Rivers are essential to life on the planet. Free-flowing rivers act as the planet’s arteries, providing ecosystems with critical freshwater, nurturing animal and plant life, recharging fertility in floodplains and providing nutrients to deltas, estuaries and near-shore reefs. 

River | Photo by International Rivers

They are also the cornerstones of cultural and spiritual practices for diverse groups around the world. However, dams and other destructive developments are fragmenting rivers and their ecosystems, driving an unprecedented loss of freshwater habitat and biodiversity.

Current legal protections for rivers are often unclear, weak or insufficient, leaving rivers and communities vulnerable. While we’ve stopped many bad projects over the years, even a big win can feel short-lived without permanent protections. In truth, bad projects (and what we call “zombie dams”) have a way of rearing their heads repeatedly, year after year. 

But there is another way. In the United States, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act has shown that governments and communities can band together to protect our most precious rivers. 

Our Work to Support Permanent Protections for Rivers

That’s why we are working with local communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America to prioritize key rivers for permanent legal protection and restoration. We’re collaborating with legal experts to identify gaps in the law and crafting legislation to vibrant, healthy, free-flowing rivers. We’re developing scientific evidence to justify protections, evaluating the feasibility of permanent legal protections, and working to strengthen and support river protection movements.

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