Arguably the most opposed dam project in the world received the go-ahead this week, reports the BBC. Brazil’s environmental agency, IBAMA, has approved the first step of the massive hydroelectric project: clearing 588 acres of rainforest in the Amazon, although the dam would flood nearly 200 square miles (500 square kilometers) of forest.
Built on the Xingu River, indigenous rights groups say 50,000 people will be impacted and many will likely have to move after losing their livelihoods. Meanwhile environmentalists warn the dam will release massive amounts of the potent greenhouse gas methane due to rotting vegetation and disrupt fish migrations.
Just two weeks ago it was reported that the president of IBAMA, Abelardo Bayma Azevedo, had resigned due to pressure to approve the Belo Monte dam despite environmental concerns.
The Brazilian government argues that the dam, which was originally proposed in the 1970s under a military dictatorship, is necessary for increasing energy demands in the country. The 11 to 17 billion dollar 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.
Licenses have not yet been granted for the dam’s construction and the BBC reports that continued litigation against the dam is expected.
(01/14/2011) The president of Brazil’s environmental agency IBAMA has resigned over pressure to grant a license for the Belo Monte dam, a hydroelectric project on the Xingu River that faces strong opposition from environmental groups and indigenous tribes, reports O Globo.
(11/11/2010) The struggle against Brazil’s Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River continues as today indigenous groups sent a formal petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to suspend the dam’s construction, stating the dam violates human rights. The dam, which has been contentious in Brazil for decades, would flood 500 square miles of rainforest, lead to the removal of at least 12,000 people in the region, and upturn the lives of 45,000 indigenous people who depend on the Xingu River for survival.
(08/30/2010) The decision last week by the Brazilian government to move forward on the $17 billion Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu river will set in motion a plan to build more than 100 dams across the Amazon basin, potentially turning tributaries of the world’s largest river into ‘an endless series of stagnant reservoirs’, says a new short film released by Amazon Watch and International Rivers.