A river’s flow is its heartbeat. 

Freshwater plants and animals have evolved with, and intimately depend upon, natural patterns of hydrological variability. Healthy rivers have both an unobstructed linear flow – materials can flow downstream, fish can migrate upstream – and also a lateral flow that allows high waters to spread into floodplains, nourishing the land and recharging water tables. River scientists call this connectivity.

Four women sitting in a boat crossing  the Sesan river.
Women leaders from Padol village in Ratanakiri province, Cambodia, visit their spirit forest on Khorm Island on the Sesan River. | Photo by Savann Oeurm, Oxfam

Connectivity enables the flood-recession agriculture and long-distance fish migrations which nourish billions of people across the globe. It also sustains the livelihoods of millions of rural and fisher people in the Mekong, Amazon, Salween and Ganges-Meghna-Brahmaputra river basins, among many others.

Our Work to Ensure River Basin Connectivity

We work to preserve connectivity wherever possible. In heavily-dammed river basins, we advocate for environmental flows, which mimic a river’s natural flow regime as much as possible. We also work to foster transboundary cooperation in river planning, both within countries and across borders, in order to account for the cumulative and transboundary impacts of development. And finally, we support indigenous and river community moments who are leading efforts to enact restoration efforts and permanent river protection legislation.

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