Headwaters of the Amazon Protected!

Sarah Bardeen
The Marañón River.
The Marañón River.
Rocky Contos


The good news keeps coming from Latin America.

Last week, the Peruvian government publicly declared that large dams in the Amazon are not on the new government’s agenda. The Minister of Energy and Mines said that the country currently has an energy surplus and doesn’t need the dams, and that they would flood too much land for the amount of electricity they’d generate. 

The news in Somos newspaper.
The news in Somos newspaper.
Marañón Waterkeeper

This is a major about-face in a country that has planned to build 20 large dams on the Marañón River. The Marañón is one of the most important water sources in Peru and a key Amazon tributary: The Marañón meets the Ucayali River and together they form the Amazon River.

The river runs through 10 distinct regions of Peru. Almost 14% of the Peruvian population lives in these regions, and they include Andean peasants, indigenous Amazon peoples, riparian populations, as well as urban communities. Hundreds of thousands of people depend on the Marañón River for their livelihood.

The region is also home to abundant animal and plant life, including gray and pink dolphins, Amazonian manatees, giant river otters, black caimans, giant South American river turtles, jaguars, Capuchin monkeys and spider monkeys, and many others.

Together with our partners in the region, Marañón Waterkeeper, Forum Solidaridad and Frente de Defensa del Río Marañón, we have fought for better energy policy in Peru for years, arguing that these dams would cause too much destruction and that better alternatives exist. A few months ago, we offered an alternate vision for Peru’s energy future which was well-received in government circles.  

The suspension of dam projects in the Peruvian Amazon is a huge, positive step forward. It shows that the Peruvian government is beginning to recognize how critically important the Peruvian Amazon is, both as a source of water and biodiversity, and for the hundreds of thousands of indigenous people who depend on it. The suspension increases the risk for investors, and it gives the country much-needed breathing room as it considers whether to protect or develop its rivers. 

There’s still a lot of work to do. While this is good news, the government didn't say that the dam projects were cancelled; they only said that the projects won't go ahead during their term in government, which will last for the next five years. 

What's next for Peru? You cannot protect what you don’t understand; we and our partners believe the answer is education. 

Peru needs to conduct studies that explore the river's ecological and hydrological importance, the ecosystem services it provides, and its biological importance as the primary source of the Amazon. Together with local communities and NGOs, we're working towards obtaining permanent legal protection for the Marañón, headwaters of the Amazon.

More information: 

Read more about permanent legal protection for rivers.

Read more about the Marañón River.

Monday, October 10, 2016