Conservation efforts, including development investments planning and mitigation, should be commensurate with the immense size of the Amazon Basin. In the case of the Amazon accumulative impacts can be manifested thousands of kilometers downstream from the Andes to the Atlantic and from near Brasília in the heart of Brazil to Belém near the Amazon River mouth.
The Amazon Waters Initiative is launching the “upstream-downstream” framework – integrated river basin management (IRBM) – that can conceptually be used to achieve adequate scale in conservation, development investments planning, and environment mitigation.
River basins are the most natural geographical units in the Amazon and local peoples have long based their mental geography on them as much as on political units. The Amazon Waters Initiative has developed a new river basin classification that complements those presently in use by the National Water Agencies/Authorities. It can be used to map ecological phenomena such as fisheries, fish migrations and water types across the Basin in a scalable manner, ranging from very small basins drained by tiny streams to large sub-basins such as the Ucayali, Negro and Madeira, to finally the entire Amazon Basin. The river basin classification can also be used to quantitatively define the areas that should be considered when planning such activities as fisheries and wetlands management; planning development investments including transportation and energy infrastructure, extractive industries, and agriculture; developing impact assessments for infrastructure and defining mitigation strategies based on the realistic scale of impacts.