The era when rivers acted as the world’s highways is past. However, some major waterways still have plenty of significance. They still hold religious and mythological value for those who make their living on or near the water. They still act as major transportation corridors, especially in areas where roads and rails cannot go. And, they may hold the key to putting a major dent in the problem of pollution.
Yangtze River: Energy (and Controversy)
A traditional transportation artery, the Yangtze has become a poster child for China’s hydroelectricity movement. On one hand, projects like the Three Gorges Dam can help ween the country off dirty coal power. On he other: entire cities and ecosystems have been destroyed or forever altered by the massive constructions.
Mekong: Southeast Asia’s Artery
This river makes transportation and agriculture possible in vast areas of Southeast Asia. In the Mekong Delta of Vietnam, a majority of the economy is based on the river in one way or another.
Ganges River: The Holy River
The Ganges is an economically important waterway. But it is mostly known for its religious significance. The city of Varanasi, on the banks of the river, is thought to be the most important city in Hinduism. Many devotees believe that their life is not complete unless they bathe in the Ganges at least once in their lifetime, as it will cleanse the soul of all sins.
Volga River and Lena River
The Volga is Europe’s largest river. It is extremely important to Russia. Half of the country’s major cities, including Moscow, are located on the river. Some of the world’s largest reservoirs are fed by the Volga.
The Lena is one of Siberia’s great rivers. Its delta is frozen for a majority of the year, but turns into a lush wetland during the brief summers.
Danube River: Europe’s Classical River
The Danube is Europe’s second longest river. It is significant as a transportation route through Europe (the river passes through ten countries) and as a source for drinking water. Also, the river has been the inspiration for classical music composers such as Johann Strauss.
Amazon River and Rio Uruguay
The Amazon River is the only way to navigate through the vast Amazon Rainforest. The river is a source of life (water, food, irrigation) for people who inhabit this inhospitable region. The Rio Uruguay is a much shorter South American river. However, it is the source of much of the region’s electricity via a major hydroelectric plant.
Nile River, Niger River, and Senegal River
The Nile is a major transportation artery in Northeast Africa. In addition, the fertile strip that exists along its banks constitutes some of the only farm-able land in the region.
The Niger River is another important source of water in the deserts of North Africa. The river stretches across the western part of the continent and is the easiest way to travel through the area.
The Senegal River is important for the same reasons as the other two North African rivers above. Mali, Guinea, Mauritania and Senegal have joined forces to create an organization that oversees and cares for the river basin that runs through all four countries.
This legendary river in the American Midwest was and is a major transportation route. It retains mythological/historical significance despite that fact that it is no longer the heavily-used waterway that it once was.
The Rio Grande is one of the longest rivers in the US and forms much of the border between the state of Texas and Mexico. It has near legendary status on both sides of the water. It is more known as a dividing line than a source of water in this arid landscape.
Murray River (Australia)
The Murray is Australia’s largest river. It has been an important for transportation and irrigation, as well as being the site of numerous leisure activities like sport fishing.