Brazil is facing heightened international scrutiny in response to continued expansion of mining and increasing numbers of mining dam disasters, including the one in late January 2019. New evidence suggests that the number of aging and potentially unsafe dams is shockingly high. A published late last year by the Brazilian Water Agency  found nearly 1,800 dams in Brazil at high or moderate risk of failure. Beyond the inordinate repair costs estimated at multiple thousands to millions of dollars, failing dam infrastructure poses a significant risk to life, property and the freshwater ecosystems upon which humans rely. Immediate action is needed to curb the real and eminent dangers associated with higher rates dam breaches seen in recent years.

A framework to inform decisions regarding infrastructure repair or removal in Brazil is noticeable absent. For this reason, we fear that Brazil is ill-prepared to navigate their aging dam crisis. Major challenges exist, including the lack of scientifically-defensible regulations and policies at both national and state levels, dam ownership and assignment conflicts, poor public engagement in decision-making, and questionable motivations in the current political climate.

Check out the article that we wrote for The Conversation.

– Julian Olden

AP Photo: Leo Correa