Mar 30, 2007

Rivers in India Top the List of WWF Rivers at Risk

On the heels of World Water Day (March 22), the WWF has released a report on the World’s Top 10 Rivers at Risk. The list contains the top ten rivers that are quickly dying as a result of over extraction, climate change, pollution and dams.

“All the rivers in the report symbolize the freshwater crisis, signaled for years, but the alarm is falling on deaf ears,” says Ravi Singh, secretary general and CEO, WWF-India. “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 Ganges and the Indus rivers are both on the list, and both are located in the Indian subcontinent. The other rivers on the list are Yangtze, Mekong, and Salween in Asia, Europe’s Danube, the Americas’ La Plata and Rio Grande/Rio Bravo, Africa’s Nile-Lake Victoria and Australia’s Murray-Darling.

The Ganges is facing serious threat due to increased water withdrawals. In India, barrages control all of the tributaries to the Ganges and divert roughly 60% of river flow to large-scale irrigation. Over-extraction for agriculture in the Ganges has caused the reduction in surface water resources, increasing dependence on ground water, loss of water-based livelihoods and the destruction of habitat for 109 fish species and other aquatic and amphibian fauna.

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

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.

WWF-India, through its Freshwater and Wetlands program, works for sustainable management of wetlands for biodiversity conservation and human well being across the country. Additionally as part of an upcoming regional initiative, WWF-India is working towards generating better understanding of climate change impacts on Ganga River ecosystems and vulnerable communities for the development of adaptation strategies helping towards minimizing impacts upon ecosystems, people and livelihoods.