RIVERS AT RISK | WWF

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Rivers at risk

The Ayeyarwady River is nutrients for our fertile farms, fish for every meal, transport for our many boats and protection from rising sea levels.

But our actions are having major impacts, and the consequences could be catastrophic.

Dangerous fishing techniques

"Unsustainable fishing will wipe out a significant food source, as well as the remaining few river dolphins."

With fish stocks already under threat and the demand for fish so high, some fishermen have begun to use car batteries attached to bamboo poles in order to stun large quantities of fish, bolstering their catch. The indiscriminate batteries kill not only fish but also other species in the river like the critically endangered Irrawaddy River Dolphin. With just 60 individuals left in Myanmar, could this be the end of the iconic river dolphin?

Sandmining for sediment

"The Ayeyarwady's fragile sediment dynamics provide food and safety for the entire country."

Myanmar’s construction industry is booming and we need sediment from the riverbed to build houses and factories. The problem is we are taking out more sediment than the river can replace. This sediment makes our delta fertile enough to grow 50% of the country’s rice, and also keeps the delta above sea level. Without it Myanmar would not only starve, but experience disastrous floods.

Hydropower dams

"We need to be focussing on more sustainable alternatives to hydropower dams."

Dams are barriers. Their presence can stop species migration, causing fish numbers to plummet and leaving the 40 million people living in the delta to go hungry. They are also barriers to the nutrients that make the delta rich and fertile for agriculture. With two thirds of the population dependant on agriculture to make a living, a dam can have disastrous consequences for farming.

THE GOOD NEWS

It's not too late to protect the Ayeyarwady. Together we can find a way to balance development and safeguard the future of this vital lifeline.

A tourism lifeline for dolphins

“With an estimated 60 individuals remaining the Irrawaddy River Dolphin is critically endangered, but their unique relationship with fishermen could yet save the species”

The cooperative fishing technique demonstrated between fishermen and Irrawaddy dolphins is seen nowhere else on earth. But with fish stocks plummeting and fishermen turning to deadly and indiscriminate electrofishing to make ends meet, ecotourism in the form of tourists coming to observe the cooperative fishing has significant potential to relieve financial pressures on the fishermen and provide a new incentive to protect the dolphin population.

An invaluable Ayeyarwady

“The Ayeyarwady is the engine to Myanmar’s economy and agriculture.”

As well as being ecologically important, the Ayeyarwady River is invaluable to Myanmar both culturally and economically. Everyone in the country depends on a healthy Ayeyarwady. This river feeds the entire population with its abundant fish stocks and nutrients that sustain a rich, fertile delta for agriculture. Its waters are used to power turbines for electricity. Its sand is a key component in infrastructure like houses, offices and roads, and it transports people and goods up and down the country. This provides a huge incentive to protect and maintain the Ayeyarwady, and a unique opportunity to preserve the endangered species that call it home.

Renewable alternatives to hydropower

"With an abundance of renewable resources available, we don't need to block the Ayeyarwady with hydropower dams"

A future fuelled by 100% renewable, green energy is possible in Myanmar thanks to its abundance of renewable energy resources: sun, wind, geothermal, biomass and ocean.

We have a dedicated Freshwater Programme looking at the impacts and consequences for the whole country of everything we do to the river.