Text and photographs: Tuija Veintie
”Piatúa is a secret river. It has power that no other river has. If I am feeling bad, tired or stressed, I go to the Piatúa river and in the river I start feeling good again. The river cures me” says an upper secondary school student in Santa Clara, Ecuador. Our research group is currently conducting research activities in this region and our interviews with and photographs taken by upper secondary school students show the special role that river Piatúa carries for the students as a sacred river and an important place for recreation and social gatherings. For the students, their families and the small-scale farming the river is a necessary source of water. In addition, the river Piatúa brings income to the local people through tourism as the clean water and landscapes attract tourists interested in nature, recreation and water sports.
Clouds have been gathering over future of the crystal-clear waters of river Piatúa. The Piatúa hydroelectric power plant project, run by Genefran S.A., is located in Santa Clara, between the provinces of Napo and Pastaza. Local Kichwa organisation, PONAKICS (Pueblo originario Kichwa de Santa Clara), claims that the power plant project threatens the environment, livelihoods and culture of the Indigenous communities in the Santa Clara area. Furthermore, the power plant project violated the rights of the Santa Clara Kichwa people as the construction work initiated without prior consultation.