RIVERS TO OCEANS
Rivers To Oceans investigates what is happening to rivers in South Africa. From source to ocean, we will look at formal and informal settlements, municipalities, sewage, chemical spills, mining, construction and development, landfills, dumpsites and plastic pollution. The impact our actions have on the environment and how this contributes to the decline of healthy ecosystems and biodiversity.
To fully comprehend what is happening to our Oceans we need to understand what is happening on land and what is going into the water, into our rivers and why.
River pollution is a global issue and we encourage global organizations to join hands to conserve and protect water, our Rivers and our Oceans.
"World's Rivers and Streams Leak a Lot of Carbon Dioxide. The researchers calculated that all the planet's inland waters contribute about 2.1 gigatonnes of carbon to the atmosphere each year. Rivers and streams, which cover some 241,000 square miles (624,000 square kilometers) of the Earth, release about 1.8 gigatonnes of carbon each year" - Smithsonian Mag
Rivers are a surprisingly large source of greenhouse gases, and water pollution makes their emissions worse. Earth systems are intimately interconnected, yet most biogeochemical studies focus on specific components in isolation. The movement of water drives the carbon cycle, and, as such, inland waters provide a critical intersection between terrestrial and marine biospheres. With failing sewage infrastructure in South Africa and the increase of plastic pollution, plastic from formal as well as informal landfills and settlements along rivers, we are concerned about the health of our Rivers and the Ocean.
Some people might consider all tributaries of a river system to be part of that river, while others might only count the main stem. According to the United States Geological Survey, there are over three million rivers in the world.
The Nile is the longest river in Africa and has historically been considered the longest river in the world, though this has been contested by research suggesting that the Amazon River is slightly longer.
Studies have found that 10 rivers are carrying 90% of the plastic entering the oceans. Two of them are in Africa - the Nile and the Niger - while the others are in Asia: the Indus, Ganges, Amur, Mekong, Pearl, Hai he, Yellow and Yangtze.
Not to mention the thousands of other rivers contributing the 10% of the remaining plastic pollution. Human activities have imperiled our waterways along with almost one-third of freshwater fish and many other aquatic species.
“Nowhere is the biodiversity crisis more acute than in freshwater ecosystems.”
Rivers, lakes and inland wetlands cover 1% of the Earth but provide homes for 10% of all its species, including one-third of all vertebrates. And many of those species are imperiled — some 27% of the nearly 30,000 freshwater species so far assessed by the IUCN Red List. This includes nearly one-third of all freshwater fish.
One of the single largest threats to river biodiversity comes from dams, which provide humans with electricity, water reserves and other benefits but come with ecological costs. The loss of free-flowing rivers divides watersheds into unconnected fragments and changes water flow, quality and temperature.
Some waterways remain a dumping ground for toxic chemicals, even decades after various threats were identified. Others face new threats from pharmaceuticals that pass through water treatment facilities (after passing through our bladders) and accumulate in the bodies of aquatic animals.
The nutrients we use on farms and livestock operations also wash into rivers and streams. That runoff, full of nitrogen and phosphorus, fuels an overgrowth of algae which deprive the waters of oxygen, driving away or killing marine life in so-called “dead zones.”
The effects of climate warming are already being felt around the world, with rivers drying up. Warming temperatures can also exacerbate droughts, limiting water for drinking, irrigation and maintaining healthy flows in rivers and streams to support wildlife.
Rivers do not have enough protection. Laws and regulations need to be in place and funding for river-conservation programs must be made available. Efforts to establish legal “personhood” for rivers haven’t gained much traction however like everything else rivers are worth advocating for.