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Environmental Paddling Project Cleans Up the Rio Negro near the Amazon River

Updated: Sep 11, 2022

Viviane da Silva Lopes -- one of CEIN's board directors - lives in the Amazonas State of Brazil

During the practical classes of STAND-UP PADDLE (SUP), a sport practiced on a board, Jadson Branches -- the owner of this school -- observed the impressive amount of garbage thrown into the rivers. He realized the importance of removing this solid waste that pollutes the environment. Then he took the first step to create the project "Environmental Paddling,” which brings together volunteers from various professions, such as biologists, teachers, engineers, and police officers, as well as students and others willing to donate their time once a month to take action. For the past year children from the "Citizen Forming Project" sponsored by Amazon Military Police have participated in The Remada (The Paddling). Creative Educators board director and military police officer, Viviane da Silva Lopes, was one of those first volunteers.

Each person who initially agreed to join talked with friends and they gathered less than 20 people to begin this difficult task. In this way, the seed of awareness was planted and the volunteers spread this awareness. "To see the amount of garbage is frightening," Branches said. He dreams of expanding to other rivers. Since the creation of the project, it is estimated that 10 tons of solid waste have been collected. The average for each clean-up event is 300 garbage bags.

However, this project is more than a clean-up. It promotes the preservation of the environment and awareness of residents around the igarapé in the face of degradation caused in nature through improper disposal of garbage. The goal of the project is to draw the attention of those who live nearby to the impacts of pollution on the Rio Negro: "To see the amount of garbage is frightening," Jadson says. He dreams of expanding to other rivers.

Sunset over the Rio Negro, upstream from Manaus, Brazil. This blackwater river originates in Columbia and near Manaus, its waters flow into the Amazon River heading eastward to the Atlantic Ocean. Wikimedia Commons contributors, "File: Ponte Rio Negro.jpg," Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, (accessed August 26, 2022).

Viviane recalls a lot of resistance to the first action: "People said it was not going to achieve anything. They criticized and looked down on those who wanted to work and contribute to the environment."

However, by the third and fourth clean-ups, there was a change in behavior because everyone saw the huge bags of garbage and large items such as a refrigerator being unloaded onto the riverside dock. Trash cans were installed and the residents themselves stopped throwing garbage in the water.

Volunteers use STAND-UP PADDLE boards, kayaks, canoes, and small boats to collect materials irregularly discarded in the water. One of the main supporters of the project today is the Cooperative of River Transport Professionals of Marina do David. They understood the importance of the activity and provide transportation to help on the days when the project is scheduled. These transport professionals are essential, as are the employees of Manaus City Hall who use the city's large ferry to transport objects collected.

The next step in the project was to hold free STAND-UP PADDLE (SUP) and wakeboard classes for children taught by Jadson himself, who is a SUP instructor. It is easier to sensitize children; many have never had the opportunity to ride on a board. If they're part of the awareness project, they'll encourage their families to do the same.

The support of volunteers is essential to the activity and they are instructed to bring garbage bags, gloves, drinking water, and boots to do an effective and safe job. Many volunteers attended the last clean-up and it was difficult to find garbage floating around because our work is being expanded with satisfactory results.

First, we tried to recycle the material, but then we learned that especially plastic objects absorb contaminants from the water. Therefore, we take advantage of PET plastic bottles that are discarded in the garbage for reuse in the preparation of handmade products.

The organizers now seek support to expand the project. Among the objectives is installing an Ecobarreira and expanding environmental awareness activities among residents. The Ecobarreira is built from recyclable materials, especially buckets that are 50 centimeters in size that are tied to fishing nets. This creates a kind of floating "grid" capable of containing solid residues. Then garbage collects in one area only, especially the PET bottles. This facilitates the work of collecting the material and will be more practical and faster. Then volunteers will take out a good amount of garbage weekly.

"Since the pandemic caused by Coronavirus, we have been prevented from continuing voluntary work" Viviane says. "Keeping volunteers apart at safe distances is not possible, and we are following the Amazonas Government Decree to ensure the health of all."

Viviane had joined CEIN's Sustainable Communities Program, which also motivated her to join the project as one of the first volunteers. And she sees how joining this project has transformed her own life.

"Being part of the Creative Educators International Network, a gathering of extraordinary people, I was able to improve as a human being, caring more and more about the well-being of people and the environment," Viviane says, "Gradually, I am making a difference in my workplace, in my family, and in the community where I live. I appreciate the opportunity to be able to report a little bit about my actions. Thank you so much!"

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