Hydropower and other energy projects often have serious consequences that affect ecosystems and the communities that rely on those ecosystems. Many negative consequences can be avoided when a potential energy project begins with a fair assessment of available options, includes the participation of affected communities, and adheres to strict social and environmental guidelines.
Belo Monte dam is one of a series of megadams being developed by the Brazilian government to stimulate the country's economic growth and to bolster the nation's energy security. When built, the dam would be the third largest in the world. It would also dry up parts of the Xingu River, a major tributary of the Amazon; flood a large area of the Amazonian rainforest; and displace some 20,000 people, including 1,000 indigenous people from several communities. Opponents of the dam have raised concerns about both its economic viability and its impacts on the region's people and environment.
While this essay centers on the Belo Monte dam, it is but one example of many hydropower projects currently being developed around the world. Technically considered renewable energy, hydropower nevertheless can have long-term impacts on the landscape, water supply, flora and fauna, and local communities.
Connections to National Standards
Common Core English Language Arts. RH.11-12.2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationship between the key details and ideas.
College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies. D2.Geo.6.9-12. Evaluate the impact of human settlement activities on the environmental and cultural characteristics of specific places and regions.
Next Generation Science Standards. HS-LS2-7. Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.