Meuse River, The Netherlands

The Border-Meuse is a section of the Meuse river and marks the border between Belgium and The Netherlands. The water level of the Border-Meuse is managed through dams and fluctuates heavily. Initiated through ‘plan ooievaar’ in 1985, the region has been subject of substantial change with most recently the Border-Meuse project. The Border-Meuse project aims to integrate objectives of flood protection, gravel extraction and nature rehabilitation through the lens of nature-based solutions and rewilding principles, under the umbrella of the Dutch Room for the River programme. During the summer of 2021, extensive rainfall in the Meuse basin caused high water levels in the river and riparian zones.

Cauca River, Colombia

The Cauca river is born in the Macizo plateau in the department of Cauca, which is known as the hydrographic star. As a natural blue line it connects farmer, indigenous and Afro-Colombian territories along an approximate 1000 kilometers, until it connects with the delta region known as the Mojana, near the Caribbean Coast.

The river is threatened not only by large scale gold mining , but also by agroindustrial projects that include sugarcane, pine, eucalyptus, potatoes, strawberries and coca. Two hydroelectric dams have interrupted local socio-ecosystems and the internal armed conflict has turned the river into a mass grave, in which legal and illegal armed actors have dumped hundreds of bodies.

Despite the multiple attacks and impacts on the Cauca river, it is also a symbol of resistance and dignity. Interethnic and intercultural alliances between communities to defend both the river and their territories have resulted in creative and innovative strategies to materialize collective proposals on autonomy, protection and living the good life and a life in dignity (buen vivir and vida digna)

De Berkel River, The Netherlands

The De Berkel River has mobilized a recent grassroots stakeholder platform that engages with socionatural riverscape planning through restoration of meanders, removal of dikes and creative integration of river flows, life and livelihoods in the relatively deprived Zutphen region. It is a local initiative in interaction with the major ‘Room for the River’ and land use planning programs executed by the Dutch government in the rivers Rhine and IJssel.

Piatúa River, Ecuador

Around the highly biodiverse Amazon basin of the Piatúa River, in 2019, a coalition of indigenous communities, environmental NGOs, scholars and the national ombudsman have halted hydropower dam-building. Developing multiple alternative riverine water uses, practices and local technologies, they sued the State and international companies to stop oil and mining pollution, and now seek to mobilize the Constitution’s Rights of Nature.

Serpis River, Spain

The Serpis River faces several problems like discharge of untreated waste water, flood risks, invasive species, a dam inhibiting fish migration and water over-exploitation for irrigation. A civic initiative created a multi-stakeholder platform to raise awareness and discuss the river’s problems and possible solutions. Evoking new water culture notions, NGOs have contested the water transfer to agro-exporters, defending Serpis’ nature values.

Samaná River, Colombia

The Samaná River is one of Colombia’s last free-flowing rivers; it has been the site of fierce contestations against mega hydropower dam building. In 2019, riverine communities and environmental organizations protested successfully based on notions of Rights of Nature.

Guadalhorce River, Spain

In the headwaters of the Guadalhorce River three immense dams have been built for hydropower, irrigation and urban drinking water supply; further damming of tributaries is planned. Yet, local grassroots coalitions resist and fight for multi-functional ecological river flows and inventive riverine practices that enliven community livelihoods.

Quimsacocha river complex, Ecuador

The Quimsacocha River complex comprises 30 interconnected lagoons providing drinking and irrigation water. Communities protest against gold-mining development that pollutes their pastoral and agro-productive territory and misrecognizes the cultural and spiritual value of Quimsacocha’s sacred waters. A local-national coalition develops innovative wetland caring and sharing technologies, and mobilizes Rights of Nature to defend this wetlands’ rivers.

Biesbosch estuary and Het Wantij River, The Netherlands

The local environmental NGO Stichting Het Wantij has fought for over a decade to protect the river territory of Het Wantij (part of the Biesbosch nature park) against large infrastructure (bridges, roads), multinational chemical industries’ water pollution and felling of trees, promoting innovative techniques of ecological riverbank management. The NGO has successfully filed court cases to make the government comply with environmental legislation.