More than half the world’s major rivers are going dry or are polluted, a panel studying global water problems reported Monday.
The World Commission on Water for the 21st Century said that among the most stressed are the Colorado River in the United States, China’s Yellow River, the Nile River in Africa, Russia’s Volga River Basin and the Ganges River in South Asia.
The findings were previewed in Washington and at a news conference here, where the commission expects to present its completed report at the Second World Water Forum, March 17-22.
The panel--backed by the World Bank and U.N. agencies dealing with children, development, the environment and other issues--has been charged with finding a way to ensure that there will be enough water for the world’s growing population in the next century.
Commission Chairman Ismail Serageldin, who is also vice president of the World Bank for special products, said 25 million people fled their homes in 1998 because of the depletion, pollution, degrading and poisoning of river basins, outnumbering the war-related refugees for the first time in history.
He added that by 2025, the number of environmental refugees could quadruple.
The panel gathered information for the river portion of the study from specialists around the world and an analysis of existing material.
It concluded that of the 500 major rivers in the world, the Amazon in South America and the Congo in sub-Saharan Africa are the healthiest. Both have few industrial centers near their banks, the report notes.
By contrast, overuse and misuse of land and water resources in river basins elsewhere have “seriously depleted and polluted” them, the commission says. That, it says, is “degrading and poisoning” the rivers’ surrounding ecosystems and “threatening the health and livelihoods of people who depend upon them for irrigation, drinking and industrial water.”