Op-Ed: An epic victory in the battle for free-flowing rivers
In the world of conservation, there are few places as critical as small rivers. They have been our primary source of freshwater for thousands of years, and they’ve been our primary source of food for the more than 20 million people who depend on them.
But in recent decades, the pace of land transformation has accelerated to unbelievable levels, and as a result, the world’s small rivers are disappearing.
The world’s 10 largest freshwater rivers—those with the most important historical role in delivering freshwater to humanity—are dwindling at a rate of about 30 percent per year, according to a new study.
The world’s 10 largest rivers, with the most important historical role in delivering freshwater to humanity.
The world’s top 10 rivers have collectively lost more than 40 percent of their river systems over the past 30 years, according to this new study by the University of Oxford and a global network of more than 3,300 water experts.
Rivers like the Amazon, Congo, Nile or Mekong—which once supplied hundreds of millions of people with freshwater—have been slowly disappearing since the start of the modern era, while others, such as the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers of China, still flow today.
The study, which was published in the journal Nature, is being hailed as a victory for the conservation community, but it also highlights just how important rivers are to humanity.
“Water flows with us everywhere; it’s in our bodies, our food, and our trade, and our ability to navigate,” says Andrew Holmes, an associate professor at the University of Oxford who led the research. “Rivers are a fundamental part of our world.”
But, Holmes says, our rivers have been disappearing.
“It’s not that we don’t care about rivers, or that we don’t understand their importance,” Holmes says. “There is