Free-flowing rivers: Economic luxury or ecological necessity?

Posted on March, 13 2006

A report about the state of the world’s remaining free-flowing rivers

This report assesses the state of the world’s remaining free-flowing rivers and seeks to answer the question why we should maintain our last freeflowing rivers and whether this is a luxury or a necessity. The report consists of four parts:

Firstly it analyses the contributions to human welfare and to biodiversity made by freshwater systems, and identify the specific value of a freeflowing river in contrast to one that has been dammed or otherwise modified. It also addresses some of the threats associated with freeflowing rivers.

It then presents a global overview of remaining free-flowing large rivers. This section provides an analysis based on rivers with a length of over 1,000 kilometres. We show that out of 177 of the world’s large rivers only a third remains free-flowing, whilst only 21 rivers longer than 1,000 km retain a direct connection with the sea.

Following from this global analysis, five case studies of free-flowing rivers are presented in more detail.

Finally, we give an overview of possible solutions to protect our remaining free-flowing rivers, examining conservation mechanisms from around the world.

As this report will show, few rivers remain freeflowing and a concerted effort for their conservation is urgently needed. WWF calls on governments to identify those free-flowing rivers that are ecologically important and that provide important services to people and to safeguard these rivers from being developed. WWF calls for the immediate protection of a number of rivers, including the Amur, the Salween, the Chishuihe and the Amazon.

Free-flowing rivers report cover
Free-flowing rivers report