Controversial dam in the Amazon gets Brazilian go-ahead
December 11, 2007
The Brazilian government has awarded rights to build and operate a controversial R$10 billion hydroelectric power plant on the Madeira river in the Amazon rainforest near the border with Bolivia, according to FT.com.
The winning bid was from a consortium led by Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction and engineering firm, and Furnas, a power generation company.
The plant is expected to begin generating electricity in 2012 and produce 6,450 megawatts by the time it becomes fully operational in 2016.
A coalition of environmentalists, scientists, and indigenous groups say the project could be an ecological disaster. Researchers say the dams, which will flood 204 square miles, will release greenhouse gases from rotting vegetation and block important route for migratory fish, including some of the river’s largest catfish species. Environmentalists have warned that the project could bring soybean farmers, illegal gold miners and loggers to remote parts of the Amazon rainforest, increasing pressure on the biodiverse ecosystem.
“The project aims to transform the entire western Amazon, but the government is treating it as if it had only local impacts,” said Roberto Smeraldi of Friends of the Earth, Amazonia.
“The dams won’t cause problems only for us, but for all Brazilians who live off the fish from this river,” Amazon Watch writer Zachary Hurwitz quoted Domingos Parintintin, leader of the 400 remaining Parintintin, indigenous people who live in the Madeira river basin in southern Amazônia, as saying.