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Policy brief on the effects of Amazonian river dams

Published: Monday, 07 December 2020 Credits: Caio Pamplona, Daniely Félix da Silva, Camila Ribas

A synthetic compilation of information on the impact of hydroelectric dams in the Amazon region has been released by the USAID Research Technical Assitance Center (RTAC). The document "Damming the ecosystems of Amazonia" included studies authored by researchers and students of the graduate programs in Ecology of INPA, and in Zoology of the Federal University of Amazonas (UFAM). The document summarizes information from the most relevant articles published recently on dam impacts, emphasizing the applicability of the reported results on planning, evaluation and monitoring of the impacts caused by the damming of large Amazonian rivers such as the Belo Monte dam on the Xingú River, and the Santo Antônio dam on the Madeira River.

Forest-remnant islands formed by the reservoir of the Balbina dam on the Uatumã River in 1989. (Credit: Caio Pamplona/REBIO Uatumã-ICMBio)

According to the summarized articles, planning and evaluation of environmental impacts of hydroelectric dams have failed to recognize the cummulative impacts of these enterprises on the scale of the hydrographic basin. They also have ignored the singularity of whitewater (várzea) and blackwater (igapó) floodplain environments, which are seasonally flooded and are greatly impacted by the permanent or significantly altered flooding regime caused by river damming. Finally, they do not take into account the great and still largely unknown biodiversity in the affected areas.

The document aims to provide easier access to academic work on Amazonian dam impact to stakeholders from governmental and non-governmental regulatory agencies, as well as from the populations directly affacted by dam construction, and to contribute to sustainable pathways for Amazonian conservation.

Teotônio rapids, the largest on the Madeira River, which were obliterated by the reservoir of the Santo Antônio dam in 2011. (Credit: Daniely Félix da Silva)

Dead trees of the forest flooded by the Pimental reservoir, one of the dams of the Belo Monte complex, in the Xingu River basin. (Credit: Camila Ribas)

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