Approaching the Lake Chad basin from Gulfe, a small locality 45 kilometres from Cameroon’s Far North Regional capital Maroua, the atmosphere of despair is palpable: dusty air, fierce and unrelenting winds, wilting plants and sand dunes suggest that this once lush area is undergoing a terrible change.
José Geraldo Matos fondly recalls the massive traíras (Hoplias sp), carnivorous freshwater fish found in the lagoons and rivers of Brazil, that he used to catch in the Dos Cochos River just a few metres from his house.
"What do we stand to lose because of the dam? We will lose everything!" said Maria Abigail Agredani, a member of the committee for this indigenous community in the western Mexican state of Jalisco, reporting the damage that will be caused by the hydroelectric complex being built nearby.
Impoverished Laos is unlikely to cancel a Thai project to build a mega dam across the Mekong River at Xayaburi, despite warnings from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) that it could devastate the region’s rich biodiversity.
The Cambodian government has committed to the construction of two dams along the Mekong River in order to meet a huge demand for electricity, but environmental groups warn that severe repercussions loom for this strategy.
Hasankeyf, a small village in southeastern Turkey, has been under threat for 15 years. Home to approximately 3,000 people, the site is one of the oldest continuously inhabited human settlements, with an archaeological record going back at least 9,500 years.
When Jose Chiburre was a boy growing up in Mozambique, he would often challenge his friends to a swim across the Incomati River. That was in the 1970s, when the river was 300 metres wide in the dry season: today, the race would be over before it begins.
Colbún, the electricity generating company that co-owns HidroAysén and its multi-dam project in southern Chile, has recommended suspending the environmental impact assessment for power transmission lines that would connect the hydropower complex to the country's central grid, until the right conditions are in place.
Chile has enormous potential for producing non-conventional renewable energies (NCRE) like solar and geothermal, yet they only contribute three percent of the country's energy mix.
Those who made the final decision on the design of Brazil’s Belo Monte hydroelectric dam will face legal action in the future for the damages caused. This is the kind of warning one would expect from environmentalists, but in this case it comes from a surprising quarter: staunch supporters of hydropower.
"People haven’t been coming in for the past month or so because they are afraid again, like during war-time," complained Juan Gaspar, a shopkeeper in the northwestern Guatemalan town of Santa Cruz Barillas, where a fierce battle is raging between locals opposed to a hydropower dam and the security forces.
Energy integration in South America will be a reality "in the medium to long term," driven by hydropower and drawing on Brazil’s experience, predicts Altino Ventura Filho, secretary of planning in this country’s Ministry of Mines and Energy.
Brazil is keen to move ahead quickly with the construction of hydropower plants in neighbouring countries to supply its demand for electricity. But Peru is still stalling on an agreement between the two countries, due to a number of conflicting interests and demands.
"Perhaps it's the curse of Rondônia," joked Ari Ott, referring to teething troubles with the first turbine of the Santo Antônio hydroelectric plant which was intended to kick off a new cycle of huge power projects in Brazil's Amazon jungle region.