For those interested in the hydrology, fluvial geomorphology and sediments of the Amazon Basin, Brazil’s XII National Meeting of Sediments Engineering was the place to be from November 28 – December 2, 2016. The meeting, appropriately named “Amazônia: a nova fronteira para a geração de energia e seus impactos nas descargas sólidas dos rios” (Amazon: The New Frontier for Energy Generation and its Impacts on Solid Discharges of Rivers), was held in Porto Velho, the capital of Rondonia, Brazil along the Madeira River just downstream from the Santo Antonio (3,580 MW commissioned in 2012) and the Jirau (3,750 MW currently completing commissioning) Hydroelectric plants.
Present were representatives from the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), Agência Nacional de Energia Elétrica (ANEEL), Agência Nacional de Águas (ANA), Sistema de Proteção da Amazônia (SIPAM), Santo Antonio Energia, Energia Sustentável do Brasil S.A. (ESBR), Itaipu Binacional, Rondonia’s State Attorney, various engineering consultant company functionaries and academics from numerous national and international universities and research institutions. The meeting’s oral and poster sessions were an opportunity for researchers and engineers to present their most recent hydrosedimentological data and research. The oral sessions also provided a space to premiere some of the most recent advances in sedimentological observation and monitoring, covering everything from the use of satellites and drones for estimating surface sediment concentrations to improved long-term continuous sediment measurements and bathymetry/sub-surface material surveys.
The highlight of the particularly technical meeting, however, were the round table discussions. The main concerns manifested by the sedimentological network forum members and the audience was the need for better access to data and improving the continuity and density of the network. The serious lack of collaboration among private companies, consultants and educational and governmental institutions was highlighted when it comes to publicizing hydrosedimentological data and studies.
During the Amazonian frontier forum, representatives from ANEEL promised the arrival of new hydroelectric dams to the Amazon. Forum members and the audience exhibited their concern about large and small hydroelectric development and the lack of consideration for other sources of energy and local communities. Representatives from IBAMA insisted that social and environmental regulations and decisions be respected and upheld (such as the most recent Sao Luis decision). The representatives from IBAMA and ANEEL agreed that the most pressing challenges for the hydroelectric development in the Amazon are the social-environmental. PCE Engenharia consultants insisted that the sedimentation behind the Madeira Complex is being monitored and occurring as expected and that minimal sedimentation will be observed after 50 years due to high river velocities. The many failures of local compensation were also discussed. The meeting closed with the hope that persistently improving inter-institutional communication will produce actionable next steps for fair and sustainable development in the Amazon and Brazil.
For more information on the XII National Meeting of Sediments Engineering, hosted by the Sediments Engineering Commission of the Brazilian Association of Water Resources (CES/ABRH), see http://www.abrh.org.br/xiienes.