Representatives of indigenous peoples and local communities in the region made a call to ensure that rivers run free, without the intervention of hydroelectric power plants, and also so that water is recognized as a universal right.

The appeal was made in the session “Heritage, Water, Cultural Heritage and Consciousness”, on the morning of Thursday (22), at the 8th World Water Forum. The session addressed the livelihoods of traditional peoples and their relationship to water.

 “We, the indigenous and traditional peoples, must fight to ensure that the waters have this freedom; they can go down to waterfalls and allow their courses run free,” said Sonia Guajajara, from the Articulação dos povos Indígenas do Brasil (APIB), about the damming of rivers for the installation of hydroelectric plants, which is compromising the health of these aquatic ecosystems and peoples that depend on them.

Sônia Guajajara reminded the ecological disaster in Mariana (MG), in 2015, with the breaking of the Fundão dam in Doce river basin, and March this year, from bauxite spills, on the river Pará (State of Para – PA, Brazil).

“They are poisoning our waters with pesticides, they are allowing the leakage of mining waste, they are mining in forbidden places, planting in our waterbeds, there is real estate speculation in large cities, and they do not think about waters. These threats are occurring in all places, in forests, in cities. Water care is an obligation. Fighting for water is a fight for our existence for life”.

The protection of Biomes

In the session “Challenges to protect specific biomes that will reinforce the sustainable use of water”, the topic of interventions and the damming of water courses has emerged again, this time as a threat to the fundamental hydrological pulse to the Pantanal and to the migration of fish in the Amazon.

Solange Kimie Ikeda Castrillon, professor at the University of the State of Mato Grosso, warned that the fragmentation of rivers, deforestation, mining and agriculture with intensive use of pesticides in the highlands of the basin are threatening the pulse of waters to run, and inundate the floodplain, as well as the quality of these waters and biodiversity.

“It is in the upper part of the watershed that are the greatest threats. There is a direct relationship between what is done in the highlands, and the impacts that it suffers from the floodplain. The Brazilian hydroelectric map anticipates the construction of more than 100 Small Hydropower Plants (Shps) to Pantanal. "If they are installed, it will be the end of the Pantanal,” said Solange Ikeda.

Claudio Parque, Director of the Department of Actions for the Socio-Environmental  and Territorial Consolidation at the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), pointed out that freshwater ecosystems are among the most threatened and that it is necessary to increase protection to ecosystems and aquatic biodiversity.

“The relationship between water and biodiversity is fundamental to the life of nature and people. Conservation units to protect the watersheds that serve the urban supply. It is essential to understand that water is the connection of life between protected areas, between fauna and flora, and even between land and water. We need, on the one hand, to understand and use more freshwater ecosystems to create and manage conservation units, but we also need urban and rural water resources policies to give more attention to the most protected areas in the planning of basins and in the protection of the water that is the source of life,“ said Maretti.