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PRO-Agua: Resilience and sustainable planning for water in the Amazon (Madre de Dios, Acre, Pando)

Using integrated watershed management for resilient development in Latin America.

The Challenge

Land management practices in the Amazon have severely impacted natural forests and settlements over the last decade. Unplanned developments are rapidly expanding in urban centers like Puerto Maldonado (Peru) and Rio Branco (Brazil) and surrounding rural communities, leading to deforestation and compounding the effects of severe floods and droughts. These watersheds then experience expanded threats to the public and tourism from lack of planning, including low water quality, increased flooding, and increased risk of mosquito-borne diseases like zika and dengue.

Focus Areas

Working closely with local researchers, community leaders, and government officials in the region, we identified two focal areas where extensive deforestation and unplanned development - primarily linked to  the expansion of unsustainable land uses such as slash-and-burn agriculture and gold mining - pose huge risks to communities over the next 20 years. Those areas are (1) the mining corridor along the Interoceanic Highway from Puerto Maldonado to Mazuko, Peru, which threatens water resources in the Madre de Dios watershed; and (2) the tri-national Upper Acre watershed at the intersection of Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil.

The Solution

PRO-Agua (Resilience and Land Use Planning for Water) is a two year project, in tandem with local collaborators from states in Bolivia, Brazil, and Peru in the southwest Amazon. Our focus is on integrating green infrastructure into watershed management through science and technology, capacity building, empowering leaders, and more. By increasing the connection between communities and natural systems we aim to support local priorities like securing development, clean water, biodiversity, mitigated flood or drought risk, climate change resilience, and human well-being.

Capacity Building

Protecting biodiversity, public health, and tourism benefits requires sustaining community practice. The knowledge and tools developed with PRO-Agua are meant to both support the case for integrated “green” watershed management and to share with local and global practitioners working towards community-driven goals. Our core partnership is between NatCap, CINCIA, and Herencia, and our collaborators are SUNASS (Peru), IDE (Peru), UPCH, UFAC Climate Change INstitute (Brazil), WCS (Peru), and ACCA (Peru).

Science and Technology

Spatial modeling and maps are critical to our assessments of natural vegetations ability to reduce drought and flood risks. We use technology like InVEST software to model carbon sequestration and tools to analyze ecosystem service models, gather data on mosquito-borne disease vector abundance, create flood risk mitigation models, and communicate progress. Through these methods we work to better understand how forests, riverine vegetation, and wetlands provide ecosystem services to urban centers and beyond.

Empowering Leaders

Bringing public health leaders, politicians, researchers, and community leaders together is part of building a strong, informed community. PRO-agua intends to empower decision makers, who can influence land use planning, with information and networks necessary to create roadmaps for watershed management that reduce land degradation and incorporate natural ecosystems with potential to minimize risk to water, economic development, and health.

To stay up-to-date on PRO-Agua Project happenings and progress, follow us on Facebook @proagua.natcap.cincia

Contact Adrian Vogl for more information about the PRO-Agua Project