It’s a completely new world now, with many disasters and climate changes happening at a dizzying rate. One disaster, however, that seems to be getting not as much attention as it should is the disappearances of major rivers around the world. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s been decades in the making, but outside of the people directly affected by the drying up of these rivers, many people don’t seem to realize just how important these rivers are – and by extension, how dangerous their disappearances will be.
As mentioned before, one of the reasons why rivers are disappearing is because of the climate changes. Changing rainfall patterns and the warming temperatures are changing the amounts of water in places that contribute to the river’s supply. Glacial reserves are melting away without being replaced, and extended droughts are changing the very landscape and supply of the rivers.
Burgeoning human demands
But it’s not just the climate that’s changing. There is also the matter of expanding demands from nearby communities. As agricultural lands become more developed, more water will be diverted or dammed, leaving less water for the rest of the river. Bad enough that this may happen once along the river’s course, but in the case of major rivers, this can happen many times, or perhaps that the few diversions are so extensive that the river simply dries up towards the end. In some case, the rivers aren’t even reaching the sea anymore, drying up into a sandy lakebed before they can reach the shore.
The rivers don’t run anymore
If people think that the concerns for rivers are simply overreactions, here are some examples:
Once the legendary river of many a Western cowboy story, the Rio Grande is now a shadow of its former self. Cities and farmers upstream place such demands on the river that those downstream are now faced with a dry riverbed during the summer months. The deterioration started in the ‘50’s, and is now so bad that farmers in the Presidio area abandoning their farms for lack of water – and whatever water is left is too salty to be of much use.
This is one of the most important rivers in China, if not the most important. Now, thanks to massive agricultural, industrial, and urban demands, the river isn’t reaching the sea anymore. Worse, the river’s sources themselves are drying out. What’s left is a lot of silt going down stream, piling up and damaging certain areas.
Most people have looked to the Amazon as some sort of ecological icon – and they should, since it holds about 20% of the world’s freshwater, and generates about 1/5 of the world’s oxygen. And now, there are stories of tributaries being at the lowest water levels they have ever been, of forest fires and with whole areas drying up. In some cases, certain stretches have become little more than mudflows with a bit of water on top.
These are some of the major rivers of the world – and even if we can say that some other rivers are actually experiencing even more water going through their channels, the question will be: how long before those dry up, too?