Troubled Waters: Majority Worldwide See River Pollution as Threat to Health

River Pollution

A comprehensive global survey conducted by the environmental advocacy group Rivers are Life reveals widespread concern about the health of the world’s rivers and the need for greater education and action to address river pollution.

The “State of Rivers Around the World” survey polled over 6,600 people across 14 countries on 4 continents and found near universal agreement that climate change needs urgent attention and that rivers play a vital role in climate change mitigation.

“What’s most shocking about this data is that we found something that more than 90 percent of the world agrees on: climate change needs to be addressed, and rivers play a vital role in mitigating those issues,” said Katie Horning, Head of Rivers are Life Brand, in a statement.

The survey results highlight some key themes:

  • 81% of respondents consider rivers vital to the food system and agriculture, but most would not eat fish from their local river due to pollution concerns.
  • 74% believe more public awareness is needed to improve river health, and 63% see lack of attention as a major obstacle to reducing water pollution.
  • 76% said human behavior is the biggest obstacle to reducing water pollution.
  • 50% believe no one is protecting their local rivers.
  • Only 10% strongly agree that national leaders care about river health.
  • 72% support stricter policies and regulations to curb river pollution.

There were some notable regional differences:

  • In South America and Asia, 69% want to learn more about river issues versus 30% in North America and Europe.
  • Limiting pollution is a higher concern in South America and Asia (80%) than North America and Europe (68%).
  • In Asia, 42% blame individuals most for pollution versus 41% in North America who blame corporations.
  • 75% in Asia have helped clean local rivers versus just 18% in Europe.

But the survey also revealed a shared sense of hope and willingness to take action. 59% of respondents globally plan to help clean rivers in 2024 but need guidance on how to get involved.

“Education is key to addressing issues like river pollution, and we at LSU contribute both academic expertise and on-the-ground support to Rivers are Life,” said Dr. Clint Willson, Interim Dean of LSU’s College of the Coast & Environment.

Rivers are Life aims to provide education and inspiration for protecting rivers worldwide. The group is calling on national leaders and policymakers to pass stronger legislation to curb sewage and drainage pollution. They urge individuals to get involved in local river cleanup and advocacy efforts.

“The health of our rivers is a global issue that requires action at all levels,” said Horning. “The survey shows people around the world are ready to be part of the solution if given the right tools and information.”

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