- Mongabay has begun publishing a new edition of the book, “A Perfect Storm in the Amazon,” in short installments and in three languages: Spanish, English and Portuguese.
- Author Timothy J. Killeen is an academic and expert who, since the 1980s, has studied the rainforests of Brazil and Bolivia, where he lived for more than 35 years.
- Chronicling the efforts of nine Amazonian countries to curb deforestation, this edition provides an overview of the topics most relevant to the conservation of the region’s biodiversity, ecosystem services and Indigenous cultures, as well as a description of the conventional and sustainable development models that are vying for space within the regional economy.
- Click the “A Perfect Storm in the Amazon” link atop this page to see chapters 1-13 as they are published during 2023.
The Tapajós is a clear-water river and the fifth largest tributary of the Amazon; it drops in elevation from about 800 meters above sea level in the highlands of central Mato Grosso to less than seven meters at its confluence with the Amazon River near the city of Santarem.
More than 45 sites have been identified as suitable for the installation of hydropower facilities within the basin, which includes the lower river and its two major tributary-branches, Tele Pires and Jurua. As with the Caroni, Xingu, and Tocantins, the largest dam with the greatest potential energy is at the bottom of the watershed, where large volumes of water flow off the Brazilian Shield. Ten sites were selected for development, of which four were under construction by 2015 (São Manoel, Sinop, Colíder, Teles Pires); however, the three largest units (São Luis do Tapajós, Jatoba and Chacarão) were sidelined because they are located within or adjacent to Indigenous territories.
The proposed dam at São Luiz do Tapajós is located at a set of rapids about 350 kilometers upstream from the mouth of the river; it would have consisted of two dams with a total installed capacity of 8.1 GW. In 2016, the environmental protection agency () rejected the request for a construction permit on the advice of the public prosecutor (MPF) and the federal agency overseeing Indigenous affairs (FUNAI). The denial was based on the impacts to Indigenous communities and their explicit protection by the Constitution of 1988.
The proposed R-o-R dam would have permanently flooded about 72,000 hectares, including 12,500 hectares claimed by a Munduruku community. The decision was noteworthy because the community had yet to gain formal recognition for its territorial claim; the ruling thus extended the concept of protection to include Indigenous lands outside of Indigenous territories.
In 2018, the agency that regulates hydropower facilities (ANEEL) announced that all large-scale projects in the Amazon were being placed on hold because of the challenges of obtaining environmental licenses for projects that impacted Indigenous communities. The decision to forgo development of large-scale projects in the Amazon was influenced by the poor economic returns and the corruption scandals that plagued the Belo Monte complex and two dams on the Rio Madeira.
It is not clear whether the decision to halt the development of São Luis do Tapajós, Jatoba and Chacorão will be reviewed following the election of Jair Bolsonaro, but the construction of all three dams is essential for the proposed Tapajós / Tele Pires waterway. Less important for waterway development, but with greater potential for large-scale hydropower, are sites on the Rio Juruena (São Simão Alto, Salto Augusto Baixo, Escondido), all of which are located within or adjacent to an Indigenous territory.
Also under consideration are four medium-scale D&R facilities (Jamanxim, Cachoeira do Caí, Cachoeira dos Patos, Jardim de Ouro) located within the confines of Parque Nacional Jamanxim; these sites were presumed to be included within the category of cancelled projects, but a review by the Bolsonaro administration has revived the possibility they will be put back on the list for future development.
“A Perfect Storm in the Amazon” is a book by Timothy Killeen and contains the author’s viewpoints and analysis. The second edition was published by The White Horse in 2021, under the terms of a Creative Commons license (CC BY 4.0 license).
Read the other excerpted portions of chapter 2 here: