Damning the Amazon: the risky business of hydropower in the Amazon

Brazil’s Amazon region, which includes most of the world’s largest remaining area of rainforest, is under attack by uncontrolled economic exploitation. Mainly as a result of industrial agriculture, cattle ranching, mines and infrastructure projects such as hydropower dams, and the illegal loggers and settlers that follow in their wake, over 750,000 km² of forest have already been cleared, putting at risk the region’s unparalleled biodiversity, driving traditional forest communities from their land and threatening serious impacts for the world’s climate. From 2004 deforestation slowed, but in 2012 the Brazilian congress passed legislation that created a climate of impunity for illegal deforestation and since then the rate of destruction has shown some sharp rises. Now the government of President Dilma Rousseff, obsessed with economic development at any cost, is pushing a further massive expansion of hydropower in the Amazon. Among the areas liable to be worst affected is the basin of the Tapajós River, one of the Amazon’s last unobstructed major tributaries, which has been called one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Over 40 medium-sized to large dams are currently planned or under construction in this unique area, which is also threatened by utterly inappropriate plans for an industrial waterway to transport soybeans from Mato Grosso to the Atlantic.