The Waterkeeper focuses on the coastal region between the Maule River and Itata River in scenic Central Chile. The Maule is inextricably linked to the country's pre-Hispanic times, the country's conquest, colonial period, wars of independence, modern history, agriculture (wine, traditional crops), culture (literature, poetry, folklore), religion, economy and politics. It marked the southern limits of the Inca Empire. Until the Conquest of Chile, the Itata was the natural limit between the Mapuche peoples, located to the south, and Picunche peoples, to the north. The Waterkeeper’s work consists of protecting the coastal waters between the mouthes of the aforementioned rivers through education, advocacy, litigation, community participation and independent scientific monitoring. The role of the Maule Itata Coastkeeper is ever more vital in this area after the tsunami and earthquakes devastated in early 2010 very large portions of the artisanal fishermen communities were we operate. Besides rebuilding those communities, the Waterkeeper continues addressing various threats, including: hydrocarbons that spill or that are emptied into the ground and rivers during the cleaning of fuel tanks, during the transfer of liquid fuels; chemical, bacteriological, or heavy metal contamination from industrial sites and pulp and lumber mills; residual waters, and runoff from towns, agriculture and urban centers.
Mr. Rodrigo de la O is the Maule Itata Coastkeeper. He settled in the coastal area of South Maule in 2004. Soon after, he founded the grass roots group Acción Ciudadana Pro Maule Costero (Citizen Action for Coastal Maule). He became the first Waterkeeper in Chile in 2009, and fought a long and successful campaign against a coal-fueled power plant project in the central coast of Chile that would have contaminated local rivers with coal ash. He’s a publicist and designer by training and his environmental expertise focuses on local environmental management issues, integration of land use issues in local processes of environmental certification, communicating the impacts associated with forest industries, and advising local communities impacted by destructive projects. He is the Latin America Regional Representative in the Waterkeeper Alliance’s Council since June 2015 and chairs the Regional Table on the Environment and Habitability in the South Maule Coast, a group that proposes updating local indicators of land use and environmental variables and campaigns on water monitoring, environmental education in local schools, and community outreach.
Cardonal Bajo, Los Molinos,
Pelluhue, Provincia de Cauquenes, Región del Maule