Can we turn around the clock for human impacts on our environment? In a last ditch effort, the Chinese authorities and wildlife conservationists are hoping to accomplish just that for the finless porpoises inhabiting the Yangtze River. And Rivers of the World is more than excited to lend a helping hand through our volunteer activities with the river in Wuhan, China. As per World Wildlife Fund, these sole freshwater porpoises are roughly just 15 years away from extinction. So it’s a tough race against time to save these amazing creatures of the subtropical Asia!
As part of conservation efforts, the Institute of Hydrobiology at Chinese Academy of Sciences and Wuhan Baiji Conservation Foundation have launched an awareness campaign by running Porpoise Watching Cruise Trips. Through sightings of the finless porpoises, these trips are aiming to draw attention of the tourists, public and fishermen to the plight of these animals. Often these animals are found dead off the shores from excessive fishing and use of harmful methods such as trapping nets and electric gear. The worsening water quality of the Yangtze from pollution and sewage discharge is also partly to be blamed.
These Porpoise Cruise trips are conducted around the confluence of the Yangtze River and Poyang Lake, where about 450 porpoises have been counted – the highest density found in natural waters. With the help of a team of volunteers and experts, hectic conservation activities are under way to turn around the clock for these animals.
We wish them all the luck in their efforts to save the finless porpoises – yet another battle for restoring rivers!! (Read more about the conservation efforts.)
Regan Suzuki argues that Asia-Pacific will take an increasingly important role in leading climate change negotiations as Western countries drag their feet.
If the global climate change discussions continue to stall, is there scope for a region to go it alone?
The geopolitical shift in power towards Asia has become somewhat of a cliché. But when it comes to one of the most pressing issues of our times, climate change, Asian countries really do seem to be stepping up where traditional global leaders are dropping the ball.
The Rio+20 Conference is discussion and decision-making at the highest possible level to steer the focus of global efforts and funding resources. The Heads of State and Governments from around the world, along with thousands of representatives from the private sector, NGOs and other groups have convened in Rio de Janeiro to plan and strategize for sustainable development – a pressing issue given the increasing population pressures across the face of our planet.
Are Rivers Part of the Discussion at the Rio+20?
The answer is both yes and no. Rivers are already on the agenda at the Rio+20 Conference, only not talked about!
Rivers are at the heart of several of the critical issues being discussed in Rio de Janeiro right now. Sustainable development, water supply, disaster risk reduction, energy (as in hydropower), and food security. Each of these issues is intertwined with rivers and draws directly on the viability and health of these waterways the world over. Yet there is no coordinated effort by governments at the global level to specifically address rivers in overall sustenance planning. A critical focus area is missing from discussions and decision-making at this defining convention.
Mr. Heherson “Sonny” Alvarez, the Philippines’ Commissioner for Climate Change, hopes to change that as he leads the discussion for “Defying Disasters: A Tri-Continental South-South Dialogue” at the Conference.
River Summit in Philippines Inspires Global Action on Protecting Rivers
One of the outcomes of the 1st International River Summit, held in Iloilo City, Philippines (May 30 – June 1, 2012) was the ”Global River Initiatives.” Drafted under the leadership of the Mayor of Iloilo City, Jed Mabilog, the proposition hopes to continue the knowledge exchange on river management at the global level, as well as lay the groundwork for future international summits.
If all goes well, we may expect a Global River Alliance, formed of local governments and backed by the United Nations!
More on Rivers and Rio+20 (published by International Rivers)
Mega Finish and a Great Start for Philippines
The 1st International River Summit ceremoniously ended in Iloilo City, Philippines, on June 1, 2012, with a keynote speech by the Philippine President Benigno Aquino lauding the city’s efforts in river restoration and a declaration of 5 major river-driven policy recommendations for the nation to act upon. A sweet end to the 3-day extravaganza and a great start for a nation at the frontline of climate change.
The World Bank lists Philippines at the top of the climate change hit-list – the country most vulnerable to storms, ahead of Bangladesh and Madagascar. At the far east in Pacific, the country’s 7,000+ islands lie directly in the path of battering tropical storms and typhoons, making a landfall on an average of 6 to 9 times per year. A scenario where the rivers can swell and turn deadly. “Achilles Heel” is how Mr. Heherson “Sonny” Alvarez describes his country’s rivers. Mr. Alvarez, a former two-term senator, is considered to be Philippines’ environmental trailblazer and is currently serving as its Commissioner for Climate Change.
All in all, the focus of the event – protecting local rivers – is a quintessential one for the country, the importance of which can not be emphasized enough!
Great Success Was Had
The International River Summit at Iloilo City was a huge success beyond doubt. Maybe beyond the expectations of its organizers even. Mayor Mabilog is on a mission to make Iloilo a world-class city and the event has surely placed it on the global map, as he himself describes the success of the event. His energetic and devoted team of volunteers had counted over 1000+ participants and representation from over 15 different countries by the end of the event.
It was a mix of NGOs, academia, local government units, private sector and financing institutions. The topics covered spanned river basin governance, climate change and disaster risk reduction, water quality and water resources management, biodiversity management and eco-tourism.
However, the Real Success …
While the delegates visiting from the world over were sharing a wealth of expertise and experiences in best practices and proven scientific models, real event success was hinted at not in the packed halls of the break-out sessions, but in the mood of the audiences captured in Q&A sessions. It was heartening to hear the attending heads of local government units respond with simple, basic questions like - “Can you help us solve our (river) problems?” and “Would you partner with us in managing our river?” The questions rang of leaders stepping up to the initiative. A desire for change. A beginning of environmental leadership.
The dramatic turnaround of Iloilo River easily figures as the outcome of the efforts of Iloilo City’s Mayor Jed Mabilog and Senator Franklin Drilon, a native of Iloilo. For their vision and unrelenting perseverance, these leaders are popularly known to be the “architect” of the successful rehabilitation of Iloilo River.
The most poignant takeaway from the 1st International River Summit? There exist ample necessary technical and financial resources to put our rivers on a healthy course. The starting point though lies in having or maybe even identifying a champion for the cause amongst the local government leaders.
“My River, My Life” so appropriately defines the theme for the 1st International River Summit to be held at Iloilo City in Philippines from May 30 to June 1, 2012. Located in Panay Island, the proud city of roughly 400,000 people is pretty serious when it talks about achieving the status of the New7Wonders of Cities of the world. The vision just might come true under the leadership of Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog! What’s more – both the city and the Summit have the blessing of Philippine’s President, Benigno Aquino III. He would be gracing the occasion with a keynote address at the Closing Ceremony on Friday, June 1.
The coming week, the city of Iloilo is all set to show off the huge environmental strides it has made in reviving their beloved river, Iloilo. The river, flowing through the heart of the city, had dangerously deteriorated from lack of environmental regulations and haphazard city development. The stretch of polluted waters was lined with slum dwellings just 5 years back! Today the Iloilo River has become the center of tourism for the city with an impressive esplanade in the works to adorn its banks – a showcase of sustainable urban development.
The International Summit is convening delegations from 10 different countries on the common thread of challenges in river management and best practices. We will be hearing from international experts on the many facets rivers pose to its communities – biodiversity, climate change and disaster mitigation, governance and water quality. Defining issues specially for the densely populated areas in Southeast Asia where hundreds of millions inhabit the river basin and rapid economic development neglects and many times, endangers natural resources.
Can a day of river trash clean up amount to round the year awareness?
That would be a long shot but in several communities around the world where rivers have long been neglected and treated like garbage dumps, a day of picking up trash around the river banks has definitely sowed the seeds of awareness and action for times to come. As part of 2012 World Water Day activities, Rivers of the World Foundation (ROW) organized and coordinated river trash clean-up activities across 11 places in four different countries, China, India, Nepal and Philippines. We were heartened to see an impressive turnout of volunteers! A total of about 1500 youths and adults, combined across all our locations, got themselves down and dirty cleaning up their local rivers. Removing a total of over 5 tons of garbage, it was both a very gratifying and awakening event for all of us involved!
The event drew attention of city officials, businesses and communities toward the need for collective responsibility in keeping their waters clean and pollution free. Kudos to our local coordinators in making our 2012 River Trash Clean Up a huge success:
- Iloilo River in Iloilo City, Philippines
- Yangzte River in Wuhan, China
- Yamuna River in Agra, Dak Patthar (near Dehradun), and Gokul, India
- Ganges River, Rishikesh, India
- Daya River, Bhuvaneswar, Odisha
- Hooghly River, Kolkata, India
- Barak River, Silchar, India
- Bagmati River, Kathmandu, Nepal
- Nagavali River Valley, Vizianagaram, A.P., India
Check out briefings for each river at www.rowfoundation.org/0/WWD2012-Reports.
ROW has been organizing river trash clean ups coinciding with the World Water Day celebrations for the last 4-5 years. This one was hands down the largest and the most rewarding one ever!