Juggling Concerns as Amazon Dam Nears Reality

As plans to build a major dam on the Amazon River edge closer to breaking ground, locals in nearby communities worry about the inevitable changes to come.
March 12, 2011, 9am PST | Nate Berg
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But along with concerns is the reality that the dam will bring much-needed hydropower to the region.

"Later this year a consortium of Brazilian construction and energy companies plans to start building a $4 billion hydroelectric dam on the Inambari River, which starts in the Andes and empties into the Madre de Dios River near Puerto Maldonado. When the dam is completed, in four to five years, its 2,000 megawatts of installed capacity-a touch below that of the Hoover Dam-will make it the largest hydroelectric facility in Peru and the fifth-largest in all of South America.

The Inambari dam, pending environmental impact studies, will be built under an agreement signed last summer in Manaus, Brazil, by Peruvian President Alan García and Brazil's then-president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. In a joint statement released afterward, the pair praised the deal as "an instrument of great strategic interest to both countries." At first, most of the dam's electricity will go to Brazil, which desperately needs power to feed its economic expansion-a projected 7.6 percent in 2011, the fastest in nearly two decades. Over 30 years, the bulk of the electricity will gradually go to Peru to meet its own growing power demands. 'The reality is, every year we need more and more energy,' says Antonio Brack Egg, Peru's environmental minister. 'We need hydropower.'"

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Published on Tuesday, March 8, 2011 in Smithsonian Magazine
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