Posted in News

World’s Most Important Rivers Seriously Threatened

The Ganges, the Colorado, the Nile, the Yangtze: these are but a few of the world’s greatest rivers, whose names paint a majestic image and whose places in history are nothing short of legendary. The Ganges, sacred to Hindus, is considered the physical form of the goddess Ganga. According to Hopi Indian legend, mankind emerged from the Colorado River. Ancient Egyptians considered the Nile to be the pathway to the afterlife. The Yangtze, together with the Yellow River, is the birthplace of Chinese civilization. Rivers have long symbolized purity and strength, but today some of the world’s most celebrated waterways are in desperate need of rescue, according to a March report released by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) .

Forty-one percent of the world’s population lives in seriously threatened river basins. The rivers are often the lifeline for surrounding communities-providing water for drinking, transportation, sanitation, irrigation and electricity generation as well as being an important source of food, particularly in areas where resources are otherwise scarce.

WWF focused on the world’s 10 most threatened rivers: the Salween, Danube, La Plata, Mekong, Indus, Nile, Ganges, Rio-Grande, Murray-Darling, and the Yangtze-some of which they say are so damaged, they could actually be lost unless critical restoration efforts are made to conserve them. Six chief factors were blamed for the catastrophic degradation of these rivers: climate change, pollution, dams and infrastructure, excessive water extraction, invasive species, and over-fishing.

The WWF says integrated river basin management is the solution to the six major threats identified. This can include improving water allocations and rights, building infrastructure away from the river’s main stem and floodplains, preventing introduction of invasive species through better laws and quarantine programs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, clarifying fishing rights and protecting watersheds and wetlands. However, according to the report, “No solution will be effective in any of these river basins unless it is implemented through cooperation across social, economic and political boundaries.” Unfortunately, according to Jamie Pittock, Director of WWF International’s Global Freshwater Programme, “most Western governments are yet to ratify the UN Watercourses Convention that would set the minimum rules for sustainable management of rivers shared between two or more countries.”

More damage has been done to the Earth’s ecosystems in the last 50 years than during any time in history. Only 21 of the world’s 177 longest rivers now run freely from their source to the sea, unstopped by dams. Of 10,000 known freshwater species, more than 20 percent have become extinct, endangered or threatened. The WWF sees these findings as proof of an impending freshwater crisis if the current unsustainable practices continue.

(Visited 37 times, 1 visits today)

Read Ethical Traveler's Reprint Policy.