World Rivers Day: Rivers essential to man’s survival

Observed every last Sunday in September, the World Rivers Day (WRD) is a global celebration of the world’s waterways, as it highlights the many values of rivers and strives to increase public awareness, while encouraging the improved stewardship of rivers around the world.

Established in 2005, the WRD promotes the active involvement of citizens to ensure the health of rivers in the years ahead. This year’s edition was held on Sunday, September 25, where environmentalists raised concerns on the various threats faced by rivers across the world.

With many of the world’s rivers facing severe and increasing threats associated with climate change, pollution and industrial development, many countries participated in this year’s activities, with campaigns focusing on educational and public awareness activities, while others included river cleanups, habitat restoration projects and community riverside celebrations.

Besides the case of Lake Chad which has shrunk considerably over the years, it was reported recently that Niger River in some parts of the country is also showing signs of drying up.

“Rivers are integral to all life. Yet, many waterways continue to face an array of threats and are often impacted by inappropriate practices and inadequate protection,” World Rivers Day Chair and Founder and Chair Emeritus of the Rivers Institute at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, Mark Angelo said in an interview.

Endorsed in its inaugural year by the United Nations University and the International Network on Water, Environment and Health, and with groups such as the Blue Planet Links as lead sponsor and with the support of others such as the Sitka Foundation, World Rivers Day events include activities in countries ranging from Canada to England, Australia to the United States, Argentina to Kenya, Dominica to Puerto Rico and across the great rivers of Europe.

“Millions of people, dozens of countries, and numerous international organisations will be contributing to World Rivers Day. It provides a great opportunity for people to get out and enjoy our waterways. At the same time, the event strives to create a greater awareness of the urgent need to better care for our rivers and streams,” Angelo said.

Robert Sandford, EPCOR Chair of Water Security at United Nations University, and an internationally recognised expert on scarcity and conservation issues, says, “World Rivers Day is rightfully hailed for its global effort to increase awareness about the vital importance of our water resources and the need to properly protect and steward them in the face of mounting pressures.”

Rivers are an integral part of our local environment on which we historically depended for food, shelter and basic survival. Over time urbanisation has degraded rivers, modern society has become less connected to our local environment and people’s perception of rivers has changed.

Restoring rivers helps to provide quality environments and puts people in closer contact with nature.