The Marañón River is under threat from hydroelectric projects, International Coordinator of Marañón Waterkeeper shares some thoughts on what it takes to protect a wild river like this.
What does it take to save a river?
I think it’s simple. It takes people who care about it, moving and agitating and working towards its protection; people using their skills and connections to do what they can whether that is big or small.
Yes it get’s more complex than that. There’s local people fighting for their rights, there’s organisations at local, national and international levels creating cases for its protection. There’s policy makers, companies and politicians all trying to get their piece of the pie, for better or worse.
But let’s keep it simple. If everyone cared about the river like we did; these projects would not exist.
So then the challenge is, how do we get more people to care?
I know why I care; it’s because of all the hours spent alone, or in great company appreciating incredible surroundings. It’s because of thousands of memories that would never be the same had they been experienced within concrete walls with the roar of traffic passing by. Hundreds of sunsets and sunrises, and stars gazed and stories told in the light of a campfire or with the backdrop of a gurgling river.
Not everyone is lucky as I, especially in parts of the world where these opportunities are not as accessible; where it is very possible you could grow up an never leave the concrete jungle behind. Not everyone had the chance to experience these things. It’s hard to truly appreciate the intricacies of an enormous ecosystem if you never witness.
The local people living here appreciate the importance of this river, but there is a disconnect between theses people and those concentrated in cities. The concentrated populations hold the greatest power to determine the fate of these areas.
I truly believe we can have a big impact on the protection of these places, simply by appreciating them with the intention to do whatever we can to protect them. By going there, by sharing the stories of these places and by writing new stories. Last year we invited a group of young Peruvians down the Marañón River, with the intention to do whatever we could. The result was a group of people empowered to take action.
Since then there has been a campaign running to share the story of the Marañón River, connecting with thousands of people in Peru. Camote, our photographer has shared hundreds of stunning photographs and wants to run a photo exhibition. Bruno, director of our partner NGO in Peru is bringing more and more people to this cause at high and low levels. Luigi has promoted and organised a tourist trip through his small business; over the next week the first ever group of Peruvian toursists will make their way down the Marañón river. Lisbeth, our lawyer, has written material to be shared with local communities to increase knowledge of legal process and support available. Now we have developed a platform with Waterkeeper Alliance and are spreading this message far and wide. Nobody has been paid for any of these actions, nobody is getting anything out of it. They are doing these things because they were inspired by the experience, by the power of the river.
In Peru we plan to continue the run this Remando Juntos program annually. Every time we will grow our team and reach a wider audience. Creating pockets of people who can be stewards for one of the gratest rivers on the planet. Every time we cast the net out to see who can help, we don’t know what will come back, nor the connections it will create or the wheels it will start turning. We do know that the more wheels that turn in the right direction and the more people who are inspired to help, the bigger this movement can grow.
The Remando Juntos campaign is not just about rafting trips, a nice vacation, about growing tourism or raising funds; these are happy side effects. It is about creating connection and inspiring people to action. It’s about creating a community of Waterkeepers, of Guardianes del Agua who will represent the source of the Amazon. Every person who gets involved causes a ripple, and we never know how far or wide this will reach.
As soon as enough people care about this place, it will no longer be in danger.
We have bigger projects with set goals and outcomes that we are working towards, a national educational tour, legal support for local people, media campigns and film; but without passionate people on the ground to drive the projects, they are worth nothing. In a very simple way, all these things start on the river. I really think it is that simple.
Can you become a drop of water high in the Andes, whose ripple will spread down through the greatest river system on the planet; helping to protect the greatest ecosystem on earth?
Will you join us on one of our Remando Juntos journeys?
On our 2016 & 2017 Remando Juntos Journeys we have positions for 8 international guest, 2 volunteer rafters or kayakers and 8 positions for our Peruvian activists.