flow to the sea disrupts all the hydrological and ecological cycles, in turn affecting both human and wildlife needs. Recognizing the critical role played by the river in connecting and enriching different ecosystems, like forests, wetlands, flood plains, river islands, mangroves and deltas, Dr. Latha founded the River Research Center (RRC) in 2006, which assesses the environmental flows required based on ecological and hydrological parameters of a river. Through RRC, Dr. Latha aims to drive change through grassroots education and policy advocacy.

Dr. Latha applies science and management principles to make upstream and downstream linkages of human interventions in a river basin. For example, how upstream catchment areas, dams and diversions impact downstream livelihoods and ecology due to daily flow alterations. These linkages ensure better planning and management of river basins that can take into account effects of various interventions within the entire basin and regulate them from the perspective of the continuing existence of the river. She has successfully influenced the government of Kerala to introduce the concept of “sand mining holidays” and alter reservoir operations management to improve downstream flows. Dr. Latha has also drawn the attention of river basin communities’ upstream interventions that alter flows and mobilized them toward decentralized planning. Gram Panchayats, or local self-governments at the village or small town level in India, have formed water monitoring and management committees that plan their land, soil and human resources for livelihood enhancement. Dr. Latha believes that given appropriate tools, such communities can play the role of monitoring the river bodies to ensure the uninterrupted flow of the river.

Through a direct intervention on Chalakudy River in the state of Kerala, Dr. Latha is showcasing how this idea can be implemented and can benefit both the river and society. She is drawing from her experience on the river of Chalakudy to design a blueprint of tools and strategies to manage other rivers around India.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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