Dams and deforestation take a toll on the world’s largest river

The Amazon River as seen from space. Text reads Amazon on the brink, rivers under siege.

Second in a series

There are many great rivers on Earth, but the Amazon is arguably the greatest. It’s the second-longest river on the planet (after the Nile), and its flow dwarfs all other rivers. The Amazon carries five times more water than the world’s second-largest river by volume, the Congo, and 12 times the flow of the Mississippi River.

The Amazon Assessment Report 2021 found that, despite its massive size, the Amazon River has been disrupted in recent years by large hydropower dams, deforestation on adjacent lands, agricultural and mining waste, and sewage discharges from cities in the rainforest. The study, conducted by a group of 200 scientists working together as the Science Panel for the Amazon, was the first comprehensive assessment of the entire Amazon rainforest and the threats it faces.

The Science Panel recommends several immediate actions to prevent further damage to the Amazon River, including: banning construction of large hydroelectric dams; prohibiting in-stream mining throughout the Amazon River basin; controlling pollution discharges; and preserving selected watersheds throughout the basin for research, long-term monitoring, and protection of genetic and species diversity.

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation is supporting dissemination of the Amazon Assessment Report 2021, which provides a new development model for the rainforest that is holistic, sustainable and beneficial for Indigenous and traditional communities. On Sept. 15, just days before Climate Week 2022, several members of the Science Panel will discuss efforts to save the Amazon rainforest at a gathering set to run alongside the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York.

Learn more at theamazonwewant.org.

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