It’s not likely there will be many people at this Saturday’s World Rivers Day event at Riverside Park.
The fact is, while many of us no doubt philosophically support the event, we don’t see World Rivers Day as a priority because, well, we live in B.C. and our rivers look to be doing OK.
We don’t see the industrial pressures and pollution on some of the world’s biggest rivers in other countries and continents. In the U.S., for example, the Mississippi River collects 702,000,000 pounds of garbage annually, according to U.S. authorities. The Yangtze River in China is considered “irreversibly polluted,” reports the Chinese Academy of Science., by more than 40 million tons of industrial and sewage waste. Half of China’s 20,000 petrochemical factories sit on its banks. About 40 percent of all waste water produced in China—about 25 billion tons—flows into the Yangtze, of which only about 20 percent is treated beforehand, says the academy.
By comparison, our rivers are wild and strong, home to trout and salmon, and clean enough we feel no qualms drawing our drinking water from them.
But there is danger is believing B.C.’s rivers are healthy. They might be better than others but they too are at threat, and there are risks in ill-placed complacency.
B.C.’s Outdoor Recreation Council publishes a list annually of the province’s most endangered rivers. It changes but many of the rivers on it are there year-to-year. In past years, there have been a number of local rivers as well.
This year’s list — the 20th annual report — was released in March. It lists the headwaters of the Skeena, Nass and Stikine rivers as B.C.’s most threatened waterways, noting coal bed methane development, new mines and other industrial projects will put the pristine wilderness area at risk.
Of greatest concern is the potential that large-scale removal of water from the rivers will negatively impact the productivity of the ribber for salmon and steelhead, for which all three rivers are world-renowned.
Water extraction for home, agricultural and industrial use remains a key issue in our part of the woods as well. In recent years, we have seen the Environment Ministry issue warnings to residents on smaller river systems kike the Nicola River and Chase Creek about low-water levels, usually late in the summer after extended hot spells.
Similarly, low-water levels have affected our big rivers like the Thompson and Fraser, raising water temperatures to near-lethal levels for salmon and trout. All is not as well as it would appear.
With that in mind, it would be worthwhile for people to attend this Saturday’s event at Riverside Park. It starts at 10 a.m. Awareness of a problem is always the first step towards solution, and the state of our rivers is not a problem we can afford to ignore. Philosophical support isn’t always enough.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by editor Robert Koopmans, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, news editor Mike Cornell or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.