November 18 – 19, 2023 – More than five thousand people filled the square of the University of Concepción inChile, and joined organizations at the closing of the festival Somos Cuenca 2023 festival. Over eighty organizations from six countries including Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, the United States, and Chile, joined together to celebrate the watersheds of Chile. During this gathering, dialogues and workshops merging art and science and walks were held. The event also featured educational booths and live music performances from Kuervos del Sur and Flor de Guayaba. The gathering aimed to create and strengthen bridges for collaboration among individuals and organizations concerned with conserving the rivers and mountains that give life to the watershed basins.

These activities occurred in Concepción and Talcahuano between November 11th and 19th. Also during this week, community meetings happened in different locations throughout the Biobío River basin and focused on initiatives, projects, and actors aiming to regenerate our relationship with nature. Additionally, the GEF Humedales Costeros Urbanos, Chilebirds, Fundación Bandada, along with local organizations, celebrated the arrival of migratory birds to the wetlands of the Rocuant-Andalién System during the Bird Festival, which took place in the two first days of Somos Cuenca. One of the notable highlights was the masterful discussion “Rivers as disputed territories; opportunities for their regeneration” featuring speakers Monti Aguirre from International Rivers (Colombia/USA), Danielle Perry, Geographer from the University of Northern Arizona (USA), Fernanda Purrán, President of Rios to Rivers Chile, Malen Leubu, Verónica Morales, Executive Director of the Lepe Foundation, Juan Pablo Orrego from NGO Ecosistemas, and Ana Araneda, Regional Councilor of Biobío.

Event took place at the University of Concepción, in Chile (Photo credit: Germán Weber)

The Festival exceeded all expectations according to the organizing teams. “Strengthening territorial work by articulating, making visible, and inspiring action for more individuals and organizations is one of our main interests,” says Paulo Urrutia, Executive Director of Bestias del Sur Salvaje. Strengthening responsible connections and healthy relationships with nature is the purpose of this organization. Hence, the event concluded with a descent along the Biobío River on rafts, in order to help showcase,  “one of the main challenges of this era; reconciling our connections with ecosystems, for which it is necessary to guarantee responsible access to nature.”

Over eighty organizations joined the Somos Cuenca Festival (Photo credit: Germán Weber)

For Bestias del Sur Salvaje, this festival marked the end of a cycle with “Somos Cuenca; Inhabitants of Biobío” and opened new gateways for action. On November 20th, they met with the Regional Governor of Biobío, Mr. Rodrigo Días, to move towards a second stage incorporating river access infrastructure along the basin. This multidisciplinary project has become an innovative citizen initiative based on collaboration, involving a hundred recognized national and international actors. During the festival, they also launched, in alliance with the Sustainable Communities project of the University of Concepción (UCO 2195), the illustrated map “Interdependence Stories in the Biobío Basin,” the research “Towards the rights of the Biobío River,” and the collaborative application “101 Basins.” You can download these materials at the following link.

Launch of the Rivers Protected campaign

This citizen event managed to create meeting spaces for initiatives seeking to transform the way public policy is made and the approach of legislation that provides a framework for the protection or (dis) protection of nature, especially rivers. Among these initiatives is the Natural Stadiums Law which aims to promote responsible access to nature. Additionally, the Rivers Protected initiative brings together different civil society organizations, research centers, universities, and professionals from diverse areas of study and locations across Chile, dedicated to the protection of freshwater ecosystems. This initiative began in 2022 to drive the protection of campaigns in a cohesive manner by acknowledging the history that many organizations have built around rivers, visualizing the need for a team focused on legislative aspects, and generating spaces to link science and the community.

Recognition of organizations that support the Ríos Protegidos campaign (Photo credit: Germán Weber)

Through collaborative, interdisciplinary efforts at different scales, they seek to strengthen the protection of the country’s rivers by applying existing tools, recognizing their gaps and opportunities, and promoting new legislation on protected and restored rivers. Nicole Mansuy, a lawyer from the initiative’s legal technical team, mentions that they seek to “open the discussion regarding the need to strengthen the environmental guardianship of rivers and their associated ecosystems, through a new legal category called Protected River.” During the festival, they showcased their important work and invited others to join this tremendous campaign through their social networks and

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