Watersheds of the World CD launched at Third World Water Forum
NEWS RELEASE Embargoed until 01h00 GMT on 18 March 2003 (http://www.iucn.org/info_and_news/press/eatlaspr180303.pdf)
State-of-the-Art Information on World's Water Resources Launched at World Water Forum
Osaka, Japan, 18 March 2003 (IUCN) - The most comprehensive database of the world's river basins, the Watersheds of the World CD, is released as a compact disc and website today at the 3rd World Water Forum in Osaka, Japan.
The Watersheds of the World_CD presents maps on twenty global issues as well as key maps, data and indicators of 154 of the world's basins. It also provides an analysis of the state of the world's river basins, including the environmental goods and services they provide. "The Watersheds of the World_CD offers the best information available today on the river basins of the world. It is a vital reference for anyone who is concerned with or involved in water. This includes the general public, who should be aware of the crisis that many freshwater systems and populations around the world and near their own home face", says Ms. Carmen Revenga, Senior Associate of the World Resources Institute and project leader.
Reliable data and information at the basin level are essential for integrated water resources management. The Watersheds of the World aims to make data from a wide variety of sources available. It responds to the great demand for information on the world's freshwater resources from policy makers, water managers, NGOs and the public to support integrated management and planning. "Water relates not only to the water we get from the tap, it relates to the food we eat, the fish we catch, the birds we watch, our recreation and industry. To avert the dramatic future scenario of widespread water shortages, human suffering and environmental destruction, water management needs the involvement of civil society. This information will help people find out what is going on", says Mr. Elroy Bos of IUCN and project collaborator.
Some examples of information
The Watersheds of the World identifies the Amazon with more than 3,000, the Mekong with over 1200, and the Congo with 700 fish species, as the richest in the world. The number of endemic fish species, which occur nowhere else, is also highest in the Amazon with 1,800, the Congo with 500, and Lake Victoria with 309 species. Forty-two watersheds have lost more than 75% of their original forest cover. Fifteen of these have lost more than 95% of their original forests. Most of these basins, with the exception of the Tigris and Euphrates, are found in Africa, Central America, and Europe. In terms of area of forest loss, nine basins have lost more than 500,000 km2 of forest, including among others the Mekong, Ganges, Amazon, Paraná, Ob, Volga, and the Mississippi River basins. The Yangtze and the Congo have lost more than 1 million km2 of forest each. Data on the 6,145,186 km2 Amazon basin lists that 73.4% of the area is still covered by forests. The basin also contains 16 large cities, 9 large dams, 7 freshwater protected areas (Ramsar Sites), and 24 endemic bird areas. An example of a more developed basin is the Mississippi, which has 36% of its area covered by cropland and 13% by urban or industrial development. Only 1.5% of the basin is protected and just 22.2% of its land area is covered by forests. The basin contains 20 large cities, 2253 large dams-of which 154 are higher than 150m-an annual water supply per person of 8,973m3, 375 fish species of which 127 endemic, and 7 Ramsar Sites.
More than half - 82 of the watersheds analyzed - have less than five per cent of their land area under national protection. Most of the high value, species-rich watersheds are the least protected: species-rich areas such as the Paraná watershed, much of the Amazon, Congo, and almost all the basins in India, China, Southeast Asia, and Papua New Guinea have less than five per cent of their area protected. Another important issue in water management is the fragmentation of rivers due to dams and other infrastructure that disrupts natural ecosystems and can have significant impacts on downstream fisheries. The CD shows that, of the 227 large river basins assessed, 37% are strongly affected by fragmentation and altered flows, 23% are moderately affected, and 40% are unaffected.
The water scarcity analysis presented in the CD further shows that by 2025, assuming current consumption patterns continue, at least 3.5 billion people - or 48% of the world's projected population - will live in water-stressed river basins. Of these, 2.4 billion will live under high water stress conditions. The map, which takes into account these human needs and environmental needs as well, shows that already 1.4 billion people live in basins where water is overused to the extent that it has serious environmental damage.
The Partners of the Watersheds of the World
The CD has been produced by the "Water Resources eAtlas", a collaborative effort of the World Resources Institute, IUCN - The World Conservation Union, the International Water Management Institute and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. It aims to make freshwater information available so that managers, policy makers and NGOs can improve water allocation and management, and for civil society to participate in water resources management decisions. Other partners that contributed data and information are BirdLife International, the IUCN Water & Nature Initiative, Wetlands International, the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science of Conservation International, the IUCN Species Survival Commission, the CGIAR Challenge Program in Water and Food, and the Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture.
The Watersheds of the World can be accessed at http://www.iucn.org/themes/wani/eatlas/. Copies of the CD ROM will be available at the launch event at the 3rd World Water Forum (Osaka, 18 March, 12.30 - 15.15, Room 1003).
For more information, please contact: Ms. Carmen Revenga World Resources Institute Carmenr@wri.org, Mr. Elroy Bos IUCN - The World Conservation Union Elroy.Bos@iucn.org 090.8157.6690 / +184.108.40.206.70