‘Death of a river’: the ruinous design flaw in a vast Amazon rainforest dam

Operator faces choice of weakening 14km barrier or potentially devastating a biodiversity hotspot

The biggest hydroelectric project in the Amazon rainforest has a design flaw that poses a “very serious” threat to human life and globally important ecosystems, according to documents and expert testimony received by the Guardian.

The new studies suggest engineers failed to anticipate the impact of water shortages on the Pimental dam at Belo Monte, which is forcing the operators to choose between a structural weakening of the 14km-wide compacted-earth barrier and an reallocation of water in the reservoir or on the Xingu river, which is home to indigenous communities, fishing villages and some of the world’s most endangered species.

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