Futaleufú on the path to becoming Chile's first protected river

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Photo: Enoc MancillaPhoto: Enoc Mancilla
By Kurt Castro
The Futaleufu River, or "the Futa', as it is fondly called by the visitors and kayakers who come to this remote place in Patagonia, is considered one of the most pristine, wild and beautiful rivers on the planet. It descends from Argentina, crossing the Andes through wetlands, glaciers, lakes and ravines, among coigue forests, until it flows into Lake Yelcho. Hundreds of tourists come here every year to practice rafting, kayaking and fishing in its turquoise waters. Its rapids, level 5 (only for experts), place it among the three most important rivers for the practice of these water sports worldwide.
On the International Day of Action for Rivers, March 14, organizations such as Futaleufú Riverkeeper, Bestias del Sur Salvaje, CIEP, Fundación Ngenko, among others, seek to highlight the importance of the Futaleufu River and to protect it from all hydroelectric, real estate and road projects. In 2002, the community itself organized a strong protest against the imminent construction of a hydroelectric dam, a project that was finally discarded. In 2016, after the electric company ENEL returned the water use rights of the Futaleufú to the National Water Agency, the community saw in this an opportunity to ensure its complete protection, following in the footsteps of the Soca River in Slovenia, an international reference, considered one of the most beautiful rivers in Europe, and named as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Antu Gonzalez, a local kayaker. Photo: Paulo Urrutia Antu Gonzalez, a local kayaker. Photo: Paulo Urrutia
Futualeufu River. Photo: Enoc MancillaFutualeufu River. Photo: Enoc Mancilla
To this end, the local residents, tourism businesses and whitewater enthusiasts are asking the government to declare by supreme decree a "Futaleufú River flow reserve" for ecosystemic purposes, which in turn would be key toward contributing to sustainable local economic development that is based on tourism in the watershed. 
The study process to declare the flow reserve was initiated last December and today the community seeks to obtain further support through signatures of a petition at www.porlasaguasdelfutaleufu.cl. Last month, on February 14, the community carried out the "Futaleufú Rio Abajo” challenge, an event involving more than 50 participants on rafts and kayaks, in which they raised a large banner with the slogan "Futaleufú Protected.” The objective: to prevent this river from being destroyed or fragmented as the Biobío River was in the 1990s, with the construction of six dams, a river which at that time was also considered one of the world’s greatest river destinations.
Take action for the Futaleufu and sign #PorlasaguasdelFutaleufú ! 

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