Four Women, Three Countries, One Free-Flowing River

Katy Yan
The Amur River
The Amur River
By Petr Sharov

The Amur-Heilong River is one of the world's ten largest rivers. Originating in the Khan Khentii wilderness near the sacred Burkan Khaldun mountain (and the birthplace of Genghis Khan), it flows east through the Mongolian Steppe, enters Russia, and flows along nearly 1,000 kilometers of the Russian-Chinese border. 

The Amur-Heilong is also one of the last free-flowing rivers left on the planet. While few have heard of it, the Amur has incredible global significance. It traverses a diverse range of forest, grassland and taiga ecosystems that support at least 2,800 plant and 500 animal species on the Russian side alone. These ecosystems provides critical habitat for the Amur Tiger and Amur Leopard, both critically endangered. Apart from habitat destruction, illegal wildlife trade, pollution, and resource extraction, the Amur is also threatened by a series of dams being proposed by China and Russia, as well as existing dams on its tributaries.

The Far Eastern, or Amur, Leopard
The Far Eastern, or Amur, Leopard
Photo by V.Solkin

A number of NGOs in Russia and China have been monitoring dam-building plans on the Amur and its tributaries for years, including Rivers Without Boundaries and Green Longjiang in China, where the Amur is known as the "Black Dragon" River. A new group, Nobody's River, has just joined the effort to raise awareness around this little-known river and the cultures and breathtaking biodiversity that call it home. Their unique approach combines science and multimedia in a source to sea expedition composed of an all-female team of adventurers, explorers and biologists from the US and Australia. These four women will travel from the headwaters of the Amur in Northern Mongolia to the Pacific Ocean delta over the course of three months. During their expedition, the team will be collecting data and taking photos and videos, all of which will culminate in an interactive web atlas of the Amur River that will allow a global audience to experience the sights and sounds of, and understand the science behind, this incredibly untamed river. 

Says Amber Valenti of Nobody’s River:

“Ultimately this project is about savoring something fleeting and beautiful, and doing our part to love this great big planet we all live on together. If we savor the experience, if we cultivate camaraderie with each other and the broader global community, and we bring home just a little of the magic we find, we will feel successful beyond our wildest dreams.” 

We hope it will also increase the global awareness and concern around protecting some of the world's last free-flowing rivers and the communities and ecosystems they support.

You can help make this project a success by watching their video below and supporting them on Indiegogo.

Nobody's River Expedition from justinclifton on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013