Pollution, global warming and rampant development could destroy some of the world’s most iconic rivers in the coming decades, threatening to wipe out thousands of fish species and cause severe water shortages, the World Wide Fund for Nature said in a report Tuesday.
Only 21 of the planet’s 177 longest rivers run freely from source to sea, with dams and other construction destroying the habitats for migratory fish and other species by altering the water’s natural ebb and flow, the WWF said.
About a fifth of the world’s 10,000 freshwater fish and plant species are either extinct or endangered, the report said, calling on governments to radically step up efforts to preserve rivers, lakes and wetlands.
“Unabated development is jeopardizing nature’s ability to meet our growing demands,” said Jamie Pittock, who heads WWF’s freshwater program.
Global warming is threatening fish populations in Africa, where even small temperature changes can dramatically alter water levels and fish productivity, the report said. The Nile, the world’s longest river, is expected to reach a critically low level by 2025, threatening a source of drinking water for thousands of years.
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