New project to promote international cooperation on river basin management

Posted on 28 May 2003
Amur (or Siberian) tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), one resident of the Amur Valley.
© WWF / Klein & Hubert
Beijing, China – WWF recently launched a project aimed at promoting international cooperation on river basin management for the Amur and Mekong rivers. Both the Mekong and Amur rivers are important international rivers in Asia. The Amur River is one of the world's longest rivers with a length of 4,400km. Its origins are in China, Russia, and Mongolia, and it divides Russia and China. Amongst the most famous mammals living in the Amur valley is the Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis). Fewer than 50 of this close relative of the African leopard are estimated to remain in the wild, making the subspecies one of the rarest wild cats on Earth. Amur tiger and birds such as oriental white stork, red-crowned, and white-naped cranes also reside in the Amur valley. The Amur River supports more fish species than any other Russian river, with over 120 species. In the Amur river itself, the famous Kaluga sturgeon (Huso dauric) can reach weights up to 1,000kg, and important populations of migratory salmon still occur, although their numbers are dwindling. Declines in the number of fish are affecting the lives of the Nivkhi, Nanai, and Ulchi indigenous peoples, who are struggling to continue their traditional ways of life. The Mekong River has long been viewed as the foundation of economic growth and prosperity in much of southeast Asia. Scientists believe that there are over 1,300 distinct species of fish in the Mekong River and its tributaries, making it second in the world only to the Amazon in fish diversity. Three new species of fish, each over a metre in length, were discovered in the late 1990s. Some of the last-surviving populations of globally endangered species such as the Irrawaddy dolphin and Siamese crocodile live here. The basin is also rich in freshwater turtles, mussels, and snails, many of which form part of the staple diet of families along the river but have yet to be identified by science. China’s rapidly growing economy and river development plans exert enormous environmental pressure on both rivers. Huge amounts of polluting effluent from industry and agriculture wash into the rivers from China to such an extent that the water is no longer fit for drinking and fish become poisonous to eat. Hydropower stations and dams are planned. But lack of accurate information from China and insufficient engagement with stakeholders in China have hampered efforts to develop integrated river basin management initiatives in both river basins. The project seeks to engage the Chinese government and other key stakeholders on river basin management issues in the upper reaches of the Mekong river and the Chinese side of the Amur river by promoting integrated river basin management (IRBM) approaches. IRBM approaches seek to implement an integrated approach to solve river basin issues and restore the balance of nature and people in the river basins through better governance of water resources, ecosystem management and biodiversity conservation, and environment management through information sharing, demonstration and public participation. For more information: Dr Li Lifeng Amur/Mekong River Coordinator, WWF China Freshwater and Marine Programme Tel: +86 10 8563 6538 ext 228 E-mail
Amur (or Siberian) tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), one resident of the Amur Valley.
© WWF / Klein & Hubert Enlarge