Ganges is one of worlds 10 most polluted rivers

Geneva, Mar 20 | Updated: Mar 21 2007, 05:30am hrs
Five rivers in Asia serving over 870 million people are among the most threatened in the world, as dams, water extraction and climate change all take their toll, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said on Tuesday.

The Ganges, Indus, Yangtze, Salween-Nu and Mekong-Lancang rivers make up half of the WWFs top ten most threatened river basins, which either already suffer most grievously under the weight of these threats or are bracing for the heaviest impacts, the organisation said.

Also on the list are the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo and La Plata in Latin America, the Danube in central Europe, the Nile-Lake Victoria in Africa and the Murray-Darling in Australia.

Nearly everybody in the world lives in a river basin and everybody has a contribution to make to prevent further environmental damage, the director of WWFs Global Freshwater Programme Jamie Pittock told AFP.

The threats facing river basins are varied and interlinked, and require holistic policies rather than efforts that target just one aspect but can end up being counterproductive, he said.

For example, as governments become concerned about climate change reducing water run-off, they build more dams to store more water, which then results in more water being extracted from the rivers and so builds up more ecological problems, Pittock said. Many governments are also focusing on hydro-electric power plants as a clean source of energy, but this means more dams which stem water flows and kill off fish populations, he added.