As our planet’s mightiest river, the Amazon and its tributaries form the most intricate and biodiverse water system in the world. Without it, we would lose over one fifth of our planet’s freshwater supplies and our largest rainforest – the lungs of the world – would cease to exist. In the face of escalating pressures and threats from the industrialized world, indigenous peoples are at the forefront of movements to protect water and the rivers that are the lifelines to their ancestral rainforest territories.

Rivers are essential for the daily life of thousands of indigenous communities across the region, and have sustained their cultures, their livelihoods, and ways of life for thousands of years. Yet the health of the Amazon’s rivers is increasingly at risk. Unprecedented rates of deforestation and the advance of the extractive frontier are pushing the Amazon rainforest towards a dangerous tipping point, which could be less than thirty years away. Scientists affirm that at the current rate of deforestation, the Amazon’s rainfall will soon be drastically reduced, drying up rivers and the rainforest, and dramatically altering our planet’s climate, health, and freshwater resources.

Indigenous peoples are on the frontlines taking action and building solutions to defend rivers and their biodiversity for their peoples and the planet. In the following photo-essay, we take a snapshot journey through the Amazon’s rivers, and into the lives and struggles of the Amazon’s indigenous water protectors who are winning remarkable victories for rivers and the rights of nature despite all the odds.

“When our rivers become contaminated, the spirits are affected just like we are. The spirits of the river and the forest leave us, and everything else we have – in our territory and as a people – gets lost.”

– Kofan leader Alex Lucitante

Indigenous people's fight for clean water

“These rainwater harvesting systems that will provide families with clean drinking water are the result of our hard work. We built these systems. We will take care of them. Together we can improve the quality of life for our own communities.”

– Kofan leader Emergildo Criollo

Major Victories For Rivers

“We need to unite in the struggle because the fight is not only for indigenous people but for all of humanity. We have to sustain our planet. That is what we have to do: Unite to save our planet.”

– Waorani leader Nemonte Nenquimo

Amazon Frontlines

Amazon FrontlinesDefending indigenous rights to land, life and cultural survival in the Amazon rainforest.

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