Infrastructure impacts and the need to conserve aquatic ecosystems in debate
Promoting dialogue with multiple social sectors, demonstrating the impacts of hydroelectric infrastructure projects in the Amazon region, and the need to include nature conservation in all Brazil’s energy planning were the reasons underlying meetings between Living Amazon Initiative and representatives of Brazilian civil society.
Over the last few years WWF has developed a conservation planning system and DSS tool based on aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem values that enable planners to readily assess the impacts of large hydroelectric infrastructure ventures on a basin-wide scale.
At a meeting jointly organised by the Operação Amazônia Nativa-OPAN (Native Amazon Operation) and the Instituto Centro Vida – ICV (Life Centre Institute) in Cuiabá, Mato Grosso State, in the central border of the Brazilian Amazon, on Wednesday (October 2), representatives of various NGOs discussed the cumulative impacts that could result from the construction of hydroelectric plants in the Juruena River basin, one of the richest and best-preserved areas of the Amazon, inhabited by various indigenous peoples. During recent visits to the Amazon region, the issue was discussed with indigenous leaders in Brazil and with experts in Peru and Colombia where the systematic conservation planning model could also be implemented.
During the 35th Café com Sustentabilidade (Coffee with Sustainability) event on Thursday morning (October 3), organised by the Brazilian Banks Federation (Federação dos Bancos Brasileiros -Febraban), in São Paulo, the need for social responsibility and conservation in the sector responsible for financing infrastructure ventures was the main issue discussed.
Pedro Bara, Living Amazon Greener Hydropower Strategy leader, explained that the current electricity production system in Brazil, highly dependent on water and rainfall patterns, needs to address the question of adapting to climate change and investing in renewable energy alternatives like solar, wind and biomass energy as well as in a smart transmission system that will need to deal with an increasing number of smaller, intermittent energy sources.
“We cannot simply carry on more and more thermoelectric generating plants that are costly and dirty to be fed into the Brazilian energy matrix. WWF is not against hydroelectric plants in principle, but they must be carefully planned, prepared and consulted including the appropriate siting decisions. Conservation planning needs to be incorporated to energy production planning to ensure that ecological balance is maintained and sustainable development needs to be discussed with all the local social actors concerned”, he declared.
The need to make representatives of the financial sector fully aware of the importance of guaranteeing the maintenance of connectivity among the rivers and flows in the river basins and of preserving large areas of forest aroused general interest among the participants.
“We, as the financial sector, need to be watchful of externalities not only in the aspect of economic risk but also the way in which society and its very survival are being placed at high critical risk. We must personally assess and internalize [such considerations] as individuals, citizens and professional people and do so in a transparent and enriching manner. Now, more than ever, society needs to work together, acting in the spirit of partnership, to construct a future that will be really sustainable”, stated Linda Murasawa, Santander Bank’s director for sustainability, at the closure of the 35th Coffee with Sustainability event.