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.
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".
Guaíra Falls, after the are was flooded. Photo credit
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