Pictures: Destruction of the Amazon's Xingu River begins for Belo Monte Dam

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
April 18, 2012



Aerial photo of the construction of a canal for the Belo Monte Dam project, near Altamira. Photo by © Greenpeace/Daniel Beltra.
Aerial photo of the construction of a canal for the Belo Monte Dam project, near Altamira. Photo by © Greenpeace/Daniel Beltra.

The Xingu River will never be the same. Construction of Belo Monte Dam has begun in the Brazilian Amazon, as shown by these photos taken by Greenpeace, some of the first images of the hugely controversial project.

Indigenous groups have opposed the dam vigorously for decades, fearing that it will upend their way of life. Environmentalists warn that the impacts of the dam—deforestation, methane emissions, and an irreparable changes to the Xingu River's ecosystem—far outweigh any benefits. The dam, which would be the world's third largest, is expected to displace 16,000 people according to the government, although some NGOs put the number at 40,000. The dam will flood over 40,000 hectares of pristine rainforest, an area about seven times the size of Manhattan.

The $11-17 billion Belo Monte dam has been aggressively pushed by the Brazilian government, which argues the dam is necessary to keep up economic growth in the country. The dam would provide energy to 23 million homes, yet during three to four months of the year the dam will only run 10-30 percent capacity due to low waters, an issue that climate change may exacerbate.

Construction of the Belo Monte Dam project, near Altamira. Photo by © Greenpeace/Daniel Beltra.
Construction of the Belo Monte Dam project, near Altamira. Photo by © Greenpeace/Daniel Beltra.

While dams are largely touted as clean energy, this is not true in every case. Dams, especially in the tropics, release significant methane emissions due to rotting vegetation in the reservoir. A recent study found that a dam in Laos was still emitting methane a decade after construction.

The Belo Monte dam has faced an endless stream of legal challenges; while construction has been halted a number of times by judges, their decisions have always been overturned.

A chain of massive dams are currently planned throughout the Brazilian Amazon. But to date Belo Monte has faced the fiercest resistance: 600,000 people from around the world signed a petition for the government of Brazil to pull the project.

This summer Brazil is hosting the Rio +20 Summit, marking two decades after the landmark Earth Rio Summit in 1992; the meeting is touted as "conference on sustainable development."

Construction of the Belo Monte Dam project, near Altamira. Photo by © Greenpeace/Daniel Beltra.
Construction of the Belo Monte Dam project, near Altamira. Photo by © Greenpeace/Daniel Beltra.



Construction of a canal for the Belo Monte Dam project, near Altamira. Photo by © Greenpeace/Daniel Beltra.
Construction of a canal for the Belo Monte Dam project, near Altamira. Photo by © Greenpeace/Daniel Beltra.



Construction site of the Belo Monte Dam and hydropower project, near Altamira. Photo by © Greenpeace/Marizilda Cruppe.
Construction site of the Belo Monte Dam and hydropower project, near Altamira. Photo by © Greenpeace/Marizilda Cruppe.



Construction site of the Belo Monte Dam and hydropower project, near Altamira. Photo by © Greenpeace/Marizilda Cruppe.
Construction site of the Belo Monte Dam and hydropower project, near Altamira. Photo by © Greenpeace/Marizilda Cruppe.



Construction of the Belo Monte Dam project, near Altamira. Photo by © Greenpeace/Marizilda Cruppe.
Construction of the Belo Monte Dam project, near Altamira. Photo by © Greenpeace/Marizilda Cruppe.



Construction of a canal for the Belo Monte Dam project, near Altamira. Photo by © Greenpeace/Daniel Beltra.
Construction of a canal for the Belo Monte Dam project, near Altamira. Photo by © Greenpeace/Daniel Beltra.



Amazon rainforest during the rainy season in the area of the controversial Belo Monte hydropower plant. Photo by © Greenpeace/Daniel Beltra.
Amazon rainforest during the rainy season in the area of the controversial Belo Monte hydropower plant. Photo by © Greenpeace/Daniel Beltra.



The Invasão dos Padres neighborhood in the Brazilian city of Altamira would suffer from the construction of the nearby Belo Monte Dam project. Photo by © Greenpeace/Marizilda Cruppe.
The Invasão dos Padres neighborhood in the Brazilian city of Altamira would suffer from the construction of the nearby Belo Monte Dam project. Photo by © Greenpeace/Marizilda Cruppe.















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CITATION:
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (April 18, 2012).

Pictures: Destruction of the Amazon's Xingu River begins for Belo Monte Dam.

http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0418-hance_belomonte_photos.html