WWF tool measures cumulative impact of hydropower, mining projects in Amazon



Posted on 16 May 2013  | 
Brasilia — WWF is calling for a widely shared, common vision for Amazonian river basins that are the site of large-scale mining and hydropower projects.

“There should be a qualified debate in the national sphere regarding what kind of Amazon we wish to preserve in the future. That means defining which rivers are to be preserved before the accumulated effects of the innumerable hydroelectric and mining projects – which so far have always been analysed individually – create environmental impacts that could be really disastrous,” said Pedro Bara, leader of WWF’s Living Amazon Initiative infrastructure strategy.

Bara presented WWF’s ecological vision for the Tapajos river basin at an event in Foz de Iguaçu organised by Sustainable Planet and Editora Abril publishers on the theme of Business, Energy and Environment.

The vision is based on an analytical tool known as the Hydrological Information System and Amazon River Assessment (HIS-ARA). The tool integrates hydrological and ecological information to support development of regional ecosystem conservation strategies.

Bara said the overall objective is to mitigate conflicts and boost opportunities generated by projects that are decided on in a participatory and transparent manner, and are capable of contributing to a sustainable and prosperous future for the Tapajos basin.

Cumulative Impacts
HIS-ARA makes it feasible to identify critical areas for biodiversity and for the maintenance of connectivity among the rivers to ensure the integrity of the hydrological networks and the aquatic ecosystems. The same tool takes into consideration the functioning of the ecological systems and all the social and cultural territories in the entire river basin area.

In the specific case of the Tapajos River basin, which occupies 6 per cent of Brazilian territory and is highly relevant in scenic, cultural, ecological and hydropower terms, 42 hydroelectric plants of varying dimensions are planned. The so-called Tapajos Complex alone will consist of seven plants, two of which, the Sao Luiz and Jatoba dams, will be mega-installations. The damming of two more free-flowing rivers in the Amazon, the Tapajos River and the Jamanxim River, will flood an estimated 2,500 km2 of land and fragment ecologically, culturally and socially important ecosystems. Among the major social impacts, it will affect the Munduruku indigenous lands, home to more than 10,000 people.

“The application of science in the form of tools like HIS-ARA can support decision making and streamline the crucial dialogues associated with large-scale infrastructure projects,” said WWF-Brazil CEO Maria Cecilia Wey de Brito.
Tapajos River Amazon waterfalls
© David Reeks/ WWF Enlarge

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