Damming the rivers of the Amazon basin


Latrubesse, Edgardo M.
Arima, Eugenio Y.
Dunne, Thomas
Park, Edward
Baker, Victor R.; d’Horta, Fernando M.; Wight, Charles; Wittmann, Florian; Zuanon, Jansen; Baker, Paul A.; Ribas, Camila C.; Norgaard, Richard B.; Filizola, Naziano; Ansar, Atif; Flyvbjerg, Bent; and Stevaux, Jose C.

More than a hundred hydropower dams have already been built in the Amazon basin and numerous proposals for further dam constructions are under consideration. The accumulated negative environmental effects of existing dams and proposed dams, if constructed, will trigger massive hydrophysical and biotic disturbances that will affect the Amazon basin’s floodplains, estuary and sediment plume. We introduce a Dam Environmental Vulnerability Index to quantify the current and potential impacts of dams in the basin. The scale of foreseeable environmental degradation indicates the need for collective action among nations and states to avoid cumulative, far-reaching impacts. We suggest institutional innovations to assess and avoid the likely impoverishment of Amazon rivers.

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Figure 2: Vulnerability indices of sub-basins in the Amazon for existing, under construction, and planned dams. The Basin Integrity Index (BII), the Fluvial Dynamics Index (FDI), the Dam Impact Index (DII), and the combined Dam Environmental Vulnerability Index (DEVI). Red colours indicate highest vulnerability based on the three indices; blue basins are least vulnerable. Dots indicate dam locations.

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Nature 546, 363–369 (15 June 2017) doi:10.1038/nature22333