Futaleufú XL: "The Rivers are Alive"

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By Patrick Lynch
From February 26 to March 3, 2018, the third version of the Futaleufú XL festival is taking place in the world-famous Futaleufú River. Sponsored by the municipality of Futaleufú, support from Patagonia and several other companies, and interest from the local community, the festival aims to awaken environmental awareness through various education and reflection activities.
Cecilia Uribe, resident of Futaleufú and head of communications for the NGO Futaleufu Riverkeeper, explains the importance of free-flowing rivers: “Water isn't lost to the sea; rivers enrich the ocean with minerals and microorganisms along our coastline. The health of a river is directly linked to the health of the watershed and the sea. Based on this understanding of riparian ecosystems, our workshop aims to discuss across different scientific disciplines the importance of maintaining freeflowing rivers, emphasizing their cultural, ecologic and recreational importance like fishing or rafting.”
The Futaleufú XL festival includes competitions in kayak, raft and cataraft, with the participation of outstanding athletes from more than a dozen countries, including many from Chile and Argentina. The initiative is a collaborative work between several entities of Futaleufú, and like last year, will include a community meeting on fluvial ecology, by members of Chilean Free-Flowing Rivers Network. The activity, called: "The Rivers are Alive” (Los ríos están vivos) will be held on Wednesday February 28th at 6:00 p.m. in the Municipality and is being sponsored by SERNATUR and Patagonia. Topics to be discussed include watershed geology, protection of waterfowl biodiversity, fish species and microorganisms, and how people understand the different cultural views about rivers.
Camila Badilla, one of the presenters who comes from Fundación Hualo in the Achibueno watershed, talks of how "by using different methodologies, disciplines and perspectives, the workshop proposes a dynamic and practical reflection on rivers. Getting together to talk about nature is one of the first steps to re-thinking and re-creating our cohabiting nature. " Jens Benöhr, an anthropologist from the Biobío watershed and member of the collective Bestias del Sur Salvaje, adds: "We keep holding more and more workshops in different watersheds in the country. By holding these talks in different regions we are seeing how current threats are common to all, and how the only way to deal with them is through articulation between communities and creating an active link with rivers, where we can cohabit with them whether through science, sports or tourism."
Finally, professional kayaker Pablo Cariqueo, resident of the Valdivia-Lacar binational watershed who is attending the festival, highlights the importance of involving environmental causes in a festival of this kind. "More and more, kayakers understand we are all united for the cause, and that if we want free-flowing rivers, we have to collaborate and take advantage of places like the river festivals to deliver conservation messages to the public. As athletes we have a great responsibility to deliver this message. We are happy to see this connection and we hope the Futaleufú XL festival continues to grow as one of the most important events in Patagonia and the world."

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