Belo Monte location. Courtesy of Google Earth.
Construction on Brazil’s megadam, Belo Monte, has been halted again as around 150 demonstrators, most of them from nearby indigenous tribes, have occupied the main construction site at Pimental. Over a hundred indigenous people joined local fishermen who had been protesting the dam for 24 days straight. Indigenous people and local fishermen say the dam will devastate the Xingu River, upending their way of life.
“The renewed occupation of the project’s earthen cofferdams paralyzed construction works, while indigenous protestors seized the keys of trucks and tractors forcing workers to leave the strategic Pimental work camp on foot,” reads a press release from the NGO Amazon Watch. Around 900 workers were sent home.
This is the second occupation attempt in less than six months. Over the summer some 300 indigenous people sustained an occupation of the dam for 21 days, before breaking it off though little headway was made in talks with consortium building the dam, Norte Energia.
The Belo Monte dam, which would be the world’s third largest, has been plagued by controversy from its origin decades ago; the battle for the dam has been fought both in Brazil’s courts and on the international stage. If built, the dam will flood an estimated 40,000 hectares of present rainforest and could push some fish species to extinction. In addition, 16,000 people will be displaced according to the government, though some NGOs say the number is more likely double that.
Despite the impacts, the dam has been strongly supported by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, and every legal injunction against the dam has been overturned. Norte Energia has filed with a local court for repossession of the construction sties.
Indigenous groups say the construction of the dam is already imperiling their way of life, as the Xingu river becomes more difficult to navigate. They have also said they have no intention of leaving until Norte Energia meets their demands.
“We are witnessing the devastation of this land. The island of Pimental was completely destroyed, with a sole tree left standing, and the water is putrid. It is very shocking,” an protestor told Amazon Watch.
Dams are often described as ‘green’ energy source, however in the tropics they actually release significant methane emissions due to rotting vegetation. Although it has a shorter life than carbon, methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas.
(08/29/2012) Brazil’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered work on the controversial Belo Monte dam in the Amazon to resume, overturning a lower court order that suspended the project less than two weeks ago. Construction activities by the Norte Energia, the consortium building the dam, resumed immediately, according to the Associated Press.
(08/24/2012) Belo Monte dam developer Norte Energia, S.A. has stopped all work on the Belo Monte dam after receiving formal notification of the decision last week by the Brazilian Federal Appeals Court to suspend the project, reports International Rivers. Norte Energia said it would take ‘all available measures to reverse the decision.’
(07/12/2012) After occupying the construction site of the massive Belo Monte dam for 21 days, some 300 indigenous people have left and gone home. The representatives from nine Amazonian tribes abandoned their occupation after two days of meeting with the dam’s builder, the Norte Energia consortium.
(07/10/2012) Indigenous leaders from six Amazon tribes have asked the Brazilian government to immediately suspend the installation license for the controversial Belo Monte dam, reports Amazon Watch, an activist group that is campaigning against the project.
(06/26/2012) The Brazilian government is putting its global environmental leadership at risk by ignoring scientific concern on large infrastructure projects and changes in the country’s forest laws, warned an association of more than 1,200 tropical scientists gathering last week in Bonito, Brazil on the heels of the disappointing Rio+20 Earth Summit.
(06/25/2012) Brazil’s ambitious plans to build 30 dams in the Amazon basin could trump the country’s efforts to protect the world’s largest rainforest, said a leading Amazon scientist speaking at the annual meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) in Bonito, Brazil.
(06/20/2012) Nearly 1500 people formed a human banner on a beach in Rio de Janeiro today to protest plans to build dozens of dams in the Amazon basin, reports Amazon Watch, an NGO campaigning against Brazil’s controversial Belo Monte dam.
(06/16/2012) In an symbolic protest of the giant Belo Monte Dam, Friday morning some 300 locals dug a channel in an earthen dam that blocks a portion of the Xingu River and serves as the first step of the controversial hydroelectric project, reports Amazon Watch.
(05/27/2012) Tropical dams emit considerably more greenhouse gas emissions than their temperate counterparts yet are being treated as a solution to climate change, warns a report published in Nature Climate Change.