The world’s last remaining rivers are in danger of disappearing along with the millions of lives and cultures that depend on them. Promoters of mega dams are calling their energy system ‘green’ and ‘clean’ but the reality is that land is being flooded, species are being threatened, and entire communities are being destroyed.
The mega dams also contribute to climate change, yet in many developing nations around the world there’s a strong push to build even more dams.
This film presents the story of two such construction projects in two countries that are worlds apart in many different ways. There’s one thing they both have in common, though: a shared goal to make sure the rivers of the world run freely.
The first river is found in Hasankeyf, Turkey in the Mesopotamia area. The town close to the river has a huge archaeological significance enriched by the many different cultures that converge there. Hasankeyf is cherished by tourists and over a million of them visit this town because of its rich history. It’s considered the birthplace of religion and civilization.
The area is also home to threatened species such as the shoftshell turtles, many bird species, and mammals. This has caused researchers to conclude that Hasankeyf is the only place on earth that meets 9 out of 10 criteria for UNESCO’s World Heritage Status for both natural and cultural sites.
However, the Turkish government has other plans for the area. The Ilisu Dam is the biggest and most controversial of all hydroelectric power projects. The Turkish government plans to build it by 2023 at a cost of $1.7 billion. This construction would flood an area of over 310KM2 of Mesopotamia, affecting five key biodiversity areas and destroying natural reserves. Over 300 known archeological sites will be flooded including the town of Hasankeyf. This means that more than 35,000 people will be forced to leave their homes.
Far away, in a remote part of the Amazon rainforest, a river meanders for almost 2,000 Km through the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso before flowing into the Amazon. About 225,000 indigenous people from 18 ethnic groups live along this river’s twists and bends. These communities depend on the river for food and for agriculture.
This river is being choked to make way for one of 60 hydroelectric projects that the Brazilian government has planned for the Amazon.
The Belo Monte Dam is by far the most ambitious and controversial with a cost of 18.5 billion dollars. This power plant will be the third largest in the world and its construction will displace close to 40,000 people who live in and around the city of Alta Mira. It will flood an area of 668 km2 of tropical rain forest, leaving indigenous communities without water or a means to travel.
What can be done to stop this?