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World Rivers Day 2021 emphasises urban waterways restoration

Numerous physical and virtual events will mark the World Rivers Day 2021 on Sunday, September 26 in what has become one of the largest environmental celebrations on the planet. With many of the world’s rivers in a degraded state and facing increasing pressures associated with pollution, industrial development, and climate change, close to 100 countries are projected to participate in this year’s activities.

Mark Angelo
Mark Angelo, Founder and Chair of World Rivers Day

The theme of this year’s event, “Waterways in our communities”, lays emphasis on the need to protect and restore urban waterways which are often under great pressure. Many events this year will also profile the link between the state of rivers and the state of oceans.

“The importance of cleanfresh water has been essential to the fight against COVID-19, so World Rivers Day is a timely opportunity for literally millions of people around the world to come together to commemorate the importance of healthy, vibrant waterways,” said Mark Angelo, the founder and Chair of World Rivers Day.

Events this year will be either physical or virtual, depending on local COVID-19 circumstances. Many physical events will focus on educational and public awareness activities, while others will include river cleanups, habitat restoration projects, and community riverside festivities. Activities of a digital nature will include school projects, art festivals, the launching of new campaigns, online essays and poems, digital photo galleries, new research projects, live-stream panels, and virtual film initiatives.

This year is the 16th annual World Rivers Day, which has its roots in the success of BC Rivers Day, which is celebrating its 41st anniversary in Canada’s western-most province and which Angelo founded in conjunction with the Outdoor Recreation Council.

“World Rivers Day strives to increase public awareness of the importance of our waterways as well as the many threats confronting them,” said Angelo, founder of both BC and World Rivers Day and Chair Emeritus of the Rivers Institute at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

“Rivers are integral to all life,” added Angelo, who has paddled more than 1000 rivers in over 100 countries. Angelo’s life-long commitment to river conservation, including the founding of World Rivers Day, is also the subject of the upcoming feature length film, Last Paddle; 1000 Rivers, One Life, which will have a special screening at the Vancity Theatre in downtown Vancouver on World Rivers Day evening.

Endorsed in its inaugural year by the United Nations University and the International Network on Water, Environment and Health, and with groups such as the Pacific Salmon Foundation and Sitka Foundation as lead sponsors, along with the support of the Real Estate Foundation of BC.

World Rivers Day events will take place across six continents in countries ranging from Canada to England, the United States to India, Australia to Bangladesh, Austria to Nigeria, and from Mexico to Caribbean nations such as Dominica.

“Millions of people, dozens of countries, and numerous international organisations will be contributing to World Rivers Day,” says Angelo. “It provides a great opportunity for people to get out and enjoy our waterways. At the same time, the event strives to create a greater awareness of the urgent need to better care for our rivers and streams.”

Through its first decade, World Rivers Day complemented the UN’s Water for Life Decade and continues to do so as part of the UN’s current International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable Development.

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