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DW: Along the Amazon in Peru – The River of Spirits


The government intends to expand and deepen the River Amazon’s tributaries to allow passage for large container ships and is meeting stiff resistance from the region’s indigenous peoples.

A decrepit old cargo ship is the only means of transport on the Amazon in Peru. South America’s great river is still relatively narrow here, but it’s also the only lifeline for the region’s people and economy. We travel on the Eduardo III, an overcrowded steamship on its three-day voyage up the winding river from Yurimaguas to Iquitos. Timber and other goods are loaded in chaotic ports, and people doze in hammocks on the cramped passenger deck as the ship passes through one of the last untouched natural paradises in the world. If Peru’s government goes ahead with its plans, the Amazon region in the northeast of the country will soon be developed and links to the country’s economic infrastructure significantly improved. A Chinese company, for example, is to deepen the Amazon tributaries Marañón, Ucayali and Huallaga to allow large container ships all-year passage. But the excavation project is highly controversial and the region’s indigenous peoples are putting up a stiff fight against it. Water has a deep spiritual meaning for the tribes of the Amazon, who believe the spirits of their ancestors live on in the river. But will Peru’s advocates of progress allow objections like that to get in their way of their plans?


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