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San Rafael Waterfall, Quijo River, Ecuador (archive)

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Latin America is known for the power and beauty of its river systems – the Amazon, the world´s largest river basin; the Paraguay and Paraná rivers and wetland ecosystems; the Usamacinta flowing through the Mayan rainforests; and the pristine waters of the rivers of Patagonia. These magnificent rivers are fountains of life for an incredible diversity of plant and animal species and the source of well-being for traditional indigenous peoples and riverbank dwellers.

The rivers of Latin America are also the target of dam-builders who see them as tempting resources to be exploited for electricity and irrigation. Many Latin American governments are promoting hydroelectric dams as a way of accelerating economic growth through offering publicly-subsidized energy to aluminum smelters and other electric-intensive industries.

Dams have left a terrible legacy in the region, such as in Guatemala where indigenous opponents of Chixoy Dam were massacred, and at Yacyretá, where communities have been plunged into poverty while corrupt authorities embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars destined for social and environmental programs.

Through these struggles, the people of Latin America have learned the importance of organizing to fight new dams, and to demand just reparations for losses their families have suffered as a result of dams built in the past. Important movements of dam-affected people such as the Movement of Dam-Affected People (MAB) in Brazil , and networks of groups fighting dams, including the Latin America Network Against Dams, REDLAR, and MAPDER in Mexico, have brought renewed strength and hope to a region where hundreds of new dams are being planned.

Energy alternatives for the region have not been sufficiently explored, even as the cost of new dams more distant from population and industrial centers rises steadily.

International Rivers is working to stop plans for 70 new dams in the Amazon region, including the Madeira and Xingu rivers, and has mounted a campaign to keep the rivers of Chilean Patagonia flowing freely. In Mesoamerica, Ecuador, and Colombia we are active in supporting and strengthening the growing movement to protect the region´s rivers.


Free with 84 Lumber Wood Products: Controversy from Chile

International Relations Center: Damming Patagonia’s Rivers: A Dirty Energy Business

Home Depot in Middle of Patagonian Dam Debate

Atlanta Earth Day Performer to Home Depot: You Can Do It. We Can Help.

Amazon Indians Rally to Oppose Xingu Dams in May: Journalists Invited


Glenn Switkes
glenn [at] internationalrivers [dot] org
+55 35-3332-6809

Monti Aguirre
monti [at] internationalrivers [dot] org
+1 510 848 1155