By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Leader of Indigenous Tribe Voices Displeasure During Meeting of Commission of Human Rights of the Federal Senate in Brasilia (Photo Courtesy of The Washington Post)

 BRASILIA, Brazil – Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva recently signed a contract allowing the construction of a controversial dam to begin.  The Belo Monte mega dam, as it is being called, is set to be built on the Amazonian Xingu River.  President Lula championed the dam under the guise that it will be a victory for Brazil’s energy sector and the Brazilian government claims that the project will create 20,000 jobs.  Critics contend that, in all likelihood, the dam will devastate the area and cause the demise of the local government and indigenous peoples.

Walter Coronado Antunes, former Environment Secretary of São Paulo state, has called the dam “the worst engineering project in the history of hydroelectric dams in Brazil, and perhaps of any engineering project in the world,” in response to the many design flaws of the project.

The buildup to this move has been wrought with controversy and legal action from the area’s indigenous peoples and human rights groups.  The bidding process was interrupted three times by legal action by different groups, including the Brazilian Federal Public Prosecutors Office, who object to the dam.  Hundreds of Indians are currently protesting, joined by experts, human rights groups, environmental organizations, and Brazil’s Public Ministry, against the Belo Monte dam.

Set to be the world’s third largest hydroelectric dam, Belo Monte is projected to flood 154 square miles and will permanently dry up a 62-mile section of the Xingu River, leaving the indigenous communities along the banks without water transportation and the food provided by the river, according to International Rivers, a California-based NGO.  Initial numbers project that the dam will affect 50,000 peoples’ lives, including displacing at least 20,000 people from the region.

The indigenous peoples have warned that the creation of this dam could start a war between the Brazilian government and the local Indians.

Critics fear that this project sets a dangerous precedent and more dams will follow Belo Monte.  These critics also say that the power needed for Brazil’s economic growth could be greatly reduced by less invasive measures, including investing in energy saving techniques.

The dam is scheduled to begin operating in 2015.  It will generate enough power to supply 23 million homes in Brazil.

For more information, please see:

The Epoch Times – Brazilian Government Signs Huge Amazon Dam Project – 27 August 2010

Radio New Zealand News – Massive Hydro Electric Dam Approved For Brazil – 27 August 2010

Survival International – Brazilian President Signs Death Sentence for Amazonian River – 27 August 2010

Survival International – Serious Damage: Tribal Peoples and Large Dams Report – 2010

Author: Impunity Watch Archive