Observing the World Water Day in Iquitos

Hundreds of Peruvian elementary students walked through the streets of the Amazon port city of Iquitos Thursday, March 22, waving light-blue balloons shaped like water drops and carrying signs with slogans such as “Water is Life.”

The idea that “Water is Life” is a sentiment expressed more frequently throughout Peru these days as people in the cities start making the mental connection between water security where they live and threats from mining activities in the highlands and hydrocarbon production in the forests and tributaries of the Amazon.

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The children’s march honored the 2012 World Day of Water —

an awareness campaign sponsored by the United Nation’s Food and Water Security wing since 1992.  And the children, who all looked joyful like children should, shouted something about it being all of our responsibility to keep the waters clean. But while it’s true that we all bear our share of blame and share responsibility for keeping water clean, I wondered how many of the kids understood the real nature of the threat from profiteers who don’t feel the same responsibility or think much about the future as they pollute the tributaries just upstream of the Amazon River, which defines the lives and future of Iquitos’ children.

I’ve been accused of being the bearer of bad news before, but I’ll risk a little more finger pointing to cite just a few local news items from the first few months of this year to better spell things out.

IMG_7607_lrStarting in the south:

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All of this recent news comes on the heels of announcements in February that a U.S.-Canadian consortium led by American driller ConocoPhillips plans to tap seven exploratory wells in its 10.5 million-acre mega block upstream near the headwaters of the Nanay River – which supplies the drinking water to the nearly half-million residents of Iquitos.

As the children of Iquitos march in the streets to remind the adults of what’s at stake, it’s a good time to listen the next generation and reflect on what we can to change our course on water.

Deborah Rivett, Saturday, 24 March 2012

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