August 1, 2005

First World Rivers Day to be based on annual BC event

Millions of people and thousands of international organizations are expected to contribute to the first-ever World Rivers Day (WRD) on September 25, 2005. The event marks the first initiative to mobilize a global response addressing the urgent need for improved management and conservation of river ecosystems worldwide, while at the same time celebrating the value of these international waterways.

WRD is being led by non-government organizations around the world and has been endorsed by two United Nations agencies: the United Nations University and the International Network on Water, Environment, and Health. Planned activities include river cleanups, fish enhancement projects, international workshops, educational programs, and riverside festivals.

The impetus for WRD is BC Rivers Day, which was started in 1980 by Mark Angelo, head of BC Institute of Technology's Fish, Wildlife Recreation Department. BC Rivers Day has since become the biggest event of its kind in North America, with more than 75,000 people participating province-wide last year. The success of BC Rivers Day will be used as a template for World Rivers Day.

"It's pretty exciting to see an event that started 25 years ago in BC evolve into such positive efforts to better care for our rivers around the world," said Angelo, who is now the WRD chair as well as its founder. "Rivers are the arteries of our planet, and WRD will provide an opportunity for people to get out and enjoy our waterways and appreciate the extent to which they contribute to the quality of life in their communities," he added.

World Rivers Day is already fostering solidarity amongst international organizations focusing on water-related issues while promoting core values associated with sustainability, conservation, and stewardship activities. WRD also complements the water-related efforts of the United Nations, whose recently-launched "Water for Life Decade" is dedicated to raising awareness of water issues around the world and to reducing by half over the next ten years the number of people who are unable to reach or afford safe drinking water.

Last year, Angelo was the inaugural recipient of the UN's International Year of Fresh Water Stewardship Award for his river conservation efforts at home and abroad.

More information on World Rivers Day is available on-line at www.riversday.bcit.ca. More information on the UN's Water For Life Decade is available on its Web site, www.un.org/waterforlifedecade.

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