Ecosystem collapse and social unrest could be in the Amazon’s future if plans for 412 hydroelectric dams move forward. According to a new report, a wave of dam building threatens the Amazon river and five of the six main head rivers in the Andes drainage area, which could permanently destroy the open flow of rivers for countries that use the water. The report details the ways in which constructing dams primarily benefits corporations and governments at the expense of the people living in the Amazon and provides an eye-opening look into the catastrophic impact of development in the region.
Anthropologist Paul Little launched his report titled Mega-Development Projects in Amazonia: A geopolitical and socioenvironmental primer in order to draw attention to the threat in the Amazon. Currently 151 of a total 412 dams have been built and once more are completed, it could change the flow of water on the continent. The problem impacts multiple countries, including Brazil, where the largest number of dams are planned, and Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Guyana, Columbia, French Guyana and Surinam and could have consequences extending far beyond those borders.
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The report breaks development down into two categories: projects built for infrastructure like hydroelectric dams and projects built for mining for oil and gas, among other extractive purposes. Disturbingly, the report shows that over 600,000 square miles of the Amazon is covered by mining concessions and over 400,000 square miles are involved or will be involved in gas and oil concessions. Of that mining, over 108,000 square miles exist within protected areas in the Amazon.
According to Little, “This new wave of dam building in the headwaters of the Basin is a “hydrological experiment” of continental proportions, yet little is known scientifically of pan-Amazonian hydrological dynamics, creating the risk of provoking irreversible changes in rivers.” These changes could result in a “forced industrialization of the jungle,” and the “potential for ecosystem collapse,” the report warns. And don’t even get us started about the great cultural diversity that stands to be erased as well.
Via The Guardian
Lead image via Eric Pheterson, image via Ocupacao Belo Monte