Walking along rivers and the vast stretch of waters, this second organisation reminds us of what really matters. This article is the second of a three-part series of articles for Studentenkrant where we, a group of five Rhetoric Minor students from the RUG, present to you three organisations working to help the environment and the people in it.
The importance of our rivers
Rivers, something we all encounter in our lives.
When we close our eyes and we think of rivers, we think of fish, of clean water, of nature and mighty waterways. Mighty rivers that give us so much, also a lot that we do not see.
According to Herman Wanningen, founder of the World Fish Migration Foundation, healthy rivers create healthy ecosystems that we all benefit from. Think of fish for food and of a free flowing river for transportation.
What we don’t see are the problems and dangers that rivers face. Things like pollution, damming or canalizing can harm the rivers that give us so much.
Take for instance the construction of dams in a river. One wall in a river, but one that affects the entire river. Wanningen explains “Look what’s happening in China. They built all kinds of new dams, then after 10 years they discovered that it becomes a sediment sink.” These sediment sinks are loaded with nutrients and also with toxic substances. This makes these reservoirs very dangerous for both people as well as for all animals, it being a reservoir full of waste.
This example illustrates what harm a dam can do, however there is much more. Millions of people depend on wild fish as a source of food. To support a lot of fish, rivers need to be rich in nutrients along their watershed. If you have these sediment sinks, rivers become poor in nutrients, creating an empty river.
About the World Fish Migration Foundation
Herman Wanningen wants to do something about this lesser known issue that affects or will affect many people. To do so, he founded the World Fish Migration Foundation, in short WFMF, in 2014. The World Fish Migration Foundation, is an environmental organisation based in the Netherlands. Wanningen founded the WFMF to create a platform able to spread awareness surrounding the state of our rivers, to spread new solutions, to spread knowledge and to create a worldwide movement, a movement for people that work on migratory fish around the globe, a place to share the stories they have and a place to “make people proud to share the challenges and share the successes.”
This function as a platform, connecting local conservation efforts and local river keepers with each other, creates a larger picture. A larger picture that shows that these healthy rivers give us so much more than dammed rivers do. As Herman Wanningen told us, ”if it is part of something bigger, then your story becomes much stronger.” This is exactly what makes the WFMF so powerful: it gives locals a stronger voice to get their message across.
What do they do?
The World Fish Migration Foundation works hard to succeed in these goals. One way they try to raise awareness is through a global event, a day celebrating migratory fish, the World Fish Migration day.
This is an event held every other year, with the next one planned on May the 21st in 2022. On this day, all over the world, hundreds of events are held, events to show people the rivers and the magical life in it.
Besides this day full of events, they work in close contact with authorities. If we look at Europe’s new biodiversity strategy, Wanningen highlights that “The biggest accomplishment is that we made it happen that in the new biodiversity strategy of Europe they made an ambition to “open up twenty five thousand kilometers of free flowing rivers by removing old and obsolete dams.” That’s something”. This shows the potential of the WFMF and their reach, especially if we all stand behind this problem and behind the solutions to save our rivers.
And this reach of course needs to be funded. Wanningen explains that the best foundation is good data. An example of this is the Living Planet Index for migratory freshwater fish. This index shows exactly how well or bad migratory fish are doing. This data can then be shown to a broad audience in many different ways, from factsheets that are easy to comprehend to a guidance book, it’s all about getting all people and stakeholders hooked on the topic of fish.
What can you achieve in life?
Migratory fish and rivers are just one issue to look at. Lots of you readers will have problems they want to see being fixed, maybe it is climate change, maybe it is income injustice across the world. To do something about the things you find important, Wanningen would advise to “ just go for it” as he explains that you should not be afraid to make a mistake. We learn from the mistakes we make, in the end causing us to improve. Besides just going for it Wanningen advises all of us to seek for others that want to help as “ it is much more fun to do together.”.
Maybe you do feel like this is the issue you want to help to resolve, maybe you do think now, yes we must help our rivers. If this is the case, you are not alone: the WFMF has your back and you can help. If you would like to help, just look at the possibilities on their website or just spread the importance of rivers to others that are unaware of this problem!
Op-ed written by: Piotr Kaczmarek and Tom Dragt