Each year thousands of tourists flock to see one of the Amazon's most breathtaking natural wonders -- the spot where two great rivers collide, mixing their different colored waters to form the behemoth Amazon river. But the future of this remarkable place, known as The Meeting of Waters (or Encontro das Ãguas) is being called into question by a new industrial port which threatens to pollute the rivers and disrupt wildlife -- prompting environmentalists to rise in its defense.The Meeting of Waters marks the spot where the brown, murky waters of the SolimÃµes mixes with the dark torrent of the Rio Negro near the northern capital of Manuas, converging to form the Amazon river proper. To many of those who have seen this meeting firsthand, the sharply divided waters seem borne of some supernatural force, though the phenomenon is indeed quite natural.
Geologist say that differences between water temperature and sediment levels are what gives this place its distinct two-toned appearance.
But for two rivers so long on their respective journeys from Venezuela to the north and the Peruvian Andes in the west, this spot where they come together at The Meeting of Waters is perhaps their most threatened stretch. In hopes of making industrial shipping more profitable in the remote region, the construction of a new port has been proposed along the rivers' edge, stirring ire among environmentalists who fear it could blemish this important natural treasure.
"It's like creating a container depot... on the beach at Ipanema," environmentalist Marcio Souza told Brazilian media.
Still for others, like biologist Geraldo Mendes, turning The Meeting of Waters into a highly trafficked shipping lane would be devastating for the local ecosystem, pointing out that the spot is important for the migration and breeding of the Amazon's fish species.
The developers contend that the port would make the transport of good 30 percent cheaper and reduce cargo travel times by three days to Manaus. The city is home to a majority of the Amazon's residents, as well as production facilities for a number of multinational corporations. Because of its remote location and lack of roads connecting it to the rest of the country, most goods are shipped in and out of Manaus by boat.
Although the industrial interests at play may be too imposing to stop development at The Meeting of Waters, the wonder has been bestowed with a new designation on the eve of what could be its final untouched months. Last week, in a meeting of Brazil's Institute of National Historic Landmarks, the board voted to make the natural wonder 'a place of cultural significance'.
Only time, and the swaying of industrial or political interests, will tell whether The Meeting of Waters will be around in the same form for future generations to experience a bit of nature's own brand of magic.