World Heritage Rivers Under Threat

More than 900 of the world's most amazing natural and human-made wonders have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. From the Great Wall of China to Stonehenge, the Great Barrier Reef to the Grand Canyon, these are places of "outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity," according to UNESCO. They are, in a word, irreplaceable.

Over a dozen of these Sites are now threatened by large dams. Free-flowing rivers lie at the core of these Sites, acting as both biological corridors and sustenance for indigenous communities downstream. Dam construction can also lead to road building, land conversion and development, pollution, and often poaching by relocated communities.

Coalition to protect our World Heritage Sites

Local groups are leading the way in opposing many of these ill-conceived projects and protecting some of the world's most treasured natural and cultural heritage sites. Indigenous communities in Panama have worked to stop dams that would affect the La Amistad Reserve. Turkana activists have kept international financial institutions from backing the Gibe III Dam, which would jeopardize the health of Lake Turkana. Groups in Northeast India recently succeeded in turning back a shipment of turbines for the Lower Subansiri project. China's river-protection movement grew out of the campaign to protect the Nu River from others in the Three Parallel Rivers region.

International Rivers and our partners call on the World Heritage Committee and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre (the Committee's secretariat) to document the risks these dams pose, add the most threatened Sites to its List of World Heritage in Danger, and protect the growing list of dam-threatened sites worldwide.

Do you know of a threat to a World Heritage Site? If so, download the IUCN consultation form and follow the instructions for sending it to IUCN.

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