Waterfalls on the Aripuanã River in Mato Grosso state. A Brazilian company, Intertechne Consultores, has asked the government to authorize viability studies to build three new dams in the Aripuanã river basin — the Sumaúma and Quebra Remo dams on the Aripuanã River, and the Inferninho dam on its tributary, the Roosevelt River. Photo: Cleber Rech / VisualHunt.com

By Sue Branford
10 August 2017

(Mongabay) – A Brazilian company, Intertechne Consultores, has asked Aneel, the federal Agency for Electric Energy, to authorize viability studies to build three new dams in the Aripuanã river basin — the Sumaúma and Quebra Remo dams along the Aripuanã River itself and the Inferninho dam along its tributary, the Roosevelt River. The company provides consulting, engineering and construction management services for hydroelectric dams and has worked on several dams in the Amazon, including the controversial Belo Monte dam.

The Aripuanã basin is considered one of the best-preserved regions in Amazonia with a high level of endemic plants and animals. While there are, as yet, no dams on the Roosevelt River, there are already four on the Aripuana, which is a tributary of the Madeira river, which flows north from Bolivia to join the Amazon at Itacoatiara.

One of these existing dams — Dardanelos — has been controversial. In 2010, its builders dynamited a cemetery belonging to the Arara indigenous group, providing a foretaste of the controversy that erupted a few years later when a river rapids sacred to the Munduruku was blasted away to construct the Teles Pires dam in the Tapajós watershed.

Arara leader, Aldeci Arara, said at the time: “This was a big cemetery, which contained all our ancestors, many generations of our tribe, in the middle of the construction site. It is a sacred place for us.” Today, it is gone — something equivalent to blowing up the Vatican to build a road, indigenous experts say.

The Brazilian government has been talking about expanding the hydropower network in the Aripuanã basin for some time. In April 2012, it said it was planning seven more dams there — four along the Aripuanã River, including Quebra Remo and Sumaúma, and three along the Roosevelt River, including Inferninho.

However, the projects didn’t go ahead due to widespread criticism from environmentalists and indigenous supporters. Marcelo Cortez, WWF-Brazil’s conservation analyst at the time, said that the dams would impact the Mosaic of Southern Amazonia, created in 2011, which includes 40 conservation units covering seven million hectares (2,703 square miles).

Indigenous reserves would also have been significantly affected.

Energy experts, including Anderson Bittencourt, who worked then for the Department of Environment and Sustainable Development in the Amazonas state government, were critical of the large amount of forest that would be flooded in return for fairly modest quantities of energy. He said that Brazilian hydroelectric dams on average need to flood 0.5 square kilometers to generate 1 megawatt (MW) of electricity, but that the new dams would flood much more forest than this. [more]

Brazilian firm wants to build new dams in Amazon’s Aripuanã basin

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