We need healthy rivers, lakes and wetlands for sustainable development as water is crucial for all life.
World Rivers Day is held every year on the last Saturday of September and is a celebration of the world’s waterways. It highlights the many values of rivers and strives to increase public awareness and encourages the improved stewardship of rivers around the world.
Did you know?
- Placed end-to-end, South Africa’s rivers would encircle the earth 4 times. That’s a total length of 163 533 km, calculated from the river network data layer maintained by the Department of Water and Sanitation.
- 89% of our rivers are foothill streams. Lowland rivers – large, meandering waterways – make up only 9% of South Africa’s total river length. The remaining 91% consists of mountain streams (4%), upper foothill streams (45%) and lower foothill streams (41%).
- The health of South Africa’s rivers has worsened. Our rivers are much worse off than in the past, according to the Ecological Condition Index (ECI).
- Limpopo experienced the largest fall in river health. All of South Africa’s nine Water Management areas experienced a drop in river health within the Limpopo water management area experiencing the most dramatic fall due to increased pressure from mining activities and agriculture in that region, as well as poor waste water management.
Why is this important?
Well, our rivers are the lifeblood that drives the water-food-energy nexus. Feeding our dams with precious water, our river ecosystems carry life into our fields, homes and factories.
“World Rivers Day is a celebration of the world’s waterways. It highlights the many values of rivers and strives to increase public awareness and hopefully encourage the improved stewardship of rivers around the world,” says Deidré Penfold, Executive Director of the Chemical and Allied Industries’ Association (CAIA).
Rivers in every country face an array of threats, and only our active involvement will ensure their health in the years ahead. According to a recent report of the WWF SA a quarter of South Africa’s major rivers are ‘critically endangered’. Unabated pollution and excessive water extraction is typical of the assaults on major rivers across South Africa, more than half of which are in bad condition.
World Rivers Day presents us with an opportunity to give thought to our endangered rivers, specifically from an industry viewpoint, says Penfold.