Dams · Rivers

Review of fascinating Dams, Rivers related developments in American continent in 2017

Brazil Announces the End of Mega-Dams in the Amazon The Brazilian government has announced it will stop building mega-dams in the Amazon, according to reports in the Brazilian newspaper O Globo and in an article published in Mongabay. This is great news indeed. Congratulations to everyone in Brazil Campaign.  https://www.internationalrivers.org/resources/brazil-announces-the-end-of-mega-dams-in-the-amazon-international-rivers-statement-16587 (3 Jan 2018)

Costa Rica SC stops hydro project for not consulting tribesmen On November 1, 2016, the Constitutional Chamber of Costa Rica’s Supreme Court provided some good news to a Terraba (Teribe) Indigenous territory when it stopped the state-run Costa Rica Electricity Institute (ICE by its Spanish acronym) from going forward with the Diquis hydroelectric project for failing to consult Indigenous communities who would see part of their lands flooded.  The permit, issued in 2007 under former President Oscar Arias, had declared the dam to be located at the mouth of the General River Valley in the southern Pacific and part of the country in “national interest.”

Columbia In an ANOTHER WELCOME COURT DECISION (its in Spanish), THIS TIME FROM COLUMBIA Constitutional Court: This is a decision that the Colombian Constitutional Court offer protection to the Atrato River​ and guarantee the fundamental rights of the communities that inhabit its ​banks from a new perspective called biocultural rights.​ This is a very important decision, Under this new paradigm, the Court has reasoned that the most effective way to protect ethnic communities’ rights is through biodiversity conservation and ecosystem restoration.​

First photos of new Amazon coral reef system released Environmental advocacy organization Greenpeace released the images, which were taken from a submarine that was launched by one of Greenpeace’s ships, according to the Guardian. Scientists first stumbled upon the reef during a research expedition in 2012 while chasing a rumor of the reef’s existence, and they later announced the reef’s discovery in a study published in April 2016. Given the region’s murky waters, they were surprised to find one at all in that location. Amazing discovery which may change a lot that we know about coral reefs and estuaries & deltas.

Scientists have discovered that the river reef is far bigger, and more important, than first thought – a biodiversity hotspot on par with the Great Barrier Reef. At a time, when most of the world’s shallow reefs are in trouble due to bleaching, climate change and fishing, but this one is pristine. But the scientists are now racing against the oil companies. Even as the Amazon reef is found and gives up its secrets, BP, Total and Brazilian oil companies are preparing to start exploratory drilling for what they estimate to be 15-20bn barrels of oil at depths of more than 1,000 metres. The Brazilian govt has already licensed 80 blocks off the coast of Amapá, with the closest just five miles from the reef. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/feb/17/we-are-rewriting-the-textbooks-first-dives-to-amazon-coral-reef-stun-scientists; https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/01/photos-amazon-coral-reef-discovery-research-science/

Dam building, deforestation threatening the diversity of Amazon fish species A paper, “Relationships between forest cover and fish diversity in the Amazon River floodplain,” (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2664.12967/abstract) published in the Journal of Applied Ecology by two Texas A&M University scientists warns of impacts to fisheries and fish diversity, stemming from continued deforestation of the Amazon River Basin. As per study Amazon, like most major tropical forest areas of the world, is being systematically cleared for agriculture, human habitation and hydropower development. https://today.agrilife.org/2017/11/11/experts-deforestation-threatening-diversity-amazon-fish-species/

Amazonian fish need tropical forests to survive A large study by fisheries ecologists at Virginia Tech have found a link between tropical forest loss in the Amazon and declines in freshwater fish populations. Their work could inspire new policy protections for tropical forests on the Amazon river floodplain, where fishing is a major source of income and food. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/science/amazonian-fish-need-tropical-forests-to-survive (13 Dec 2017)

Dam building binge in Amazon will shred ecosystems, scientists warn A new analysis forecasts severe habitat fragmentation in the western Amazon Basin if some of the 160 planned dams are built in the region, where 142 dams are already there. http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/01/dam-building-binge-amazon-will-shred-ecosystems-scientists-warn (Science, 31 Jan. 2018)

Hydro dams destroying Amazon forest This research paper reinforces the fact that hundreds of built and proposed hydroelectric dams may significantly harm life in and around the Amazon by trapping the flow of rich nutrients and modifying the climate from Central America to the Gulf of Mexico. https://phys.org/news/2017-06-hydroelectric-jeopardize-amazon-future.html

Amazon dams are disrupting ecologically vital flood pulses According to a recent study, ecologically important flood pulses along Amazonian rivers are being substantially altered by hydropower dams. The study also finds small dams are having a disproportionately higher impact on river hydrology. The new research, led by Kelsie Timpe of the University of Florida, assessed river flow both before and after construction of dams in the Brazilian Amazon. More and more studies highlight the central importance of floods in riverine ecology and how dams fundamentally alter flood pulses. https://news.mongabay.com/2018/01/study-amazon-dams-are-disrupting-ecologically-vital-flood-pulses/ (Mongabay, 10 Jan 2018)

Brazil Amazon facing hydro dam boom Brazil is in the midst of a hydropower construction boom that is inundating large areas of rainforest and driving indigenous people from their lands — all while failing to fully develop the country’s vast potential for solar and wind energy.

– The most notable example is the massive Belo Monte Dam, the world’s fourth-largest hydroelectric project. The dam itself has already blocked the 1,000-mile Xingu River, a major tributary of the Amazon. Belo Monte’s reservoir, filled at the end of 2015, flooded 260 square miles of lowlands and forest, displaced more than 20,000 people, and caused extensive damage to a river ecosystem that contains more than 500 fish species, many of them found nowhere else. Now, the Brazilian government has set its sights on the Tapajós River, another major tributary of the Amazon River with 43 dams, each with over 30 MW capacity.

– Should Brazil’s unfettered dam construction continue at the current pace, the country will essentially take all of the major free-flowing Amazon tributaries east of the Madeira River — in effect, half of the Amazon basin — and turn them into continuous chains of reservoirs. This would mean expelling all of the traditional residents from two-thirds of Brazilian Amazonia. But Amazonian dams have a panoply of social and environmental impacts that, if they were given proper weight in decision-making, would cause the Brazilian government to pursue instead the country’s abundant energy alternatives.

– the European countries that buy the carbon credits are allowed to emit millions of tons of carbon on the basis of dams that would be built anyway. Such projects drain “green” money that could otherwise be used for measures that really do serve to reduce global emissions, such as wind and solar energy projects. http://e360.yale.edu/features/how-a-dam-building-boom-is-transforming-the-brazilian-amazon (BY PHILIP FEARNSIDE, SEPT 26, 2017)

Latin America Big dam obsession Big dams in South America have long been seen as symbols of national pride, and evidence of economic progress.  But critics of big dams argue that many of them are monuments of injustice, political corruption and social inequity. Dam builders are increasingly on the back foot. Climate change increases the need for renewables, but because hydropower is widely as an option, any reduction in river flow caused by droughts only adds to the energy crisis. Once built, solar plants are cheaper to operate. Technological progress and economies of scale now offer govt alternatives that did not exist 20 years ago.

Paraguay Hydro projects threaten Pantanal wetlands Similarly construction of new hydro projects dams are threatening Pantanal the world’s  largest tropical wetland covering an area slightly larger than England lies mostly on a huge floodplain at the foot of Brazil’s southwestern highlands, but a fraction also spills over into Bolivia and Paraguay. It may not be as globally famous as the Amazon rainforest, but it has the continent’s highest concentration of wildlife. The region is home to more than 1,000 bird species and 300 mammals including the jaguar, capybara, giant otter and tapir.

Now, however, the region’s endangered plants and animals, along with its still undiscovered secrets, may be wiped out in return for hydroelectricity. There are already 38 operational hydroelectric plants in the Paraguay river’s upper basin, the region that drains into the Pantanal. A further 94 are due to be built in coming years. https://theconversation.com/hydroelectric-dams-threaten-brazils-mysterious-pantanal-one-of-the-worlds-great-wetlands-86588

Mexico City faces a severe water crisis Climate change is threatening to push a crowded capital toward a breaking point. Mexico City is facing multiple disasters, including water shortages, groundwater depletion, pollution, sinking due to over extraction of groundwater, a major one among these.

Canada A Supreme Court ruling will determine how much we value our water Three Yukon First Nations and two conservation groups are at the Supreme Court of Canada, fighting to protect one of the planet’s most pristine watersheds – the Peel River Watershed. The case will have significant ramifications for First Nations rights and consultations. The Peel is not yet a household name, but it is an ecological treasure.

For the first time on record, human-caused climate change has rerouted an entire river A team of scientists on April 17, 2017 documented what they’re describing as the first case of large-scale river reorganization as a result of human-caused climate change. They found that in mid-2016, the retreat of a very large glacier in Canada’s Yukon territory led to the rerouting of its vast stream of melt water from one river system to another — cutting down flow to the Yukon’s largest lake, and channeling freshwater to the Pacific Ocean south of Alaska, rather than to the Bering Sea. The researchers dubbed the reorganization an act of “rapid river piracy,” saying that such events had often occurred in the Earth’s geologic past, but never before, to their knowledge, as a sudden present-day event. They also called it “geologically instantaneous.” Can we grasp the proportions of this event? An entire river system, including a lake rerouted by Climate change. The article could have easily given a map showing the old and new path of the river to illustrate the change. It explains HOW this happened.

Identification and protection of Canada’s wild rivers WWF Canada has identified 10 Wild Rivers of Canada and made several recommendations for their protection: 1. No dams be built on the 10 wild rivers identified in this report. These rivers must be kept free-flowing; 2. Any other development proposal on one of Canada’s 10 longest wild rivers should automatically trigger an environmental assessment; 3. Adequate monitoring programs must be established along Canada’s 10 longest wild rivers to ensure that development decisions are informed by science.

Compiled by SANDRP (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

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