Proposed Amazon dam would wreak environmental damage

The proposed Tapajos dam in the heart of the Amazon would lead to a wave of deforestation to pave way for soy farming or cattle ranching, according to Brazilian researchers.

According to a report from the Thomas Reuters Foundation, local businesses with contracts to help build the proposed Tapajos dam would likely use their profits to buy land in the Amazon, fuelling land speculation and deforestation.

“A lot of the land in the Amazon doesn’t have a legal title,” Philip Fearnside of the Federal University of Western Para, who conducted a study on the impact of the dam. “There would be a tremendous windfall for the people who claim that land.”

The environmental and social consequences would be catastrophic for the region, explains Fearnside. As developers convert jungle into soy or cattle farms, vast swathes of forest would fall victim to deforestation. New waterways and other infrastructure created after the river is damned would also make it easier to turn forest into plantations.

The dam’s backers argue that new investments are needed to boost hydroelectricity and farming in Brazil, which is currently facing a severe recession. According to the Thomas Reuters Foundation, hydroelectric power plants produce around 80 per cent of Brazil’s electricity.

But the proposed Tapajos damn would flood an area around the size of New York City and disrupt the livelihoods of the indigenous peoples and other communities who depend on the river for fishing, the study found.


Image credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

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