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Scientific Expedition to the Grand Canyon of the Amazon, the Río Marañón

Written by Natelie Kramer Anderson, 2013-2014 Sustainability Leadership Fellow.

This summer I will take part in a scientific expedition to the Río Marañón in Peru to collect baseline data on a river that although currently free-flowing has 20 proposed mega dam sites for hydroelectric dams, two of which have already been approved.

The Río Marañón begins in the Andes Mountains, is the mainstem source of the Amazon River and cuts through a canyon twice the depth of the Grand Canyon. Mega dam projects on this river will greatly impact the ecological and societal health of the Amazon Basin, both in the Andean headwaters, and in fertile Amazonian floodplains. These mega dam projects are primarily being built to power Peruvian coal mines and for energy export.

The mission is to collect a baseline pre-development data set of critical river health parameters potentially impacted by hydropower development, while video documenting our 30-day raft voyage. We are doing so that we can evaluate the impacts that large mega dam projects have on the natural environment and under-represented communities who depend on the river. Understanding these impacts is necessary in order to make informed decisions about whether or not to build large dams. Do the benefits of the hydropower outweigh its impacts?  Is it wise to build a society that depends on these large dams? Is the economical cost from the degradation of ocean and Amazonian fisheries worth it?

To learn more about the expedition go to: http://www.maranonproject.org/
To learn about the dams and controversy on the Río Marañón: http://lab.org.uk/peru-el-maranon-the-environment-communities-and-rivers-be-damned
To learn more about Pink River Dolphins in the Amazon: http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/weirdest-dolphin-talk?source=relatedvideo

Proposed dams on the Rio Maranon. Currently there are none.

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