World’s giant rivers running dry – report

The Nile, Danube, and Rio Grande are among ten major rivers that are "dying fast" as pollution, dams and climate change take their toll, the WWF has warned.

Five of the ten worst affected rivers are predictably in Asia, but even Europe’s Danube is in a dire state with 80% of the wetlands and floodplains along its basin destroyed due to dams, according to the conservation organisation.

Apart from freshwater shortages, communities across all the continents will suffer the knock-on effects of disappearing fish stocks and altered ecosystems.

The five Asian rivers on the WWF’s threatened watercourse list are the Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Ganges and the Indus in Pakistan, sapped of its water by agriculture. Rio de La Plata in South America and the Murray-Darling in drought-strticken Australia also make the list.

Planning regimes that do not take water resources into account are to blame for the damage, said the WWF’s Jamie Pittock: “Poor planning and inadequate protection of natural areas mean we can no longer assume that water will flow forever. Like the climate change crisis, which now has the attention of business and government, we want leaders to take notice of the emergency facing freshwater now not later.”

The World’s Top Ten Rivers at Risk report, released ahead of World Water Day on Thursday, stresses the fact the freshwater crisis extends far beyond the ten worst-affected of the world’s giant watercourses.

It urged efficient water management policies both within countries and across borders, with cooperative agreements like the (still unratified) UN Watercourses Convention pointing the way on the international arena.

“Conservation of rivers and wetlands must be seen as part and parcel of national security, health and economic success,” said Jamie Pittock.

“Emphasis must be given to exploring ways of using water for crops and products that do not use more water than necessary.”

The full report can be accessed here.

Goska Romanowicz

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