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COMMENTARY

Since rivers are the primary source of


Sports for Cleaner Rivers groundwater creation, its cleanliness is
of prime importance to all. Today, many
developing nations are facing huge
Ashish Karnavat crises of polluted rivers. In fact, many
are spending large sums on cleaning up

A
Rivers of developing world are few years ago, an evening spent their rivers. In recent years, the World
subjected to tremendous amounts on the banks of the River Rhine Bank (2011a) allocated a billion dollars
in Basel etched an everlasting for the reduction of pollution of the river
of water pollutants, mainly due to
imprint on my mind. People walking Ganga in India. Similar funding exam-
economic reasons such as the race along the riverside in the evening, some ples have also been found for the river
to produce cheaper goods, paucity seated along the pavement, music in the Nura in Kazakhstan (World Bank 2011b),
of funds, toothless environmental background, street-food aroma in the air; the river Danube in Eastern Europe, and
in short, it was a mesmerising view. Just the river Markina and 19 other rivers in
regulations, and deep-rooted
then, I saw a few people jump into the the Philippines (World Bank 2013). But,
corruption. Using a river-based cool river water along with these unique if this was just a problem of funding, then
sport, if a multi-nation rowing float bags (stuffed with their clothes the problem would have been solved
league is created, the media, and belongings). My colleagues told me by now. However, since the issue still
that these people were using the river persists, we should understand that the
corporate and government
water current to reach their homes after problem is not that simple and has other
attention could create an economic work, somewhere downstream. They important facets.
system that will help give an will get off the river, dry up, dress up The major cause for river pollution is
impetus to river cleaning and and walk back home. My jaw just said to be the release of untreated domestic
dropped in disbelief! What better way to wastes and industry dumps (UNW-DPC
maintenance, where nothing
blend leisure with everyday travel in 2015), and regardless of the existing poli-
significant has been achieved in todays bustling world. cies on river water pollution, there has
spite of institutions like the World Even today I wonder if something been very little success so far. The blame
Bank pouring in billions of dollars. similar could ever happen back in my could be attributed in a major way to
hometown, in Asia. economic reasons, like the rat-race of the
developing nations to produce cheaper
Elite Sport of Rowing goods, paucity of funds, poorly staffed
Rowing traditionally has been a sport of river monitoring authorities, toothless
the privileged. Important reasons being environmental regulations, and deep-
prohibitive cost of the equipment, expen- rooted corruption. Addressing the above
sive transportation, prolonged training issues directly will take a lot of time,
requirements and non-accessibility to education, awareness, and a nobler
rowing-friendly waters; thus, making this political will, which will take decades
sport confined to only a few (Wessells going by its current pace.
2011: 59). Even today, almost all the top- Instead, can we think of a system that
most rowing athletes of the world belong will generate revenues for businesses
to the developed nations (World Rowing and governments if rivers are cleaner?
nd). Even with the advent of newer tech- If such a possibility could be explored,
nology and practice equipments, it is a then, we can expect businesses and gov-
surprise that a country like China has not ernments to use their lobbying and
been able to make a dent in this sport. funding power to keep the rivers clean
Can developing nations get their for their own benefit. Aligning revenues
hands onto this supposedly elite sport? with clean rivers will create a sustainable
Would this sport still be an out-of-reach manoeuvre to keep the rivers clean,
sport if these nations are determined creating a win-win situation for all.
and use their expertise of manufacturing,
technology and frugal innovations, along Economics of Big Sporting Leagues
with government and corporate funding, It is astonishing as to how much revenue
to make this an accessible sport? Can global sporting-league events, like the
Ashish Karnavat (akarnavat001@gmail.com) they come together to create a parallel English Premier League (United King-
is a doctoral research scholar at the Gokhale to the Commonwealth Games, for the dom), National Football League (NFL;
Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune.
sake of their rivers? United States) and Indian Premier League
20 september 2, 2017 vol lIi no 35 EPW Economic & Political Weekly
COMMENTARY

(India) garner from advertisers and spon- that are more popular than the others would be key, for practising as well as
sors. In fact, the major revenues of these like its football, baseball and basketball in for the events.
sporting leagues flow in mostly from other the US, whereas soccer, rugby and cricket The solution to both these problems
businesses in the form of sponsorship and are highly popular in the UKbut sports lies in an idea propagated by engineer
advertising. Money also flows in from sta- economists, based on data, claim that Arthur Cotton during the British colonial
dium tickets and franchise merchandise, favourite sports are fast changing with rule in India in the 19th century, of a
but it is just a fraction of the overall changing success or failure of national Rivers Inter-Link Program. He proposed
revenue. The key here is the viewership, sportspersons and evolving technology the plan to interlink major Indian rivers
which, like any other business, is built up (Gratton and Solberg 2007: 117). in order to hasten import and export of
over years and is a result of factors like Again, with the technological revolu- goods from its colony in South Asia, as well
entertainment quotient, competitive bal- tion in the telecom/internet business, the as to address water shortages and droughts
ance, aesthetics, players, and match quality, dynamics of the business of media is fast in south-eastern India (Sangwan 2016: 1).
amongst others (Garland et al 2004: 7). changing. Digitisation has been a game Now, if this river-linking plan is imple-
Television channels purchase broad- changer as recording live programmes on mented wherever suitable, it could not
casting rights from the sporting leagues, a click of a button, watching television only create a steady flow of river water
generally through a bidding process, and on the go on computers and on mobile for all major rivers throughout the year,
then sell advertisement slots during match phones is a reality today, thus, challenging but also prevent the disposal of freshwater
broadcasts to those wanting to advertise the age-old claim that there are only in the sea, thus also helping reduce sea-
their products or build brands. Just to give a few popular games in a country. A water levels and maintain a steady supply
an example of the levels of revenues gener- few examples, like the Ultimate Fighting of groundwater to the water-deprived
ated by television channels, a 30-second Championship in the US and Indian Super regions in the developing world. There
advertisement slot during the 2016 NFL League in India, have recently proved that can be endless growth possibilities for
Superbowl game cost a whopping $5 mil- technology combined with other requisite agriculture, drinking water, and inland
lion to advertisers in the US (Groden 2015). factors can create a viewer base of mil- waterways with such a project, and not
Now, let us consider a possibility of lions over just a few years (Tainsky et al to mention our sporting event as well.
initiating an international river-based 2012: 43; Sharma and Bhattacharya 2015; Considering the involvement at all levels
rowing league, having participants from IBEF and TechSci 2016). The millions of of governments, corporates and media for
developing nations and select city-teams hits on their videos via the internet, social this mega multi-country rowing event,
from every country requiring river- media and mobile phones are definitely can we expect a push to the concept of
rehab. The competitions are then hosted worth studying. linking of rivers and regulating the flow
on the rivers of all the hometowns of the Hence, with the help of these innovative of fresh water in the country?
participating teams. and digitised marketing initiatives, we can Also, as per research reports, usage of
Television channels are roped in for try and promote an international rowing inland-waters for public and goods trans-
attracting global viewers, and advertisers league event between multiple develop- portation can substantially improve envi-
and corporates for their sponsorship. Now, ing nations. Not to forget, the main ob- ronment quality (IWAT-India 2016). The
to have a successful event, the first require- jective here is the cleansing of the rivers only gigantic task is having a river with a
ment will be clean and beautiful rivers, on a sustainable basis. flow of clean and steady water and the
infrastructure, live audience to witness the Later, as the sport develops and viewer- requisite infrastructure. Cities like Paris,
event, good rowing athletes and an enter- ship rises, this mega-event sport can on its Venice and Prague are epitomes of how
tainment factor for the audience. Thus, this own generate sufficient funds for sustain- cities use inland water for not just trans-
unique sporting endeavour will create able maintenance of the rivers. Also, based portation, but also for its beautification,
enough impetus to set the river-rehab ball on the staggering penetration of telecom making it a coveted tourist destination.
rolling, compelling the dormant local gov- and computers in the developing nations, With an international rowing league in
ernments and authorities to swing into an enormous market of sport-lovers is existence and the requisite infrastructure
action to work on their rivers, working waiting to be tapped, which can completely in place along with clean rivers flowing
hand-in-hand with the sponsors and ad- change the viewership dynamics of media through the city, it is just a matter of
vertisers for its success. And, since the companies (IBEF and TechSci 2016). time before the avenue of inland water-
growing markets in these countries are ways can be explored in every city.
up for grabs by so many multinational River Interlinking and Cheaper and environmentally friendly
corporations, it does not seem that it Inland Waterways public and goods transport systems can
would be a tough task. We all understand that global warming be a reality along with increased tourism,
is increasing the levels of seawater and, all in all generating additional revenues.
Technology: The Game Changer thus, threatening the existence of many There have been umpteen challenges
Now, the big question is of creating a view- waterfront regions of the world (World for all the above-mentioned issues since
ership base for this new sport. Usually Bank 2010). Second, for an international the recognition of the issues themselves
countries have their own favourite sports rowing league to exist, steady rivers is required further. The idea here is to
Economic & Political Weekly EPW september 2, 2017 vol lIi no 35 21
COMMENTARY

sculpt an innovative way out of all those Authority of India, Ministry of Shipping, Wessells, A T (2011): The Ultimate Team Sport?
Noida. Urban Waterways and Youth Rowing in Seattle,
challenges and, if possible, weave them Sharma, Ravi Teja and Arka Bhattacharya (2015): The Paradox of Urban Space: Inequality and
together with a single thread (here, the About 80 Million of ISLs Viewers Now from Transformation in Marginalized Communities,
Non-urban Areas: Star, Economic Times, 30 Nov- S Sutton and S Kemp (eds), New York: Palgrave
sport of rowing) and set the ball rolling. ember, http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/ Macmillan, pp 5371.
news/sports/about-80-million-of-isls-viewers- World Bank (2010): World Development Report
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