Engineering Earth pp 1599-1615 | Cite as

Water Worth Gold: The Itaipú Hydroelectric Project1

  • Melissa H. Birch
  • Nicolas Quintana Ashwell


This paper describes the circumstances that lead to the construction of the Itaipú hydroelectric facility and the creation of a bi-national entity to manage its construction and operation. We drawn on the standards suggested by the World Commission on Dams (2000) to assess the impact of the construction and operation of Itaipú on the affected populations and geography of Brazil and Paraguay. The paper highlights the magnitude of the enterprise in both absolute and relative terms, and discusses the asymmetry of bargaining power between the national partners. An analysis of the benefits derived from Itaipú that have accrued to both countries over the last twenty years, including the revenue stream from royalties and the sale of power, is presented. We conclude that the re-opening of negotiations on the price of power, in the current context of democratic governments in both countries, holds the promise of providing a more equitable distribution of costs and benefits.


World Commission Brazilian Government Hydroelectric Project Construction Firm Civil Work 
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Financial support for this research from the US Department of Education is gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER)University of KansasLawrenceUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA

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