Wednesday, January 21, 2015

20 Dams planned for the Grand Canyon of the Amazon. Please Help Save the Rio Maranon!

The Grand Canyon of the Rio Maranon is spectacular. Giant wave trains weave their way through towering red walls. There are plentiful white sandy beaches for camping and side canyons with narrows and waterfalls for exploring. With cactus and ancient granaries clinging to the rocky slopes, it is every bit as scenic and wonderful as the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. The main differences are that the Rio Maranon is free flowing and the region is inhabited. Rural villages dot the steep mountain tops and herds of livestock graze along the river corridor. My husband, Drew, and I were lucky to spend a week on the Upper Grand Canyon over Christmas where we experienced the magnificence of the canyon first hand. We met many friendly locals along the way while they were crossing a tributary in a cable car or navigating the flat water in a wooden raft.

Unfortunately, like many other remote, self-reliant, indigenous communities of Peru, the people of the Maranon are at risk of losing their land to development and exploitation of resources. Lower sections of the river are inhabited by the Aguaruna, the second largest indigenous group of the Peruvian Amazon. Drew noted that these farmers, hunters, and fishermen are one of the only groups to successfully resist the Inca and Spanish conquests and they still inhabit their native, preconquest land1. With little representation by the Peruvian government, the people of the Maranon are now fighting a battle to resist a series of 20 proposed hydroelectric dams that would devastate their land and way of life.

The Rio Maranon is one of the key tributaries of the Amazon and the dam project will halt flow through the entire length of the Andes section, causing detrimental environmental effects and displacing thousands of inhabitants2. Two dams are already in the advanced stages of planning2. Plans for the dam project include diverting water for irrigation of distant regions, and generating electricity for mining development in the Andes and energy exportation to Brazil3.

I live in an area of the world where the ecosystem and traditional culture of native people have suffered due to hydroelectric dam development. I hope the people of the Maranon will have a different ending to their story. If you feel the same way, please contact Peruvian President Ollanta Humala to voice opposition to the dams.  For his contact and more information about the dam project visit:

Also, please consider supporting Sierra Rios and International Rivers, two conservation organizations that are working to halt dam development on the Rio Maranon. To join Sierra Rios or get more information about river trips on the Rio Maranon visit:

Drew's exciting account of our Christmas adventure on the Upper Grand Canyon of the Rio Maranon can be found here:

1McCarthy, C. (2013). Peru (8th ed., p. 518). Footscray, Vic.: Lonely Planet.

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