Are hydroelectric plants the best solution?

The increase of hydropower plants in the Amazon could harm the world’s biggest rainforest

Although climate change has not slowed down the world’s demand on energy, it has forced nations to shift towards clean and renewable sources such as hydroelectric power plants. Although this type of energy does not burn fossil fuels, they require large inundation zones imposing serious environmental stress on locals, fauna, and flora.

On one hand, hydropower is effective in some regions to help conserve water, supply the irrigation system in dry seasons, and reduce the risk of flooding. However, a study published by England’s University of East Anglia, the construction of Brazil’s Balbina Dam has significantly change the landscape of the forest creating thousands of artificial archipelago islands. The new geography has pushed several vertebrates into disappearance, increasing the extinction rates in the area.

According to Carlos Peres, a Brazilian professor at the University’s School of Environmental Sciences, in Brazil’s lowlands, hydropower plants produce less electricity per flooded acre compared to one built within steeper slopes like mountains. He also added that in terms of environmental cost, there is greater vegetation loss thusly reducing the forest CO2 sequestration capacity.

Moreover, indigenous people are relocated forcing them to change their traditional way of living. Locals around the Jirau power plant cannot hunt or fish as they used to. Peres stated that the construction of dams “serve the interests of large engineering companies, not local communities”.

LatinAmerican Post | Laura Iguavita
Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto

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