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UNI

New Delhi, Mar 25: Ganga and Indus are among the top ten rivers in the world that are fast dying as a result of over extraction, climate change, pollution and dams, WWF-India has warned.

In a report 'World's Top 10 Rivers at Risk' released on the eve of the World Water Day on March 22, the global conservation organisation listed top ten rivers around the world that were fast drying up.

Two of the ten rivers -- Ganga and Indus -- were in the Indian subcontinent, which were severely impacted by over extraction and climate change respectively, the report said.

Ganga, which flows from India into Bangladesh, was facing serious threat owing to increased water withdrawals. In India, barrages control all of the tributaries to Ganga and divert roughly 60 per cent of river flow to large scale irrigation, it said.

Over-extraction for agriculture from Ganga had caused reduction in surface water resources, increasing dependence on ground water, loss of water-based livelihood and the destruction of habitat for 109 fish species and other aquatic and amphibian fauna, it added.

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

It recommended establishing environmental flows, improving water allocations and rights, improving efficiency in water use, instituting payments for water services, switching to production of less thirsty crops, removing agricultural subsidies that encouraged excessive water extraction, and developing a network of partnerships that promoted sustainable development.

About Indus, basin of which spanned across parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and China, the report said, higher temperatures associated with climate change threaten to plunge the river basin into further water scarcity due to its dependence on melt waters from declining Himalayan glaciers.

It suggested international cooperation, technology transfer, and awareness as crucial to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change as solutions.

It also called for improving resilience of forest watersheds, rivers, lakes and other wetlands by protecting key latitudinal and altitudinal corridors to facilitate species migration, and impacts of climate change on biological diversity.

"Conservation of rivers and wetlands must be seen as part and parcel of national security, health and economic success,'' WWF-India Secretary General and CEO Ravi Singh said. ''Emphasis must be given to exploring ways of using water for crops and products that do not use more water than necessary.'' 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, he added.

"The freshwater crisis is bigger than the ten 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.'' The report pointed out that the world's top water suppliers -- rivers on every continent -- were drying-out threatening severe water shortages.

"Poor planning and inadequate protection of natural areas means we could no longer assume that water would flow forever,'' the report said.

"All the rivers in the report symbolise the freshwater crisis, signaled for years, but the alarm is falling on deaf ears,''  Singh said.

"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.'' Besides Ganga and Indus, the other rivers were 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.


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