Threats to Site ⋆ Boiling River
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Threats to Site

Deforestation: The Major Threat

 

The Amazon Basin is a vast area, roughly 90% the size of the continental United States. It boasts a tremendous variety of peoples, languages, and ethnicities, as well as rich biodiversity. As a whole, the Amazon Basin faces many serious challenges, such as illegal gold mining and associated mercury dumping, mega-dam construction, threats from narco-terrorist groups, to name only a few.

Given the Amazon’s varied landscape, it is important to remember that different parts of the Amazon present their unique mix of local environmental threats and challenges.

 

For the Boiling River area, the major threat comes from deforestation (and the land and water degradation it causes). Deforestation here is associated with development and land use, and is often linked to the informal economy.

 

By informal economy, we refer to economic activities that are unmonitored and often illegal, such as non-concessioned logging, poaching, squatting and land-invasion, and illegal cattle farming.

 

In November of 2011, to get to the Boiling River, Andrès had to take a two-hour car ride from Pucallpa (the largest city in the central Peruvian Amazon), followed by a thirty-minute motorized canoe ride, and lastly an hour-long hike through the jungle.

 

By May 2014, deforestation had advanced so far into the jungle that the trip from Pucallpa to the Boiling River was made entirely by car in 3 hours.

The typical process of deforestation in the Boiling River area goes as follows:

 

1. Loggers (either legally or illegally) come into jungles to harvest the large, valuable trees. Sometimes the trees are cut and processed on the spot, other times they are transported out of the jungle via tractors or the Pachitea River.

 

2. Once the valuable trees are gone, the remaining jungle is clear-burnt (generally multiple times). A popular technique is to use diesel or gasoline to maximize the efficiency of the clear burning. With the underbrush cleared, less-valuable trees that survived the fires are cut and used locally (as timber or firewood), and the remaining trees of no economic value to the clear-cutters are generally cut or repeatedly burned until they come down. It should be noted that palm species are generally carefully saved from the clear burning, as palm leaves are economically valuable as a rustic roofing material. This process ends in a blackened landscape, very clearly visible in Google Earth imagery for the area.

 

3. As the land begins to recover and grasses grow back, it is used for the cultivation of crops or cattle pasture.

The drastic change to the landscape brings a number of negative environmental impacts ranging from water quality issues (generally associated with increased erosion, pesticide use, or contamination from cattle), soil degradation, and isolation of floral and faunal networks, among others.

Currently the Boiling River area has no legal protection. Our immediate goals at the Boiling River Project are to:

 

  • Have the Boiling River declared a Peruvian national monument

 

  • Change the legal designation of the remaining jungle in the area from exploitable jungle to jungle for exclusive use of ecologic activities (such as conservation, ecotourism, etc.)

 

Obtaining these goals is only the first step— though legal protection of the Boiling River is essential in combating legal deforesting activities, they have little impact on illegal and informal economic activities.

Responsible Development: A Viable Solution

 

Combating informal economic activities presents a particularly difficult challenge, especially give the Boiling River area’s proximity to major population centers, high-poverty areas, and major roads and waterways (facilitating access into and out of the jungle).

 

We believe that responsible economic development and local empowerment are the key to protecting this jungle and combating informal economic activities. Ultimately, the solution lies in fostering economic enterprises that make the jungle more economically valuable than it would be as cropland or cattle pastures.

 

Some visitors to this site have expressed concern that tourism to the Boiling River also poses a threat to the area. At its worst, some say, uncontrolled and irresponsible tourism can be damaging both ecologically and in commercializing traditional cultures. Other individuals who oppose tourism in the area even go as far to say that even in the best circumstances, tourism will change the culture of the place.

 

Both points are valid, and the Boiling River Project and our collaborating institutions are working to provide the necessary information, education and training to promote responsible tourism that aims to respect and appreciate the local culture, as well as protect the jungle. You can find our recommendations on how you can minimize the risks of uncontrolled tourism in the area by clicking here.

 

It should also be noted that all anti-tourism opinions shared with our team have exclusively come from non-Amazonians (generally living in major cities of Europe or North America). In our time working around the Boiling River, the local Amazonians have been very eager to attract tourism. In 2015, a farmer who had just clear-cut a large swath of jungle told Andrés Ruzo, “Cutting the jungle is not ideal—but we need to make a living.” Ultimately, responsible tourism is an alternative to a much more damaging path: a clear-cut rainforest, drained of native wildlife.

 

The Boiling River Project seeks to support and respect the self-determination of the local Amazonians in their touristic efforts. We want to provide them with the best information available in order to truly empower them to make their own decisions for the future of their sacred river.