World's top 10 rivers at risk: WWF report

The Hindu , Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Correspondent : Staff Reporter
Due to over-extraction, climate change, pollution and dams

The Ganga and the Indus are on the list

Increased water withdrawals threaten Ganga

NEW DELHI: Over-extraction, climate change, pollution and dams are threatening the world's top rivers, leading to severe water shortages.

"Poor planning and inadequate protection of natural areas mean that we can no longer assume that water will flow forever,'' states the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) report "World's Top 10 Rivers at Risk,'' released here on Tuesday ahead of World Water Day on March 22.

The report lists the top 10 rivers, including two in the Subcontinent the Ganga and the Indus that are severely impacted by over-extraction and climate change respectively and are fast dying. According to the report, the Ganga is facing a serious threat owing to increased water withdrawals.

"In India, barrages control all the tributaries to the Ganga and divert roughly 60 per cent of the flow to large-scale irrigation. Over-extraction for agriculture in the Ganga has caused reduction in surface water resources, increased dependence on groundwater, loss of water-based livelihoods and destruction of habitat of 109 fish species and other aquatic and amphibian fauna,'' says the report.

The other rivers on the list are: the Yangtze, Mekong, and Salween in Asia, Europe's Danube, the Americas' La Plata and Rio Grande, Africa's Nile (Lake Victoria) and Australia's Murray-Darling.

"Rivers are the world's main source of freshwater. All the rivers in the report symbolise the freshwater crisis signalled for years but the alarm has fallen on deaf ears. 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,'' said Ravi Singh, secretary general and CEO of WWF-India.

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. Emphasis must be on exploring ways of using water for crops and products that do not use more water than necessary,'' said Mr. Singh.

"The freshwater crisis is bigger than the 10 rivers listed in this report, but it mirrors the extent to which unabated development is jeopardising nature's ability to meet our growing demands. We must change our mindset now or pay the price in the not so distant future.''

SOURCE : The Hindu, Wednesday, March 21, 2007

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