Dam problems - Rivers at risk

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Which rivers are at risk?

Rivers are the backbone of human society, but freshwater ecosystems have suffered from an increasing population and the associated development pressures.

According to the 2006 WWF Living Planet Report freshwater species populations plummeted by a spectacular 50% between 1970 and 2000 - the most rapid decline of WWF's three priority biomes, forest, freshwater and marine.

Rivers at risk from dams

Globally there are few rivers that are unaffected by dam building, and many river basins are at risk from further dam development. Rivers at Risk, a WWF study, found the Yangtze basin in China to be the most at risk from dam development with 46 dams planned or already under construction.

Other dam building hotspots are the La Plata basin in South America, which comprises the Paraná, Uruguay and Paraguay rivers, and the Tigris-Euphrates basin in the Middle East.

The effects on freshwater ecosystems can be devastating. For example, river dolphins and porpoises are among the most threatened mammals in the world. Four of the basins where these species still live—the Yangtze, Ganges, Indus, and Mekong—are included among the top 'at risk' basins in this Rivers at Risk analysis.

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Michel Gunther
The Yangtze River is one of the world's rivers showing a decline in freshwater fish stocks.
© WWF-Canon / Michel Gunther

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