Rivers are the world’s heritage. Time to treat them as such (commentary)

first_imgAmazon Dams, Commentary, Dams, Editorials, Environment, Hydroelectric Power, Hydropower, Mekong Dams, Researcher Perspective Series, Rivers, UNESCO World Heritage Site, World Heritage Convention Article published by Mike Gaworecki This July represents a critical opportunity to protect rivers and the World Heritage sites that depend on them. Key government leaders will converge on Baku, Azerbaijan for the 43rd annual meeting of the World Heritage Committee this week.Established under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Committee is charged with protecting sites around the world deemed of the highest cultural and natural values. But oddly, no river has yet been directly protected by the Committee.Beyond protecting existing sites from harm, the World Heritage Committee needs to broaden its conception of what constitutes a natural site to recognize the intrinsic value of rivers, particularly free-flowing rivers, and the critical role they play in sustaining life.This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay. This July represents a critical opportunity to protect rivers and the World Heritage sites that depend on them.Key government leaders will converge on Baku, Azerbaijan for the 43rd annual meeting of the World Heritage Committee this week. Established under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Committee is charged with protecting sites around the world deemed of the highest cultural and natural values. From Machu Picchu to the Great Barrier Reef, these sites represent some of our most precious common treasures. But oddly, no river has yet been directly protected by the Committee.That said, a key underlying theme of the meeting is the growing threat that dams pose to some of the world’s irreplaceable sites. This is the subject of a new report, “Heritage Dammed,” prepared by the Rivers Without Boundaries coalition with contributions from International Rivers (where I work as policy director) and many others. The report finds that over one-quarter of all natural World Heritage sites, including the iconic Lake Baikal in Russia and Serengeti National Park, are being impacted or threatened by water infrastructure such as dams.In recognition of this worsening trend, the World Heritage Committee passed a resolution in 2016 calling for the prohibition on dams within the boundaries of World Heritage sites, as well as for any dams indirectly impacting these sites to be “rigorously assessed.” While a welcome step, this has not prevented key sites from the worst impacts: Last year, Kenya’s Lake Turkana was finally added to the official list of sites in danger only after Ethiopia’s Gibe III Dam cut off flows into the lake, causing lake levels to drop precipitously and leading to extreme food insecurity for the hundreds of thousands of people subsisting off the lake.The sacred waterfalls on the Teles Pires River, Brazil. Photo by Christopher Borges, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.Against this backdrop, the issue of dams has come back into focus as a number of critical sites, profiled in the Heritage Dammed report, face renewed threats. These include:• The fate of the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania — a world class biodiversity hotspot for African wildlife, including endangered species — that is set to be inundated by the planned Rufiji Dam. The plans have provoked an international outcry, prompting one of the world’s largest dam builders, China Three Gorges, to state publicly that it would not pursue the project because it would be located within a World Heritage site.• The future of the Mesopotamian Marshes in Iraq, which sustain important freshwater fisheries and a vibrant local culture, after the government of Turkey announced the completion of the Ilisu Dam near the headwaters of the Tigris River. Opponents around the world have rallied to contest plans to begin filling the reservoir, which would submerge the town of Hasankeyf — renowned for being continuously inhabited for the past 12,000 years — in the process. Filling of the reservoir has been postponed as a result, but the threat remains.• The Sumatran Rainforest site in Indonesia, officially listed as “In Danger” since 2011 over the construction of dams and other developments. The site has again emerged as a flashpoint in light of the discovery of the newly identified species, the Tapanuli orangutan, with only 800 remaining and at risk of extinction with a dam proposed in the middle of its only habitat. Plans to build the 510-megawatt Batang Toru Dam have been cast into doubt, however, as the Bank of China announced it would reevaluate its plans to finance the dam in light of sustained protest.Selous Game Reserve World Heritage Site, Tanzania. Photo by Greg Armfield.To proactively address the growing threat of dams, the report makes specific recommendations for how the Committee can improve the protection of rivers, including the use of preemptive strategic environmental assessments, among other precautionary measures.But beyond protecting existing sites from harm, the World Heritage Committee needs to broaden its conception of what constitutes a natural site to recognize the intrinsic value of rivers, particularly free-flowing rivers, and the critical role they play in sustaining life. Free-flowing rivers form the bedrock for local cultures and communities and have huge ecological significance, serving as the world’s last bastion of dwindling freshwater biodiversity. Indeed, a recent study by WWF found that dams are the biggest culprit in the 83 percent decline in freshwater biodiversity experienced globally between 1970 and 2014. Yet of the world’s 177 largest rivers, only one-third are free flowing, and just 21 rivers longer than 1000 kilometers retain an unobstructed connection to the sea.Many free-flowing rivers sit adjacent to existing World Heritage sites, but their values are not recognized or protected. For example, the actual river ecosystems of the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan heritage site in China are deliberately excluded from the protected area. They are now threatened again by the construction of mega-dams on all three rivers, including one of Asia’s last free-flowing rivers, the Nu-Salween, which originates in the Tibetan Plateau and flows through China and Myanmar. Still more of the world’s threatened rivers have no world heritage designation, from the mighty Congo River in Central Africa to the Karnali River, Nepal’s last, most pristine free-flowing river.While the world’s last free-flowing rivers are often subjected to reckless plans to harness them for their hydropower potential, the Baku meeting is also coming at a time of positive momentum as countries have begun to recognize the rights of rivers and river advocates lead campaigns to secure permanent legal protections for rivers. The World Heritage Committee should join this growing movement and take the lead in calling for free-flowing rivers to be protected and the nomination of iconic rivers as World Heritage sites.The Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River in the United States. Photo by Christian Mehlführer, licensed under CC BY 2.5.Josh Klemm is Policy Director for International Rivers.FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page.center_img Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsoredlast_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *