Amazon is the biggest river responsible for one-fifth of the world’s freshwater outflow. As such, it is the single most crucial freshwater system in the world. China’s Yangtze is the world’s third-largest river, with more than one-fifth of the world’s population. Rivers are places to enjoy, where anybody can relax and appreciate the beauty of the natural world. But rivers are also vital for humankind and always have been. In many countries, rivers still provide the majority of the water supply. River water is entering a massive treatment plant, filtered and purified before being piped to homes. As well as water to drink, we need food to eat. And rivers are a vital source of water used to irrigate crops.
Present industries were founded on rivers. The electricity from this station powers industry once driven by water mills. River water used in these giant cooling towers is a key element of the electricity generating process. River water not only cools the plant but also offers transport for the fuel. In this case, millions of tonnes of coal are shipped to the site every year by river barge. No coal trucks clog up roads here! To get away from the pressures of life, rivers offer the perfect answer.
Why are rivers important?
Since the beginning of civilization, rivers have been the fascinating center point of our history. Rivers of many sizes occur in the USA, UK and the volume of water carried, even in the smallest, is astonishing. This relatively small river transports a road tanker’s load of water every second. In times of flood, that can become as much as five tankers every second. Rain seems the obvious reason rivers continue to flow day in day out, but days or even weeks can go by without any rainfall.
The land that a river drains is called the catchment. And a river of this size could collect the rain that falls on an area of several hundred square kilometers. The amount of rainfall varies significantly from place to place. From only half a meter a year in Southeast England to four meters a year in Scotland. The amount also varies throughout the year.
The world’s lakes and flowing rivers constitute just 1% of the planet’s water. The fresh water in rivers is vital to all land-based life. But population pressures are putting major waterways under stress. Rivers provide drinking water and water for agricultural purposes. Since the beginnings of human civilization, rivers have been used for transport, and cities have grown on their banks.
Importance for Transportation
Rivers are an integral part of the water cycle where freshwater falling as rain or snow. It flows to the oceans to be evaporated by warmth from the Sun, forming clouds that release rain. All plant and animal life depends on this cycle. Africa’s river Nile is the longest in the world. Since ancient times the Nile has been a lifeline for the people and animals along at 6,800 kilometers linked. Ten countries share the Nile.
The Nile water agreement of 1929 granted Egypt the lion’s share of the Niles waters. Lake Victoria is the source of the White Nile. It is the longest branch of the Nile. It’s the world’s largest tropical lake and is an important transport hub for Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya. Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Congo, Sudan, and Egypt rely on the Nile for transportation and agriculture. The Egyptian capital Cairo sits on the banks of the Nile. Because of the treaty, it can veto any upstream irrigation plans that could threaten the Niles levels.
South America has an in-depth system of rivers and lakes that go surprisingly far inland. It is why Bolivia can have a Navy as long as they don’t get on Brazil’s. However, some water waves are considered international passageways, and ships traveling through them under normal conditions cannot be taxed or blocked. It is most noble in Europe, where there are a lot of landlocked.
The most important river in Europe is the Danube which starts in Germany and flows through Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria. It provides many of these countries with an essential link to the Black Sea and the North Sea. Rivers canals connecting the world’s waterways and giving otherwise landlocked countries access to the ocean from the San Juan River and Nicaragua to the Nisha River in all these countries.
Importance for Agriculture
Over 95% of Egypt’s water comes from the river, and most Egyptians live in the Fertile Nile Valley. However, it makes up only 4% of Egypt’s available land. The country’s population is growing, so Egypt’s need for water will continue to increase. An adequate water management system is essential for crops to attain their full potential. It allows for proper soil composition and optimal root development, maximizing plant strength and nutrient uptake. Many countries are dependent on irrigation systems.
The key visible features of a water management system include the outlet, a ditch or stream to carry excess water away, and a buffer strip to shield the stream from overland soil erosion. In the Middle East, the importance of rivers has been seen since the dawn of civilization in Egypt. The Nile was everything as it provided not just the source of transportation but also water for agriculture. The term Mesopotamia means the land between the rivers, specifically the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. However, nearby Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the world, not to have any rivers. So they are dependable for food and other agricultural product.
Importance for Civilization
The First Wave of Civilizations occurred roughly between 3500 B.C.E. and 600 B.C.E. During the Paleolithic Age. Humans mostly lived in small bands as Hunter-Gatherers. After adopting farming, Humans moved into the Neolithic Era and began to settle into larger communities. Around the year 3500 B.C.E., the first evidence of human societies organizing themselves into more significant civilizations.
In advanced civilizations, there is a surplus of food due to agriculture. Therefore not everyone is needed to produce or gather food. This allows some people to focus on doing other specific jobs, like making tools or blacksmithing. Governments in advanced civilizations also made it possible to finance and organize large-scale public works projects, such as irrigation projects, Monumental Architecture, Pyramids of ancient Egypt.
It makes sense that because water is a necessity for life and agriculture, that the earliest civilizations all began near significant rivers. The earlier, FIRST WAVE Civilizations all had some or all of these characteristics.
Mesopotamian civilization began near the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the Middle East. The region was also referred to as the FERTILE CRESCENT. Several kingdoms ruled during this era, the Nile starting with the Sumerians. A notable achievement of the Sumerians was the development of a system of writing known as CUNEIFORM. After the Sumerians came to the Akkadian Empire, one of the earliest examples of Literature, THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH, a poem about an ancient Sumerian king, was produced.
Following the Akkadians were the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires. The most well-known Babylonian King, King Hammurabi, developed one of the earliest sets of written laws known as HAMMURABI’S CODE. Another First Wave Civilization during this time, around 3000 B.C.E., was Ancient Egypt. Ancient Egyptian Civilization arose along the Nile River in Northern Africa.
Like the Mesopotamians, they also developed a writing system known as HIEROGLYPHICS. They also had a strict Social Hierarchy and organized religion. At the top of the Social Pyramid were the Pharaohs, or kings, followed by priests, scribes, or record keepers, and at the bottom of the hierarchy were the peasants. Egyptian pharaohs organized the construction of pyramids and large-scale irrigation systems.
Heading east into present-day Pakistan, along the Indus River, the Indus River Civilization arose between 3300 B..E. and 1800 B.C.E. Not a lot is known about the Indus Valley civilization, but archaeologists have discovered the remains of two major urban areas, the ancient cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. These cities showed evidence of extensive urban planning, including indoor plumbing.
Mysteriously, the civilization appears to have abruptly disappeared around the year 1800 B.C.E. The cultural and religious practice of Hinduism began to emerge in this region during this period. Hinduism has continued to be a part of life in South Asia even to this day. The last of the First Wave River Valley Civilizations we will discuss in Ancient China.
Civilizations began to emerge along with the Yellow or Huang He River and Yangtze Rivers around 2000 B.C.E. Three kingdoms, the Xia, Shang, and Zhou, established ruling dynasties. These civilizations established long-standing traditions in Chinese society. One of these was the “ MANDATE OF HEAVEN.”
Each of these civilizations, Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Indus, and Ancient China, developed along major rivers and demonstrated various characteristics of advanced civilizations, including organized governments and religions, urbanization, advanced tools and knowledge, large construction projects, and writing systems.
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