Drying off

Polluted rivers are threatening ecosystems the worldover

Published: Friday 31 December 1999

the World Commission on Water for the 21st Century has said that a majority of the world's rivers are polluted and drying up. Pollution of waterways and river basins has increased the number of environmental refugees. Last year, for the first time their numbers (25 million) exceeded the total number of war-related refugees (around 21 million).

"We have to pay attention to how the world manages its water," said Arienne Naber, a geologist and a consultant with the commission. The Yellow River flows through the most important agricultural region of China but is highly polluted. The Commission says that the flow of the water in the Amu Darya and Syr Darya into the Aral Sea in Asia, has been reduced by 75 per cent. The Colorado River in the us, which irrigates around 1.5 million hectares of farmland, is so exploited and polluted that little is left to protect the ecosystem of the region.

While more than 90 per cent of the natural flow of the Nile River in Africa is used for irrigation or is lost through evaporation, what reaches the Mediterranean Sea is water that polluted with industrial and municipal waste, says the Commission.

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