EARTH DAY + X: THE BELO MONTE DAM PROJECT
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EARTH DAY + X: THE BELO MONTE DAM PROJECT

Florianópolis : Brazil | Apr 23, 2010 at 3:38 AM PDT
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The Xingu People Protest The Belo Monte Dam Project

1 day for the Earth, but all the rest for greed, corruption, and conspiracies.

This is from one of the greenest countries around. Brazil is in the forefront of environmental concerns as my friend Nathaniel writes in one of his Letters from Brazil. However, even in this Panacea of Greenness, greed and manipulation are in the forefront as well. As is exemplified by the Belo Monte Dam project.

Todd Southgate, an environmental film maker friend of mine was recently in the Amazon with a group that included James Cameron and Sigourney Weaver. Cameron and Weaver were in the Amazon with the environmental group Amazon Watch to raise concerns over the development of the Belo Monte dam project. A B-roll of their trip is provided courtesy of Amazon Watch.

On Todd's way home, he stopped by the local Brazilian-English pub. Over a few pints, he regaled us with how cool it was to work with Cameron, Weaver and everyone else that made the trek. He told us stories of the filming, the indigenous people, and the bug bites. The bug bites were infectious he said, at which point we all moved away from him.

He told us about the dam project:

The Brazilian government says the project would:

  • Be the third largest dam in the world.
  • Have capacity to produce 11 gigawatts of power.
  • The power would be used to help mine and process minerals.
  • Create Jobs.
  • Cost 11 billion dollars.
  • 500 square kilometers would be flooded.

Most Everyone else (agencies, the indigenous people, and many Brazilians) says

  • The dam will only be able to produce 10% of capacity during dry season.
  • And only 40% of capacity under normal conditions.
  • 15 tribes and 40,000 people would be displaced.
  • No one consulted the indigenous people.
  • No one studied the environmental impact on local species.
  • It has the possibility of destroying the ecosystem of the Amazon.

Around the time of Cameron's visit Federal Court Judge Antonio Carlos de Almeida Campelo suspended the license for the dam, saying the project presented "a danger of irreparable harm." He was overturned by a regional appellate court about a week after Cameron left and in time to allow the bidding on the project to go forward.

"A country that wants to be the fifth-biggest economy on the planet within the next decade... needs to think five years ahead, and that is why we are doing this," Brazilian President Lula told reporters. It would be nice, if he could look 10 years ahead to the devastation he is about to spearhead.

In case you think this is a case of tree huggers not getting their way, let me leave you with this:

The Brazilian government has plans to build more than 100 large dams in the Amazon Basin over the next 20 years. Many Brazilians believe that if Belo Monte is approved, it will represent a carte blanche for the destruction of all the magnificent rivers of the Amazon according to International Rivers

Update:

The auction proceeded as planned and a consortium of builders led by Chesf, a state-owned power company won the bid. One down, Only 99 more to go. It turns out that there were only two bidders. Everyone had dropped out because it was not economicaly feasable.

Happy Earth Day + X

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This video (portuguese) shows representitives of the tribes that will be displaced by the Belo Monte Dam Project organizing a protest. They invited government officials but none accepted the inivitation. Some of the leaders then went to the capital in Brazilia to protest. Again no government official showed, athough many were invited. For me the most poignent line in the video is when one of the women says "When the river dries we will die with it"
dr_emmanouil is based in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil, and is a Stringer on Allvoices.
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