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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.
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.
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.
: International Rivers