Assessing impacts of hydroelectric dams in the Amazon Fluvial Basin

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Wight, Charles Edward

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The amount of water the Amazon River delivers to the Atlantic Ocean every day is enough to supply New York City's fresh water needs for 9 years. This is soon to change with the race to choke the Amazon Basin with large hydrologic dams. Although studies investigating single dams can provide great analysis on a couple key issues, they often fail to consider these effects on the systems entirety. Without linking the physical and social components, one fails to fully understand the impacts of hydroelectric dams and therefore the vulnerability of the basin. The focus of this study is based on three forms of investigation: 1. a comprehensive literature review including scholarship on hydroelectric dams, basis characteristics, protected areas, and political characteristics within the respective countries; 2. data procurement of the physical geography of 20 sub-basins, 1,100 tributaries, and land use-land change (LULC) data; and together 3. the creation of a multivariable database integrated with GIS (geographic information systems) in order to better interpret human/nature complexities. Combined, this database will be a powerful tool to assess vulnerability and risks associated with individual dams sites within a larger system. In addition, this database can be adjusted in the future such that when impacts of planned dams are actualized they can be recorded, and based of shared attributes of other dams in the database, this information can be correlated to make better predictions of new environmental and social impacts.



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