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Dengue in Bolivia: are Brazilian dams aggravating it?

Deep in Brazil’s Amazon basin, construction is progressing on the third biggest hydropower plant in the world: the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam. Situated on the Xingu River in the state of Pará, it was commissioned by the Brazilian government to help guarantee sustainable energy security for the country’s rapidly growing economy.
brasilBrazil’s neighbors, particularly Bolivia, have deep concerns about the health and environmental impact of the dam. Quoted in Germany’s Spiegel Online, Bishop Erwin Kräutler (the current prelate of the Territorial Prelature of Xingu) believes the dam will cause the Xingu River to flood upstream, flooding the city of Altamira. Vast volumes of standing water would lead to a rise in dengue fever, among other health risks.
Elsewhere in Brazil the recently-completed Jirau and Santo Antônio dams – situated 50 and 110 miles, respectively, from Brazil’s Bolivian border – are the first part of a planned four-dam complex. These mega-dams are being blamed for flooding across Bolivia’s Amazonian region this year – the most disastrous flooding of the past 100 years, according to the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA). Flooding is so bad that a state of emergency has been declared, reported Christian Aid.
NACLA also highlights the strong debate over whether there is any real connection between Brazil’s dams and Bolivia’s flooding. Víctor Paranhos, head of Brazil’s Sustainable Energy Consortium, told the Inter Press Service that the dams neither caused nor aggravated the flooding in Bolivia. Instead he attributed the floods to recent heavy rainfalls saying, “It has never rained so much.”
Bolivian President Evo Morales, noted water levels were not dropping as they should have after the heavy rains had subsided and ordered an immediate investigation. The preliminary results, we are led to understand, showed the dams were pushing floodwaters back into Bolivia, instead of flowing out towards the Atlantic Ocean. Further investigations are being carried out.
Mega hydroelectric dams are being built as sustainable energy alternatives across Brazil, the Amazon, and other tropical regions. But are the dams causing flooding upstream substantially increasing the risk and spread of dengue and other diseases?