Parana Waterkeeper protects the middle section of the mighty Parana River and its vast and critically endangered wetland system. This wetland system is located in the central plain of the Plata river basin. It extends from the Pantanal and upper Paraguay rivers to the alluvial valley of the mid and lower Parana and Plata rivers. This is the largest fresh water system of wetlands in the planet. With more than 3,400 kilometers of rivers free from dams, this massive hydrological system provides sustenance to more than 20 million inhabitants. The Plata river watershed is 3,200,000 km² and only second to the Amazon River in terms of ecological importance in South America. It is considered the fourth most important river basin and one of the great reserves of fresh water and biodiversity of the planet. The middle Parana and a portion of the Paraguay River border an alluvial plain. The wetlands there provide fresh water, fishes and other forms of sustenance to more than 7 million people who live within them. Indigenous and traditional riverine communities, as well as urban centers of various sizes, depend on the natural resources and environmental services of this region. These wetlands are of extraordinary ecological, social, cultural, and economic value, with rich biodiversity and great climatic variety. This aquatic region and its resources are a unique cultural patrimony in the World by their complexity and singularity. These wetlands fulfill important processes like mitigating great floods and droughts, recharging aquifers, providing nursery for fish, and providing abundant fresh water. The fluvial coast of the Parana River in Argentina is intimately linked with the largest population axis of the country. The increasing pressure on the natural resources is worrisome given the characteristics of this ecosystem and the social, cultural, and technological particularities of the riverine communities. Conserving the fishing resources is fundamental for traditional artisan and commercial fishing outfits, which in turn provide jobs, ensure nourishment, and promote well-being amongst coastal communities. Low-income residents depend heavily on the watershed’s natural resources; therefore, its degradation has a high negative social impact. Large development projects such as roads, dams and marine channels and overexploitation of fishing resources, have led to habitat loss and degradation. The middle Parana river is in a serious fishing crisis due to lack of conservation practices and inadequate management plans. Moreover, agriculture continues to expand and the use of fertilizers and insecticides is widespread, especially with the boom of soybean production, monocultures, and intensive cattle feeding operations. Vegetation cover is being lost due to unsustainable agriculture practices, leading to erosion and sedimentation. Industries such as tanneries, cold storage facilities, and oil producing plants empty their effluents into this watershed.
Ms. Julieta Peteán is the Parana Waterkeeper. She also serves as the Coordinator for Water, Wetlands, and Fisheries program at PROTEGER Foundation, the parent organization for Parana Waterkeeper. She has vast experience in advocacy for social and environmental causes. She is well known among riverine communities along the Parana and a handful of Argentina’s coastal communities. Ms. Peteán focuses on building and organizing a network of fishing communities that play a key role in the success of Parana Waterkeeper. She has played a crucial role in organizing seminars and workshops that culminated in the successfully mobilization of grassroots activists intent on protecting rivers and wetlands in the Parana watershed. She has written numerous articles and is the author and co-author of several books about the problems that the wetlands in the Parana watershed face.
Santa Fé, Santa Fé