2023-2024 Finalist

Kham River Restoration Initiative

"Restoring a river and a cultural legacy"




Other Contributors

Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar Municipal Corporation, Varroc Foundation, Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar Cantonment Board


Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar, India


Sewer leakage and improper dumping of solid waste turned the historic Kham river into a “perennial flow of garbage.” Neglect and depletion of riparian green cover worsened the situation, contributing to a loss of cultural identity around the river and exacerbating monsoon flooding.

The Big Idea

A three-pronged approach to river restoration combines deep ecological restoration of the riparian zone, upstream waste management and pollution prevention, and thoughtful community stewardship.

Life Changing Impact

A safer, cleaner river provides waterfront access for residents, flood-mitigation and ecological benefits, and inclusive jobs for waste workers.

Ripple Effect

Impacts reach river management both up and downstream and extends to similar water projects nationwide. The work has led to a regional Urban River Management Plan for large-scale water restoration.

EcoSattva, a women-led environmental consulting firm, has reversed the degradation of the Kham river in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar (formerly known as Aurangabad), a seasonal river that was the site of dumping and pollution for decades. Through collaboration with experts and community stakeholders, the Kham River Restoration Initiative revived the river’s ecosystem, prevents flooding during monsoon season and protects the livelihoods of fishing communities downstream.

The restoration project started with a research phase in 2020 to understand the full scope of challenges facing the river and communities surrounding it. This research informed the project’s three-pronged approach, including deep ecological restoration of the riparian zone, city-wide and regional waste management, and a robust social inclusion and engagement campaign.

Priority areas for climate adaptation and resilience were identified for riverbank stabilization and physical restoration through pitching, dredging, desilting and planting of native species along the riparian edge. Ongoing monitoring and data collection ensure lasting impacts.

A main feature of the restoration effort is a 5-kilometer EcoPark that features rejuvenated freshwater ponds and wetlands once contaminated by decades-old legacy waste, a safe and accessible walking path, and an amphitheater for educational and community gatherings.

Garbage Vulnerable Points were targeted as key locations for intervention with maximum impact on river health, and some of the reclaimed land turned into pocket parks for community use. The Unnati program leads training and capacity building for sanitation staff in 42 wards and employs women Safai Saathi informal waste pickers to systematically improve solid waste management.

An ongoing education and engagement campaign aims to dispel misinformation regarding the importance of seasonal rivers and to restore a cultural ethic around the Kham river. Public awareness at the grassroots level is integrated into every facet of the work, including educational programs in schools, cultural events such as dance performances, and locally commissioned art. The work is now serving as an impetus for expanded river cleanup work along other water bodies including at the regional basin level.

There is no prior existing relationship between the project and WRI. For full disclosure, please visit here.

By The Numbers

1.3 million residents have access to a safe, biodiverse riverfront

54 acres of riparian zone cleaned and restored

25,000 households benefit from waste collection

600 sanitation staff integrated into municipal waste efforts

17 artists commissioned for cultural artwork

110 Garbage Vulnerable Points eliminated

1 million people participated in over 200 waterfront events