Anger as Amazon Mega Dam Gets Green Light

After years of fierce opposition and heated debates, the Brazilian government won the arm wrestling contest and is pushing ahead with the building of the Belo Monte Dam. The dam is expected to generate 11,200 MW of hydroelectric power when it’s completed in 2019 and will cost US$11 billion.

The news was received with dismay by environmentalists and indigenous people. “This is a tragic day for the Amazon,” said Atossa Soltani, an executive director at Amazon Watch.

International Rivers also condemned the move. It said the government pressed ahead with the project “despite egregious disregard for human rights and environmental legislation, the unwavering protests of civil society, condemnations by its Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office (MPF) and the request for precautionary measures by the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The license was granted by Brazil’s environmental agency IBAMA despite overwhelming evidence that the dam-building consortium Norte Energia (NESA) has failed to comply with dozens of social and environmental conditions required for an installation license.”

The Belo Monte Dam Complex will divert nearly the entire flow of the Xingu River along a 62-mile stretch. 120,000 acres of rainforest and settlements will be flooded and more 40,000 people will be displaced. International Rivers says it will generate a vast quantity of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.

The Brazilian government yesterday said in a note to the press that “planning and licensing has been designed to both maximize the benefits of a new power source in Brazil’s clean energy grid and reduce the social and environmental impact of construction.”

It announced the launch of initiatives to promote social services to local communities and investment in the region, including a permanent 500-meter area of preservation in the vicinity of the reservoirs. Norte Energia, Belo Monte’s licence holder, is expected to invest US$62.7 million in conservation units at the basin of the Xingu River.

Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.

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