Parker Hilton, Unsplash

Four reasons to protect rivers

Despite the world's dependence on rivers, they are threatened with pollution and dam-building

In China, Asia’s longest river, the Yangtze, saw record low levels last month and hydroelectric power stations along its course had to reduce or stop operations, causing power outages for millions of people. This is just one of the river-related impacts of the increasingly frequent and severe dry periods which we have been seeing all over the world in 2022.

Over the past five years, one in five river basins have experienced fluctuations in surface water outside their natural range. At the same time, rivers across South Asia are swelling due to rises in rainfall and accelerated glacial melt – with devastating impacts seen most recently in Pakistan.

While rivers make up a tiny fraction (0.49 per cent) of surface fresh water, they play a large role in their support of life on Earth and human development. Of all the world’s liquid surface fresh water, 87 per cent is contained in lakes, 11 per cent in swamps, and only 2 per cent in rivers. 

World Rivers Day on 25 September is an opportunity to reflect on the role rivers have played in human civilization, the pressures they face today in a world of nearly eight billion people, and the need to protect and manage them sustainably.

Continue reading the full story at UN Environment.

Learn more here about what UNEP is doing to support the sustainable management of freshwater ecosystems, including rivers.

Follow the International River Symposium in Vienna and online from 27 to 30 November 2022

For more information, please contact: Lis Mullin Bernhardt: or Gavin Reynolds:



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