Calling all kayakers, river lovers, conservationists, environmentalists, and anyone who is tired of greed and corruption—the Piatúa River in Ecuador is in danger of being dammed. This situation epitomizes the global pattern of wealthy individuals choosing monetary gain and personal influence over the good of the people and the rights of nature (which, by the way, are constitutionally protected in Ecuador).
HERE’S THE QUICK LOW DOWN
An Ecuadorian company has been awarded what many believe is a questionable concession to build a dam on the remote and wild Piatúa River. This hydro-electric project is a trans-basin diversion that would significantly de-water the last 20 kilometers of the river before its confluence with Anzu—the entire paddling section of the Piatúa River. Currently Ecuador has a large surplus of electricity production and only uses 47% of its installed capacity, which leaves many people questioning the need for this project.
Ecuador has several measures in place to protect its environment from these sort of short-sighted projects: Ecuador was the first country to give constitutional rights to nature, and new development projects must prepare an environmental impact statement and complete a process of public participation with the affected population before they can be approved. Sadly, we did not see these considerations and requirements met on the Piatúa hydro-project, and there will be consequences of this dam that reach far beyond the paddling world. If built, this dam would cut off fishing and water supply for indigenous communities. It would endanger a species of catfish endemic to the Piatúa River as well as 9 species of frogs who live in and along the river and who are considered critically endangered and at risk of extinction. It would also cut off an important ecological corridor between the Andes Mountains and the lower Amazon River Basin.
WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT THIS?
We feel this could be a make it or break it moment in river conservation for Ecuador, which also means a make it or break it moment for the future of kayaking in Ecuador.
“This will be the test for the future of Ecuador as a paddle sports destination.”
-Matt Terry, director of the Ecuadorian Rivers Institute
Small World Adventures and the Ecuadorian Rivers Institute are embarking on a last-ditch effort to stop this project. The ERI is fighting the dam in the courts and Small World Adventures is raising money to support this effort through a summer-long fundraiser and gear giveaway—100% of the money raised will be donated to the ERI. We believe that a positive outcome is possible in this case, and we are putting our all behind these efforts.
HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
- Donate to our Save the Piatua fundraiser
- Sign the petition in favor of keeping the Piatua free-flowing
- Share both the fundraiser and the petition on your social media outlets. The more we can spread the word the better!
- Come to Ecuador and paddle the Piatua!
And, there’s potentially more in it for you when you help! When you donate to our Save the Piatua Fundraiser, you’ll have the chance to win one of these awesome prizes from our fundraiser sponsors:
- Small World Adventures week-long kayaking trip in Ecuador! SWA is the premier kayak outfitter in Ecuador and whether you are a Class III+ kayaker or a Class V kayaker, we’ve got the trip for you. Winner can choose to join any of our regularly scheduled trips during the 2019/2020 season. You know you are in good hands with SWA: We have the most experienced guides in Ecuador, hands down; Deluxe food, lodging and transportation; Over 50 modern kayaks to choose from; 7 days of kayaking in Ecuador’s Amazon Basin with only 1 week off from work; Class III+ through V; November to March; We wrote the Kayaker’s Guide to Ecuador; SWA is a proud member of 1% for the Planet and a long-time supporter of the Ecuadorian Rivers Institute.
- 2016 Jackson Rock Star from Jackson Kayak. The 2016 Rock Star is narrower, faster, looser, and features an easier to take off hull. Easy edge to edge transfers that are reminiscent of the 2010 All-Star/Super Star, combined with massive air capabilities and smooth, predictable surfing makes it a ridiculously fun boat to paddle on a wave. Jackson took extra time in the development of this deck as well to make sure that they had a rock solid knee position, and increased performance for moves in holes and flatwater. The ends of this boat are slicey and easy to get under the water, making cartwheels, stalls, and linking moves together easier than ever before.
- Surge or a Strike Werner Paddle custom built for you! The Surge is perfect for those paddlers seeking the utmost power and dependable catch in a high impact resistant fiberglass layup. This paddle has been tested by some of the best expedition kayakers in the world on some of the most demanding rivers. The Surge delivers confidence with every stroke. Your other option if you win this prize is to choose the aptly named, Strike which is your tool for success in downriver situations that require power in a mid-size blade. Great for smaller paddlers and women looking to take advantage of all the benefits of a blade forward design.
- Kokatat summer kayaker package of a Mythic Shorty Top and a Maximus Centurion PFD! The Mythic shorty dry top is made with Kokatat’s Hydrus 3.0, a three-layer fabric that is exceptionally waterproof and breathable thanks to its super tough Nylon outer layer with a DWR finish, a proprietary polyurethane micro-porous coating, and a soft polyester inner layer to manage moisture. The Mythic has latex neck and bicep gaskets, self-draining punch-through neoprene neck and bicep over-cuffs, a dual adjustable neoprene overskirt, and factory sealed seams. The Maximus Centurion is a Type 5 Rescue PFD featuring the Dynamic Suspension System (DSS). DSS features wide, contoured neoprene shoulder straps that allow unrestricted movement of the independently suspended front flotation panels to move in concert with the paddler. The ultra-comfortable side entry design has webbing adjustments in the front of the vest for easy fit adjustments. Two large integrated chest pockets and detachable Belly Pocket allow you to carry all your gear, including pin kit, first aid kit, and VHF radio. Made with Gaia® PVC free foam, the Centurion also features a quick release chest harness and O-ring.
- Snap Dragon Designs Spray skirts! These guys donated 2 skirts, so two lucky winners will head to the river with a brand new spray deck. One winner will get Snap Dragon’s Whitewater EXP skirt (you choose the tunnel and deck size). When challenging the most turbulent rivers and creeks, call on the Expedition series white water spray skirt. It provides dependable performance season after season. The new Expedition weight material has made this their bestselling skirt ever. A 2nd winner will get Snap Dragon’s Flirt EXP. With the same basic construction as the White Water EXP, the Flirt tunnel also features shorter tube height for those paddlers with a shorter upper body.
- Watershed Ocoee Dry Bag from AS Watersports! The Ocoee is the smallest in the Watershed range of duffel-style submersible bags and is perfect for whitewater kayakers. The Ocoee fits in tight places like behind the seat of a kayak. Great for a few pieces of extra clothing, a lunch, and a first aid kit. Accessorize with a Watershed padded liner, divider set and shoulder strap to make a great waterproof camera bag.
- 1-year subscription to Kayak Session Magazine! 5 lucky winners will get a subscription to the world’s premier whitewater magazine! Stay up-to-date on the happenings in the whitewater world from crazy expeditions in remote places to the latest play-boating move innovations.
WHAT’S HAPPENED SO FAR IN THE FIGHT AGAINST THE DAM?
On May 28, 2019, the Napo River Foundation, together with the Kichwa communities of Santa Clara (ponakicsc), Pachamama Foundation, Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (confeniae), and the Defenders of the Piatúa River, in coordination with the center of human rights of the Catholic University of Ecuador and the Pastaza office of the public defender of Ecuador, presented a constitutional demand to the Provincial Court in Puyo, Ecuador. The legal demand asks for protective measures to preserve the Piatúa River intact in its natural state for the benefit of present and future generations. The communities feel that this hydroelectric project has serious deficiencies, errors, and omissions and that it did not follow government laws allowing public participation during the permitting process. Additionally, this project has violated the rights of the legendary Piatúa River, and the rights of the people who use the river and depend upon it for their livelihoods. The case went to trial on June 12th, 2019.
On June 20th, the judge of the penal court in Puyo, Ecuador denied the motion to protect the Piatúa River. Ample evidence was presented as proof that the company bypassed many requirements when they secured their permit and in doing so, violated the rights of the Piatúa and the right of prior consent of the local communities, but the judge still sided in favor of the dam and against the free-flowing Piatúa. We are disappointed in the ruling, but not disheartened, and we have already filed to appeal the decision to the provincial court of Pastaza. We have legitimate arguments which demonstrate the violation of constitutional rights, and will continue the fight. The evidence and facts are on our side and we hope for an impartial ruling by the provincial court of Pastaza. We assume that regardless of who is victorious in Pastaza, that this case will be appealed to the constitutional court in Quito, so we still have a long battle ahead. Let’s keep this fundraiser alive and kicking–now is the time to show wide-spread international support for the Piatúa River!
KAYAKERS’ ROLE IN PROTECTING RIVERS
The future of the sport of kayaking in Ecuador is at stake here, but deep down, this isn’t about whitewater kayaking. This is about stopping environmental destruction for the sake of greed and a few people making a lot of money at the expense of the many. This is about protecting habitat for all the humans and other critters who call these places home, and about encouraging our leaders to have the wisdom to protect these environments for future generations.
We kayakers are part of a small, niche sport, and we make up less than 1% of the population (for most of us, this is the only time we’ll be considered part of the 1%). However, as people who are deeply immersed in rivers, we are in a unique position to advocate for these rich, natural treasures. We become attached to the rivers we love and we can easily imagine the nightmare of living without them. Because of our special perspective, we have a duty to stand up and fight for these rivers—not just for the sake of kayaking, but for the larger consequences that come from short-sighted development projects.
Thanks for reading! If you believe in our cause, please share this blog on your social media outlets. Also, if you have any connections with mainstream (beyond the kayaking world) media outlets and you think this story may be appealing, please let us know. We are looking for ways of bringing the story of the Piatua River to a larger audience.
We hope to see you all down in Ecuador paddling this winter. When you come paddle in Ecuador you’ll not only have a world class kayaking experience, but you’ll also be showing the government that tourism is a viable and sustainable industry!
Contact us with any comments or questions.