Guaíra Falls: A Natural Wonder Flooded By An Artificial Lake

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Just twenty kilometres north of the spectacular Iguazu Falls, along the border between Brazil and Paraguay, was another natural wonder even more spectacular than the Iguazu. The so called Guaíra Falls or Seven Falls (Sete Quedas in Portuguese) was a series of 18 immense waterfalls on the Paraná River located at a point where the river was forced through a narrow gorge. At the head of the falls, the river narrowed abruptly from a width of about 380 meters to 60 meters, creating one of the most powerful waterfalls on earth with a flow rate twice that of the Niagara Falls. The churning water created a deafening noise that could be heard from 30 km away. For many year, it was a tourist attraction and a favourite among the locals, until 1982 when the Brazilian military blew away the rocks over which the water fell to create a reservoir for the newly constructed Itaipu Dam.

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The Itaipu Dam is the largest operating hydroelectric plant in terms of annual energy generation, generating close to 100 TWh of power each year, that accounts for 75% of the electricity consumed by Paraguay and 17% of that consumed by Brazil. To build such a massive dam some sacrifices had to be made, and one of them was to flood the Guaíra Falls.

Months before the great flood, thousands of tourists flocked to the area to see the falls for the last time. When a group of enthusiastic tourists walked over a poorly maintained suspended footbridge, it collapsed under the weight resulting in the death of 80 people.

As the waters began to rise, hundreds of people gathered to participate in a guarup, an indigenous ritual in memory of the falls. The inundation took only 14 days, occurring during the rainy season when the level of the Paraná River was high. By October 27, 1982, the reservoir was fully formed and the falls had vanished. The Brazilian government later dynamited the submerged rock face of the falls, to promote safer navigation on the river.

The director of the company that built the dam, later issued a statement saying, "We're not destroying Seven Falls. We're just going to transfer it to Itaipu Dam, whose spillway will be a substitute for [the falls'] beauty".

Also see: Lake Reschensee and the Drowned Village of Graun and The Thousand Island Lake and Ancient Submerged Cities

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Guaíra Falls, after the are was flooded. Photo credit

Sources: Wikipedia / Newtown News / Britannica

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6 comments:

  1. Sad that I'll never see the falls.

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  2. but some photos here are Iguazu Falls, not guera Falls :))

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  3. It's really sad to miss the most powerful waterfall on Earth

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  4. So glad they pursued sustainable energy rather than fossil fuel based or nuclear. Finally a county doing it right.

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  5. Wilful destruction of one of the worlds wonders.

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  6. First of all, congratulations for being one of the few websites telling this history. As a matter of fact, a very sad one. I'm Brazilian and I had the opportunity to visit the Itaipu Dam. I could see how many people were engaged protecting the flora and fauna when the dam was built and how they have been doing a continuous effort to mitigate the environmental impacts. Even knowing the impacts, the hydroelectric power is one of the most environmental-friendly technologies used nowadays and the Brazil produces more than 50% of its energy from that source. Another highlight is how far one dam like Itaipu can operate in a high level (month after month Itaipu reaches productivity records) unlike the renewables technologies that we have been using. I'm studying to develop better ways to generate electrical power and I hope that in the future we can provide energy with a minimum impact to the nature to avoid histories like this.

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