Supported by International Rivers and various organizations, the initiative aims for the protection and restoration of Chile’s rivers. It was launched this November during the Somos Cuenca 2023 Festival in Concepcion, Chile.

The University of Concepción was the stage for launching the “Ríos Protegidos” initiative (, which brings together various civil society organizations, research centers, universities, and professionals from different fields across Chile. They aim to strengthen the country’s river protection through the application of existing tools, acknowledging their gaps and opportunities. They also aim to promote new legislation on protected and restored rivers.

This event, held on November 18 and attended by over 5000 people, was to celebrate the importance and beauty of Chile’s rivers and their basins. It included a panel discussion with international, national, and regional leaders around the theme, “Rivers as Contested Territories: Regeneration Opportunities.” Attendees had the chance to reflect on experiences shared by individuals like Fernanda Purrán from Malen Leubu, Denielle Perry from the Global Rivers Protection Coalition, Monti Aguirre from International Rivers, Ana Araneda from the regional CORE, Juan Pablo Orrego from Ecosistemas, and Verónica Palma from the Lepe Foundation.

The event also featured performances by music bands, Flor de Guayaba and Kuervos del Sur, both renowned in the penquista scene, which helped set the stage for the launch of “Ríos Protegidos”, This launch took place during the Somos Cuenca Festival, a unique celebration aimed at uniting the community around the protection and regeneration of the Biobío River basin.

Another event was the descent of the Biobío River from the community of Chiguayante to the city of Concepción, aiming to show the surrounding grey infrastructure and highlight the need for river access for non-motorized watercraft. This rafting trip also showcased the important connection between the river and the public through water sports.

The Festival supported various spaces to engage different audiences. It involved key political figures from the region, including the participation of the regional councilor and chair of the environmental commission, Ana Araneda in various sessions. A meeting was also held with the Regional Governor, Rodrigo Diáz, to inform him and seek collaboration for river access, and reconnecting citizens with this emblematic regional body of water.

Paulo Urrutia, Director of Bestias del Sur Salvaje, emphasized the objective of fostering these meeting spaces  to convey to the public and shared, “the mobilization towards collective action in addressing the problems or violations we face as individuals and as a society.

The Festival was extensive, with the participation of over 70 organizations leading conversations, outdoor environmental education, city activities, and presence at the Regenerative Nature Fair. Numerous messages were conveyed, including one from Fernanda Purrán of Malen Leubu, stressing the “need to convey messages to children, educating them about solutions to address environmental issues.” She also invited citizens and the political sector to visit these territories firsthand to understand the problems that have existed for years, which are now affecting urban areas.

About Ríos Protegidos Initiative.

“We want to open the discussion regarding the need to strengthen the environmental protection of rivers and their associated ecosystems through a new legal category: ‘Protected River”

Nicole Mansuy, a lawyer from the initiative’s legal technical team.

The initiative began in 2022, recognizing the history forged by many organizations around rivers. It visualized the need for a dedicated team focusing on legislative aspects, creating spaces to link science and the community to propel cohesive protection campaigns. An example of this is the support given by the initiative to campaigns led by various organizations in the Futaleufú and Puelo river basins ( (, advocating for water reserves for both rivers. These territories now celebrate the results of years of work. On September 8th, the commuities celebrated a victory with the announcement of , the General Water Directorate (DGA) issued decrees “Establishing Surface Water Reserves in the Futaleufú and Puelo river basins for Ecosystem Preservation in the Los Lagos region.”

There’s an urgent need to progress towards comprehensive and permanent protection of Chilean rivers, and acknowledge the challenging and conflicting aspects that need consideration. Rivers connect people and places daily; diverse communities engage in cultural, economic, recreational, and spiritual practices around them. Hence, the Ríos Protegidos campaign wants to comprehend this holistic vision to genuinely protect Chile’s rivers integrally, with the grand aim towards preserving ecosystem, where nature is considered interconnected with human life.

Watch the launching video of Ríos Protegidos initiative and follow @riosprotegidos on social media.

Photo credit: Germán Weber