Rio Urbano awarded first Rafael Gallo Palomo Award for river protection

29 Oct Rio Urbano awarded first Rafael Gallo Palomo Award for river protection

by Shannon Farley

Recognizing their successful work to regenerate rivers in urban areas and to motivate communities to restore their natural waterways, the citizens’ initiative Rio Urbano (Urban River) was awarded the first “Rafael Gallo Palomo Award: Safeguarding the Future of our Rivers” of the Costa Rica National Alliance of Rivers and Watersheds.

The award was presented on Oct. 11 to Rio Urbano Director Alonso Briceño Rodríguez by Roberto de la Ossa, General Director of the National Alliance of Rivers and Watersheds, and Rafael Gallo, namesake of the award. It is a hand-carved statue in Jobo (Hogplum) wood by renowned Costa Rican sculptor, Mario Parra Brenes, winner of the Aquileo J. Echeverría National Award of Culture.

An active conservationist, Gallo has led the effort to protect Costa Rica’s rivers, especially the Pacuare River, and is a co-founder and Honorary President of the International Rafting Federation (IRF), President of the Costa Rica Sports Association for Adventure and Paddling (ADAR), and president of Rios Tropicales rafting and adventure company in Costa Rica. The awards ceremony was held at the Rios Tropicales operations center in El Cairo de Siquirres after a historic navigation of the Pacuare River by more than 200 people in rafts and kayaks for the finale of the first IRF World White Water Rafting Summit.

Rafael Gallo (left), Alonso Briceño Rodríguez (center) and Roberto de la Ossa (right).

“Río Urbano has managed to rescue, little by little, the awareness of the population toward our urban rivers. They have promoted actions to incorporate rivers as part of the natural landscape in the middle of cities. And they have made alliances with public and private entities to study the water quality of these rivers and have been persistent in the issue of recovering our rivers,” stated the National Alliance of Rivers and Watersheds.

“I am very pleased that Rio Urbano has been named the first recipient of this important environmental award in Costa Rica. To see this organization, turn into reality a dream I had of cleaning the rivers in the Central Valley is so phenomenal,” said Gallo, who canoed down the Torres River in San Jose in 2000 with his brother, Victor, both wearing gas masks to call attention to the river’s overwhelming pollution.

Rio Urbano operates as a nonprofit organization promoting the management and recovery of rivers and their urban environments in Costa Rica’s greater metropolitan area by the capital city of San Jose. They formed in 2012, beginning their work in the Torres River and over the years have grown to involve many communities, especially in awareness raising, education, training and volunteer activities.

Rafael Gallo Palomo Award, hand-carved in Jobo wood by Costa Rican sculptor, Mario Parra Brenes.

“We are very grateful to receive this national award, especially with so many other excellent organizations that were also nominated. It’s a huge motivation for what we are doing and will help us draw more people and organizations to be involved with our mission,” said Alonso Briceño Rodríguez.

In this first edition of the award, a total of 11 applications were received that were analyzed by a jury composed of Miriam Miranda, geographer and Project Officer of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Costa Rica; Darner Mora Alvarado, microbiologist and Director of the National Water Laboratory; and Luis Guillermo Brenes, geographer, specialist in geomorphology and hydrogeomorphology, and retired University of Costa Rica professor.

“The jury considered it very important to highlight the work and social awareness happening in the rivers that run through urban areas; rivers and streams that receive great pollution and at the same time suffer more directly from the problems of floods and overflows that affect different populations,” stated the National Alliance of Rivers and Watersheds. “Rio Urbano’s most effective work has been carried out in the Torres River and they have expanded it to other areas of the greater metropolitan area, thus increasing social participation. Considering that the Torres River is a tributary of the Tárcoles River whose basin is affected by the entire metropolitan area, it is considered that this program will ultimately affect 50% of the country’s population.”

The Rafael Gallo Palomo Award will be given out every two years by the Costa Rica National Alliance of Rivers and Watersheds.

Explained de la Ossa: “With this award, we want to continue the motivation to save Costa Rica’s rivers. There are a lot of forces in the country working to rescue our rivers and we want to involve all Costa Ricans in this mission to have our rivers arrive ‘healthy’ to the sea. There are many people fighting for the rivers – organizations, communities and individuals – and this is a way that we can recognize them.”