The Detroit Chapter of Engineers Without Borders is working with the village of Libertad, Peru on a project to provide safe drinking water for all members of the community.
On June 8th, 2019, EWB Detroit team members journeyed over 3,000 miles to Libertad, a rural community located in the Peruvian region of the Amazon basin, approximately 2 hours from Iquitos, Peru. This nutrient-rich region of the Amazon rainforest is home to a vast array of flora and fauna, whose primary water source is the Amazon River, the largest river in the world in terms of sheer volume of water, and the second longest measuring at roughly 4,000 miles.
For the communities living in the Loreto region of Peru, where Libertad lies, the Amazon River is essential to survival, providing transportation, food, and revenue.
This same freshwater river that sustains those dwelling along its banks, however, is unsafe for consumption. Uncontrolled human expansion, especially through industrial means, the destruction of fragile ecosystems, deforestation, erosion caused by plant loss, increased sedimentation, and increased use of agricultural chemicals are among the many factors contributing to water pollution of the Amazon River.
A team of 7 EWB-Detroit chapter volunteers traveled to Libertad with NGO partner, Amazon Promise (headquartered in Iquitos), to begin a needs assessment of the community regarding water supply, treatment, storage, and delivery. The goal of this trip was to meet face-to-face with both Amazon Promise and the Libertad community, assess the current situation, and determine where the strengths and challenges of the community and ecosystem lay. Working with the local leaders, we described our objectives for the week and obtained permission to interview community members about their thoughts and concerns regarding water – and we succeeded in interviewing over 95% of the community with the help of Amazon Promise!
We also mapped out the entire community, which consists of 49 residences, a tourist lodge, community center, women’s artisan center, school, and church. This may seem like a lot, but it has taken years to build up the community after moving three times over a 60-year period due to erosion of the Amazon’s riverbanks. Now, Libertad is one of the largest villages in the region, with a government-built school that even children from nearby villages will go to attend school. The growing population only further compels the need for a sustainable clean water system to allow them to continue to grow and develop.
This committee will serve to represent the community throughout the project and ensure that the communities best interests are kept at heart.
The EWB-Detroit chapter has worked with Amazon Promise and other EWB-chapters in the region to design a rainwater catchment system that will be implemented as part of Libertad’s community center. Due to Covid-19, the rainwater catchment system has been postponed from implementation in mid-summer 2020 to November 2020, with Amazon Promise taking the reigns to ensure its completion as a result of international travel restriction. Amazon Promise has engaged with the Libertad community members, who are excited for the system to be built despite the many challenges of 2020.