World Water Day: Alarm for Asia's rivers

WWF presents worldwide Top 10 ranking of the threatened streams

Fishermen in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam © WWF-Canon / Elizabeth Kemf
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Five of the world's most threatened rivers are in Asia: the Yangtze, Mekong, Saluen, Ganges and Indus lead the corresponding top 10 list presented by WWF on World Water Day on March 22, 2007. For the other continents too, the environmental protection organization has tracked down the streams that are most vulnerable to human or environmental impacts. These include: Danube, La Plata, Rio Grande, Nile and the Australian Murray / Darling.

The WWF wants to make clear with this list that the rivers worldwide are particularly endangered by the following six factors: Infrastructure measures such as dams and the expansion for shipping and flood protection, pollution, massive water abstraction - especially for agriculture and drinking water -, aggressively occurring exotic species, overfishing and climate change.

"Rivers are the main water suppliers of the earth. The ten mentioned are intended to draw attention to the global water crisis, which has been apparent for years. With our Top 10 list, we want to ensure that the alarm signals are recognized early and are not put off as in the case of climate change, "explains WWF freshwater expert Martin Geiger.

Danube as a memorial of bad river policy

As a European "memorial of bad river policy" the WWF names the Danube - with 2, 500 kilometers in length the second longest river in Europe. Eighty percent of its wetlands and meadows have been destroyed by the construction of dykes since the beginning of the 19th century. 78 percent of the river itself is extensively and irreparably damaged due to human interference.

"Only 15 percent of the Danube's flow and its tributaries are expected to meet the environmental criteria of the EU Water Framework Directive, which should reach all European rivers by 2015, " warns Geiger. The WWF points out that the further canalization of the Danube not only damages nature, but also endangers the fish and drinking water supply for millions of people in the region. The loss of other floodplain areas also aggravates the danger of extreme floods. display

Geiger: "Man thinks that he could transform and use nature as he pleases. The ten most threatened rivers in the world show how much damage is irreparably destroyed to our own detriment. "

River floodplains as construction areas

WWF is committed to ensuring that rivers such as the Danube and the still largely intact Mekong are preserved for a long time. The latter covers the protein requirements of around 70 million people thanks to its unique fish wealth.

But on the Mekong, as in other developing countries, rapid population and economic growth is threatening the water budget and thus the entire ecosystem. The river meadows are closed to new construction areas or excluded from natural flooding by poorly laid out roads and flood dikes.

As a result, there are fewer and fewer spawning places and thus fewer and fewer fish. In addition, most of the wastewater is discharged unintentionally, and the already shrinking fish stocks are plundered using illegal fishing methods. Dams cause the natural sediment transport and the "migratory paths" of many fish to be interrupted.

(WWF, 21.03.2007 - DLO)