Journey to Planet Earth examines the health of four of the world's
river systems the Mississippi, the Amazon, the Jordan and the
Mekong. The first stop is the small town of Grafton,
Illinois, one of the many to suffer devastating damage when the
upper Mississippi River flooded its banks in 1993. Journey to Planet
Earth shows how massive construction efforts earlier in this century
to control the river's flooding have profoundly affected the entire
Brazil, fish snatch fruit from the boughs of trees along the Amazon
River deluged with up to 30 feet of flood water during the six-month
rainy season. It is a vast, enchanted underwater forest supporting
an incredibly diverse ecosystem. But recently, settlers have plundered
these flooded rain forests at an alarming rate. Journey to Planet
Earth visits the village of Sao Miguel
where fishermen, ranchers and farmers have begun working together
to preserve the integrity of the river's natural resources.
Compared to the mighty Amazon, the Jordan River is an insignificant trickle, but
to the desert nations through which it flows, it is all-important.
Journey to Planet Earth visits an Israeli kibbutz along the Sea
of Galilee, where the river's waters have brought prosperity.
They also visit the parched West Bank of Palestine and the biblical
city of Jericho whose Arab inhabitants, denied access to the Jordan
River, must make do with ancient springs and meager supplies of underground
water. As former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres said in an interview, "the equitable distribution of water may prove to be the only key
to a lasting peace in the Middle East."
In Vietnam's tropical Mekong Delta, we visit
a society long dependent on the river's bounty. Decades of regional
war and political unrest have left the Mekong one of the least developed
rivers of Asia. But peace and prosperity are now bringing change to
the Delta, not all of it beneficial.
last stop is the city of New Orleans,
whose very existence is a testament to human engineering ingenuity.
Not long ago the Army Corps of Engineers stepped in when the Mississippi
threatened to change course away from New Orleans. The city's economy
was saved but Journey to Planet Earth investigates the devastating
consequences to the Mississippi Delta where 25 square miles of coastland
are now lost to the Gulf of Mexico each year. Now Louisiana's bayous
are turning into salt marshes and open water, and the Cajun way of
life is fast disappearing.