Dams Database Shows More Than 200 Dams Threatening the Amazon

Zachary Hurwitz
The Dams in Amazônia Database lists detailed project information when available.
Two years ago, we developed a cutting-edge online database called “Dams in Amazônia” together with Fundación Proteger of Argentina and ECOA, Brazil, to track dams planned for the rivers of the Amazon. Today, we've released an exciting new version.

This unique resource, available at www.dams-info.org, uses Google Earth to graphically display information culled from official sources on more than 200 dams at various project stages throughout the countries of the Amazon Basin— including Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Venezuela. It describes the devastation that many of these projects would bring to the Amazon's river ecosystems and its peoples, if built.

Dams are one of the most controversial types of infrastructure in the ecologically sensitive Amazon region. Scientific information about potential hydropower projects is hard to come by; indeed, utility planners in the region are often “black boxes,” closed to the participation of citizens and affected communities.

This database bridges that information gap by amassing technical and economic data about dams that are operational, under construction, planned, and inventoried. In the Brazilian Amazon alone, there are over 80 dams at various stages of the project cycle, and many more are in the country's inventory. Neighboring countries Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia also plan on dozens of massive projects.

Available in English, Spanish and Portuguese, the updated site includes data on an additional 90 dams since 2010, with the bulk of new data coming from researchers in the Andean Amazon regions of Ecuador and Peru. By utilizing Google Earth, users can customize views and explore project areas. Users can also overlay maps of protected indigenous lands and conservation units to better illustrate potential impacts on sensitive areas. Finally, users can filter projects according to an expanded set of criteria, including a project's financiers and developers, its operational status, its generating capacity, and the river basin and country where it is located.

The great news is that we're just getting started. We've received so much interest in this spectacular tool that we've come up with exciting ideas for even better features in the next release. Meanwhile, new project data continue to be added to the site on a constant basis, as dozens of potentially destructive dams remain in country inventories. Stay tuned as this online tool continues to grow.

Because climate change is no joke, the world needs to make better, more informed decisions on meeting water and energy needs while maintaining ecosystem services and biodiversity of such a significant region as the Amazon basin. The more than 200 dam projects described in the database threaten irrevocable damage to the Amazon's biological integrity and to local populations whose livelihoods depend upon healthy riverine ecosystems-- ecosystems we need to protect. We hope this database helps move us one more step towards doing precisely that.

Help us protect the Amazon by using the Dams in Amazônia Database today.