Endangered Species Handbook

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Aquatic Ecosystems

Rivers: Dams, Canals and Channeling

    More than half of all accessible water is diverted for use by humans (Barlow 1999).  Large-scale dam projects on major rivers have increased worldwide from 5,000 in 1950 to 38,000 by the end of the 20th century (Barlow 1999).  More than 100 major dam projects are planned in West Africa alone, and conservationists predict crashes in fisheries and flood plain crops as a result (Dugan 1993).  Many giant dams have ruined wilderness areas in order to produce electricity for which no demand existed.  Wild and beautiful rivers in Indonesia, Brazil, India, Zambia and elsewhere have become fetid lakes, with an enormous loss in wildlife and plants.  Many of the tributaries of the Amazon, the world's largest river and home to the greatest diversity of freshwater fish in the world, have been dammed over the past 50 years.  In the process, hundreds of species of plants became extinct, drowned by the dam's rising waters. 

Page 1 (Dams: Profit and Loss)
Page 2 (North America)
Page 3 (Asia)
Page 4 (Africa)

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