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  WWF 20 Mar 07
Going nowhere fast: top rivers face mounting threats

PlanetArk 20 Mar 07
Many Major Rivers in Danger of Drying Out - WWF
Story by Douwe Miedema

Yahoo News 20 Mar 07
WWF says pollution, dams threaten rivers

By Eliane Engeler, Associated Press Writer

The Yangtze River gets more than half of China's industrial waste and sewage. Europe's Danube has lost most of its surrounding wetlands. And the Rio Grande has become so shallow that salt water is seeping in, bringing ocean fish that threaten freshwater species.

Pollution, global warming and rampant development could destroy some of the world's most iconic rivers in the coming decades, threatening to wipe out thousands of fish species and cause severe water shortages, the World Wide Fund for Nature said in a report Tuesday.

Only 21 of the planet's 177 longest rivers run freely from source to sea, with dams and other construction destroying the habitats for migratory fish and other species by altering the water's natural ebb and flow, the WWF said.

About a fifth of the world's 10,000 freshwater fish and plant species are either extinct or endangered, the report said, calling on governments to rad ically step up efforts to preserve rivers, lakes and wetlands.

"Unabated development is jeopardizing nature's ability to meet our growing demands," said Jamie Pittock, who heads WWF's freshwater program.

The report focused on some of the world's most important rivers: the Nile, the Danube, the Rio Grande, South America's La Plata, Australia's Murray-Darling and Asia's Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, and Ganges rivers.

The Danube--home to more than half of Europe's fish species--has lost 80 percent of its surrounding wetlands and flood plains because of dams, the report said. Construction to ease shipping channels--dredging, pumping water or straightening banks--also threaten animals and plants in the river, which runs from Germany to the Black Sea, WWF said. Less than 7 percent of its basin is protected.

In China, pollution in the main stem of the Yangtze River has increased by more than 70 percent over the last 50 years. Almost half of the country's industrial waste and sewage is discharged in the river, the report said. Garbage heaps, pig waste and discharge from factories, hospitals and mines--possibly including radioactive waste--lie at the bottom of the reservoir at the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric project, the WFF said.

In the Rio Grande, low water levels have allowed salt water to enter and ocean species to crowd out freshwater fish. Excessive extraction, primarily for agriculture, is threatening the river, which flows along the U.S.-Mexican border. At the same time, rising populations along both sides of the river need more and more water, increasing pressure on the 69 fish species found only in the Rio Grande, the WWF said.

Global warming is threatening fish populations in Africa, where even small temperature changes can dramatically alter water levels and fish productivity, the report said. The Nile, the world's longest river, is expected to reach a critically low level by 2025, threatening a source of drinking water for thousands of years.

PlanetArk 20 Mar 07

Many Major Rivers in Danger of Drying Out - WWF
Story by Douwe Miedema

GENEVA - Many major rivers in the world are at risk of drying out because of climate change and dam construction, which could affect fresh water supplies and marine life, the global nature protection body WWF said on Tuesday.

In a report ahead of the March 22 'World Water Day', the Swiss-based group identified 10 rivers, including the Nile, the Rio Grande and the Danube, as some of the worst victims of poor planning and inadequate protection.

"Rivers regularly no longer reach the sea, like the Indus in Pakistan, the Nile in Africa and the Rio Grande ... There are millions of people whose livelihoods are at risk," said Jamie Pittock, director of WWF's global freshwater programme.

Rivers are the world's main source of fresh water, and about half of the available supply is already being used up, he said.

Dams have destroyed habitats and cut rivers off from their flood plains, while climate change could alter the rules by which rivers have lived by for thousands of years, the report said.

Fish populations, the top source of protein and overall life support for hundreds of thousands of communities worldwide, are also being threatened, the report found.

WWF urged governments to strike agreements on ways to better manage shared water resources in order to minimise damage.

"All the rivers in the report symbolise the freshwater crisis signalled for years, but the alarm is falling on deaf ears," Pittock said. Other rivers on the warning list were the Yangtze, Mekong, Salween and Ganges, in Asia, the Rio Plata in South America and Australia's Murray-Darling, WWF said.

WWF 20 Mar 07
Going nowhere fast: top rivers face mounting threats

Gland, Switzerland: Rivers on every continent are drying out, threatening severe water shortages, according to a new WWF report. The report, World's Top Rivers at Risk, released ahead of World Water Day (22 March), lists the top ten rivers that are fast dying as a result of climate change, pollution and dams.

"All the rivers in the report symbolize the current freshwater crisis, which we have been signalling for years," says WWF Global Freshwater Programme Director 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."

Five of the ten rivers listed in the report are in Asia alone. They are the Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Ganges and Indus. Europe's Danube, the Americas' La Plata and Rio Grande/Rio Bravo, Africa's Nile-Lake Victoria and Australia's Murray-Darling also make the list.

Dams along the Danube River--one of the longest flowing rivers in Europe--have already destroyed 80 per cent of the river basin's wetlands and floodplains. Even without warmer temperatures threatening to melt Himalayan glaciers, the Indus River faces scarcity due to over-extraction for agriculture.

Fish populations, the main source of protein and overall life support systems for hundreds of thousands of communities worldwide, are also being threatened.

The report calls on governments to better protect river flows and water allocations in order to safeguard habitats and people's livelihoods.

"Conservation of rivers and wetlands must be seen as part and parcel of national security, health and economic success," Pittock adds. "Emphasis must be given to exploring ways of using water for crops and products that do not use more water than necessary."

In addition, cooperative agreements for managing shared resources, such as the UN Watercourses Convention, must be ratified and given the resources to make them work, says WWF.

"The freshwater crisis is bigger than the ten rivers listed in this report but it mirrors the extent to which unabated development is jeopardizing nature's ability to meet our growing demands," says Pittock. "We must change our mindset now or pay the price in the not so distant future."

World Water Day website: 'Coping with Water Scarcity' is the theme for World Water Day 2007, which is celebrated each year on 22 March.

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