India-Led Global River-Cities Alliance Launched At COP28 UAE

Dignitaries Worldwide Join Forces to Praise GRCA Inauguration on December 10, 2023 at Dubai, a Pivotal Step for Global River Conservation.

The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) under the Ministry of Jal Shakti, in a giant step towards global water sustainability, launched the Global River Cities Alliance (GRCA) on December 10, 2023 at the COP28 or the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Expanding the reach of the River Cities Alliance NMCG formed by NMCG in association with NIUA) with 142 Indian River cities as members, river cities of Den Haag, from the Netherlands, Adelaide from Australia, and Szolnok of Hungary joined the Global River Cities Alliance today. 

Earlier on 6 December 2023, at the CoP 28, RCA had signed a Memorandum of Common Purpose (MoCP) with 124 member Mississippi River Towns and Cities Initiative of the USA. 

GRCA is the first of its kind alliance in the world

The launch of GRCA signifies a momentous step in global efforts toward river conservation and sustainable water management. Following this, partner countries are poised to coordinate post-COP activities, shaping the architecture of GRCA for effective implementation.

DG NMCG signing MoCP with MRCTI, USA

Among the dignitaries that took part in the GRCA launch were Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Minister for Jal Shakti, Government of India (joined virtually), Shri G. Asok Kumar, Director General of the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), Shri Sadhguru (Isha Foundation), H.E. Prof. Dr Hani Swilam (Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Government of Egypt), H.E. Mr Mark Harbers (Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Government of the Netherlands), Mr Ole Thonke (Under-Secretary for Development Policy, Government of Denmark), Mr Chuop Paris (Secretary of State, Ministry of Environment, Kingdom of Cambodia), Mr Takahiro Konami (Director for International Affairs Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Government of Japan), Mr Karma Tshering (Secretary of Energy and Natural Resources, Kingdom of Bhutan), Ms Karlene Maywald (South Australian Water Ambassador, Government of Australia), Mr Ing. Godfred Fiifi Boadi (Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources, Government of Ghana), Ms Roos Meilink (Chief Resilience Officer, Den Haag, Government of Netherlands), Mr Erwin De Nys (Practice Manager, Climate Finance Mobilization, The World Bank), Mr. Satoshi Ishii (Sector Director, Water and Urban Development, Asian Development Bank), Mr Ankur Agrawal (Investment Operations Specialist – Urban, AIIB), Mr Sumouleendra Ghosh (Global Water Lead & Partner, KPMG) and Dr. Debolina Kundu (Director, National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA), MoHUA, Government of India).

Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Minister for Jal Shakti, GoI addressing the COP28 virtually

Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, the Union Minister for Jal Shakti, Government of India, expressed satisfaction with the collaboration between Namami Gange and the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative (MRCTI), marked by the signing of a Memorandum of Collaboration (MoCP). Highlighting the guidance of Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Shri Shekhawat emphasized the significance of the River Cities Alliance (RCA), launched in 2021 to foster the sustainable development of river cities. He noted that since its inception, RCA has expanded to include 143 member cities in India, including the city of Aarhus, Denmark and has emerged as a catalyst for key frameworks for sustainable urban river management. He noted that the efforts of RCA have received recognition and appreciation from international stakeholders.

Shri Shekhawat emphasized the visionary goal of globalizing the River Cities Alliance by integrating urban water management into Urban Planning. He specifically highlighted the significant launch of the Global River Cities Alliance (GRCA) at COP 28 as a monumental stride in global endeavours against climate change. Additionally, he stressed India’s crucial role in sustainable river-centric development, viewing this initiative as a roadmap for climate resilience and a better future for generations to come. In his concluding remarks, he extended best wishes for the success of the Global River Cities Alliance and reiterated strong support for climate action.

DG NMCG-GRCA G.Asok Kumar addressing the delegates of partner countries

Shri G Asok Kumar, Director General of the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), lauded India’s strides under the leadership of Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. He underscored Namami Gange’s accomplishments since its inception in 2014, particularly in the rejuvenation of the sacred Ganga River and its tributaries. He drew attention to NMCG’s global recognition as one of the Top 10 World Restoration Flagships at COP15 in December 2022. He noted that initiatives like ‘Catch the Rain’ in 2021 and the ‘Jal Jeevan Mission’ in 2019 were pivotal steps within the water sector, contributing to India’s progress in this domain. Reflecting on discussions at the National Ganga Council, Shri G Asok Kumar quoted Hon’ble PM Shri Narendra Modi’s call for new river planning, stressing the need to mainstream rivers in urban planning without a regulatory mindset.

Sri Sadhguru at COP28

Recognizing the challenges faced by urban areas, including river restrictions, pollution, encroachment, and water extraction, he emphasized NMCG’s commitment to a multi-sectoral approach involving stakeholders.  The vision of incorporating urban water management into the framework was presented, positioning the Global River Cities Alliance (GRCA) as a unique platform for knowledge exchange, river-city twinning, and the dissemination of best practices. Shri G Asok Kumar discussed the recent MoCP signed with the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative (MRCTI), highlighting its potential to enhance global water and urban river management. He noted that the collaboration will foster shared expertise and provide opportunities for global public and private funding agencies to engage with river cities.

Dr Debolina Kundu, Director of the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India, emphasized that enhancing the relationship with rivers is a core objective of the alliance, highlighting the vital role of healthy rivers in climate change adaptation. Dr Kundu acknowledged that investments in promoting the health of rivers are crucial for sustainable development.

GRCA & Water Management – Global Perspectives

The international dignitaries- partners present at the launch of Global River-City Alliance by NMCG at COP28UAE appreciated & applauded the initiative as unique . Here are a few of them.

Spiritual Guru Shri Sadhguru of the Isha Foundation advocated for the establishment of dedicated businesses focused on sewage processing. Furthermore, he stressed the critical importance of efficient wastewater management within each sector and urgently addressed the need to tackle industrial sewage for effective water management.

H.E. Prof. Dr. Hani Swilam, Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Government of Egypt, highlighted a need for secure water supplies and sanitation in cities worldwide, emphasizing GRCA’s role in rainwater harvesting, urban river conservation, and ecological balance. He also discussed capacity building for climate-resilient river management.

H.E. Mr. Mark Harbers, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Government of the Netherlands, emphasized strategic water partnerships, applauded India’s water leverage success, and commended the GRCA launch. His outreach invited Dutch cities to join GRCA, expressing hope that these efforts would contribute to water security and safety, particularly for vulnerable populations

Mr. Ole Thonke, Under-Secretary for Development Policy, Government of Denmark, expressed hope for increased collaboration within the alliance. He stressed the importance of aligning with Danish and Indian cities for mutual learning, emphasizing a holistic approach that includes water treatment plants and innovative sludge utilization.

Mr. Chuop Paris, Secretary of State, Ministry of Environment, Kingdom of Cambodia, emphasized the ongoing commitment to working collaboratively on addressing the effects of climate change on the ecology. He underscored the significance of urban development in this collective effort.

Mr. Takahiro Konami, Director for International Affairs, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism, Government of Japan, highlighted the potential for technical collaboration and insights among the member nations. He mentioned the Global River Cities Alliance (GRCA) as a valuable platform for expanding networks, particularly in addressing flood-related challenges.

Mr Karma Tshering, Secretary of Energy and Natural Resources, Kingdom of Bhutan, conveyed his best wishes for the success of the Global River Cities Alliance (GRCA) and extended support to India in this endeavour.

Ms. Karlene Maywald, South Australian Water Ambassador, Government of Australia, addressed the need for diversifying water supply and decentralization. She emphasized a collective effort from citizens to enhance ecosystems. Ms. Maywald stated that by employing appropriate methods and technology, these goals can be achieved. She expressed Australia’s intent to share its expertise with India in these areas.

Mr. Ing. Godfred Fiifi Boadi from the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources, Ghana, emphasized the pivotal role of stakeholders collaborating to address climate change. He said that climate change poses not only an environmental threat but also challenges basic human rights, such as access to sanitation and clean water.

Ms. Roos Meilink, Chief Resilience Officer from Den Haag, Government of the Netherlands, discussed the importance of early warning systems and expertise in achieving resilience goals. She highlighted the potential for collaboration to enhance these capabilities.

Mr. Erwin De Nys, Practice Manager for Climate Finance Mobilization at The World Bank, discussed enhancing water security through funding and technical assistance, particularly in sanitation, irrigation, and building resilience against natural disasters. Acknowledging the historical costliness of river cleaning, he praised the complexity of India’s engagement in this effort, particularly with NMCG, emphasizing the importance of an integrated approach to river cleaning.

Mr. Satoshi Ishii, Sector Director for Water and Urban Development at the Asian Development Bank, emphasized the strong imperative for cleaning and revitalizing river ecosystems for the well-being of rivers, ultimately improving their quality and sustainability. Regarding the Global River Cities Alliance (GRCA) initiative in India, Mr. Ishii expressed support for the urban river management plan. He highlighted the Asian Development Bank’s policy-based lending support to the Indian government, emphasizing that the funds would be utilized for the development of sanitation facilities.

Mr Ankur Agrawal, Investment Operations Specialist – Urban at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), emphasized the crucial link between urban areas and rivers, stressing the need for enhanced water management amid climate challenges. He advocated for increased water financing, expressing hope that GRCA would provide sustainable funding opportunities.

Mr. Sumouleendra Ghosh, Global Water Lead & Partner at KPMG, emphasized the importance of increasing knowledge sharing, anticipating that it will lead to the generation of new programs in collaboration with financial agencies.

(With inputs from PIB & NMCG)

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