February 3, 2011

Rainforest and Communities Threatened by Massive Brazilian Dam

At the end of January the Brazilian government granted the consortium Norte Energia to begin building a giant hydro-electric dam at Belo Monte in the Amazon rainforest. The project has been heavily criticised for predicted social and environmental impacts, particularly the displacement of and impact on indigenous communities. Many critics also claim that the licence has been granted with disregardof Brazil’s own legal procedures and some worry about its long term financial viability. Others claim that the dam will be among the country’s worst ever mega engineering projects.

According to the campaigning NGO International Rivers, Norte Energia have failed to meet the environmental conditions they legally require to gain a licence and even Brazil’s Federal Public Prosecutor is presently filing it’s tenth legal case against the construction of Belo Monte dam.

This is a complex issue for the new President – Dilma Rousseff – to have to deal with so soon after taking office, with mainstream media personalities, environmentalists, indigenous rights campaigners and even economists making their voices heard against the scheme.

Megahydro electric dam construction reached a peak in the 1970s, but tailed off by the 1990s, mainly because of growing worldwide concern over their negative and often unpredictable social and environmental impacts. Formed in 1998, the World Commission on Dams report, published in 2000, found that “large dams have had serious impacts on the lives, livelihoods, cultures and spiritual existence of indigenous and tribal peoples.”



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