Dr. Latha Anantha is a name familiar to those of us who have either been associated with the Indian water sector, or those who have worked with her at grassroots level as part of the Athirappilly dam movement. A naturalist to the core, she had dedicated her entire life for the cause of environment, especially for flowing rivers and for conservation of Western Ghats. Chalakudy River had a special place in her life and work. Founder of River Research Centre and part of the Chalakudypuzha Samrakshana Samithi (Chalakudy River Protection Council), she was part of many collectives including South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (SANDRP), Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India, International Rivers Network, and so on.
Latha had a dream that many of us shared: of free flowing, healthy rivers. She spent a lifetime in the area of conservation in the Western Ghats, and left a lot of work for us to carry on. Ensuring e-flows in rivers and river basin management were subjects close to her heart. She strongly believed that it is important to bring into mainstream civil society discussions how our dying rivers can be restored, for they are the lifeline of our planet.
River Bank Mapping and Sand Auditing of Chalakudy river and Karuvannur river under the guidance of Revenue Department and Centre for Earth Science Studies, Thiruvananthapuram
She was the recipient of the first Bhagirath Prayas Samman for her “exemplary capacity for combining sound research with the mobilization of community, political and state agencies, and for ushering in a unique methodology of consensus- based conservation of rivers in the country’”. She was also Ashoka Fellow (2012) for her work on protecting rights of those dwelling on the banks of River Chalakudy in Kerala.
She was resource person on watershed development at Kerala Institute on Local Administration and in several grama panchayaths in Kerala during 9th and 10th decentralised planning periods. She also provided inputs to several government led committees and panels. Some of them include:
She served as the South Asia Advisor for International Rivers for many years. During this phase she developed a deep interest in the concept of e-flows. She tried to drive a River Basin Driven Campaign to Preserve the Ecological Flows of rivers. She worked towards establishing the criteria for e flows and understanding downstream impacts, and exploring what sort of institutional frameworks will work in the Indian context.
She served as National Steering Committee Member of Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India (2006 onwards), a network of water and river professionals who are engaged in conflict resolution around water and river issues in India. The Forum in its first phase from 2006 – 08 had brought out a compendium of water conflicts in India. http://waterconflictforum.org/resources_waterconflicts.php.