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South America's increasing hydroelectric capacity

Many countries in South America are investing significant capital in new hydroelectric power projects, including Brazil, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Venezuela, Argentina, and Paraguay. However, not everyone who lives in these hydropower development zones will have access to the electricity produced.

"Hydroelectric power production is growing in South America. In 2006, regional production reached 631 million Mega-Watts (MW), 80% more than regional production for 1990 and representing 21% of world hydroelectric power production for 2006."

"Despite the region’s capacity for hydroelectric production, some factors will have to be taken into account in order to exploit these advantages: a significant part of the population is excluded from access to electricity … water stress will increase in the region due to climate change and poor management of water resources; and social conflicts will emerge from new uses and management of water resources and due to the territorial impact where the dams and plants will be located."

"South America has the potential to keep increasing the production of renewable energy that comes from hydroelectric power. However, there are social, environmental, political and economic risks associated with the pursuit of this objective."

IFTF implications: new hydroelectric dams will require moving any population currently living in the flood zone. This disruption, along with the loss of local wildlife habitat and farmland, may result in increased social unrest in these regions. These disruptions could be further accellerated by climate change.

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Internacional Nacional Foro, March 2010, page 3: