Friday, March 14, 2014

International Day Of Rivers

Celebrating International Rivers (In pictures)

Day Of Action Defending World Heritage Rivers


"Governments the world over have taken legal measures to protect particularly unique and valuable natural and cultural treasures in perpetuity. The establishment of national parks is one mechanism that has resulted in an estimated 6,500 protected areas in countries across the globe. Yet even these protected areas face destructive large dams. With more than 500 dams now planned in the Balkans, for example, our friends at River Watch are organizing to “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” against dams planned in national parks in Albania, Macedonia and Slovakia. The question has been posed: If we can’t stop destructive dams in our national parks, then where can we draw the line?

International Rivers will be taking action on March 14 to profile the threats to rivers and related ecosystems that are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Of the nearly 1,000 sites of “outstanding universal value” in the World Heritage system, several are directly threatened by large hydropower projects.

The World Heritage Committee meets annually to, among other business, review and consider sites to include on its “In Danger” list, a designation that aims to mobilize attention and resources to address imminent threats. International Rivers has provided evidence to the Committee, comprised of 21 member-states, on threats to river-dependent World Heritage Sites. Two sites under clear and immediate threat in 2014 are the Three Parallel Rivers site in China and the Lake Turkana Basin in East Africa.

Three Parallel Rivers is a 17,000-square-kilometer site featuring upper reaches of the Yangtze (Jinsha), the Mekong (Lancang) and Salween (Nu) rivers, which run roughly parallel in deep gorges along 300 km. Inscribed as a World Heritage site in 2003, the area is considered one of the richest temperate regions in the world for biodiversity and today is still a relatively undisturbed ecological zone. China has revived plans to build up to 13 dams on the Nu River, which would significantly change the scenic and ecological value of this World Heritage Site. The Committee has requested that China update the Site’s status for review at its 2015 meeting.

Kenya’s Lake Turkana is the largest desert lake in the world. Inscribed in 1997, this World Heritage site has supported hominids for 2 million years, and is today the life-source for a quarter million people, abundant crocodiles and fish, and some 350 species of birds. Ethiopia is poised to begin filling the Gibe III Dam on the Omo River – the source for this lake – with potentially disastrous hydrological consequences.

This year I’ll be joining in a Day of Action for Rivers that will send a message to World Heritage Committee members in time for their June meeting in Qatar: Alert the world to the risks these sites face, and grant them World Heritage “In Danger” status. If you aren’t already joining an action on March 14, then consider organizing embassy and consulate visits in your own metropolitan area. Visit our website to get a list of the 21 voting nations on the World Heritage Committee and briefing kits for the full range of activities for the International Day of Action for Rivers.

Whether you pump your fist in the air, bring your hands together in prayer, or go knocking on consular doors, do find a way to join into the International Day of Action for Rivers on March 14. The fate of the world’s rivers are in our hands!


Speak out to protect your rivers. They are our lifelines.

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Rivers globally are being choked due to the proliferation of huge mega dam projects under the guise of "green" energy. This is a misrepresentation as we see these mega projects not only costing more in $$$$ but also in environmental damage to indigenous lands, displacement, pollution and diversion of rivers that effects agricultural output. To stand up for our rivers means to also stand up for sensible solutions and our indigenous communities globally.

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