The primary objective of this report is to illustrate the most menacing threats to the world’s great river basins, in order to encourage dialogue, provoke debate, and urge governments and other stakeholders to take action before it is too late.
To do this, WWF has selected the “top ten” major rivers that, in our view, either a) already suffer most grievously under the weight of these threats or b) are bracing for the heaviest impacts. Thus, there are some rivers on the list that are so damaged that without serious restoration efforts they could be lost, and others that are relatively intact, but face massive degradation unless action is taken now to conserve them.
Surveying the results of eight international assessments, such as the Millennium Assessment ‘Wetlands and Water’ Synthesis Report that compiles the work of more than 2,000 authors and reviewers, WWF assessed the six most important threats based on their known impact on roughly 225 river basins. These are dams and infrastructure, excessive water extraction, climate change, invasive species, over-fishing, and pollution.
We provide this overview of the most serious threats to river basins to highlight those globally important watersheds at greatest risk, and to stress the importance of integrated river basin management solutions. Focusing analysis on watersheds with high ecological importance and those affecting large human populations, with a view to continental representation, the ten most endangered rivers emerge as: the Salween, La Plata, Danube, Rio Grande, Ganges, Murray-Darling, Indus, Nile, Yangtze and Mekong.