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Dams could cause Amazon 'irreparable damage'

The Three Gorges Dam

The Amazon basin could suffer irreparable damage if a significant number of dams are built as planned, causing environmental scientists to push for alternative renewables.

In a study by 10 universities and research centres, scientists found that the impacts of 140 built dams and potential impacts of a further 428 planned dams would damage the 6Mkm² basin irreparably.

Instead, researchers argued for modular renewable schemes such as wind and solar farms to be built, which are less damaging to the environment.

“Large dams are not only economically unviable but also environmentally detrimental,” said co-author of the study Dr Atif Ansar.

“Evidence suggests that modular solutions including wind, solar, and on-site combined heat, cooling, and power plants provide compelling alternatives, both financially and environmentally.”

The findings were published in the journal Nature. Previous analysis by researchers had shown the costs of constructing dams was too high to provide good value financially, but the ecological impacts had not been measured.

For the first time, scientists have used a dam environmental vulnerability index (DEVI) which quantifies the negative ecological impacts of dams. In the study scientists called on the energy sector to join planning and management initiatives aimed at protecting the basin. 

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