News / 4 February 2011

Brazilian government says yes to the construction of the Belo Monte Dam

Despite vehement protests from the local community and the ban from the federal government of the state Pará, on 26 Januari 2011 the Brazilian government gave its assent to the construction of the Belo Monte Dam in the River Xingu.


By only issuing a partial permit, which allows energy company NESA to start building roads, the Brazilian government circumvents the decision of the state where the dam was planned. The state Pará prohibited NESA to build the dam, because practically no environmental regulation was complied with. NESA also had no regard whatsoever for the consequences for the local communities.


Brazilian human rights organisations and action committees have joined forces to hand in a petition at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). In this petition they stress the violation of the human rights of over 20.000 people living on the riverbanks. They will be greatly affected by the construction of the dam and they'll be forced to leave the area. For the construction of the roads, at least 100.000 hectares of rainforest will be deforested, causing a serious disruption of the ecological balance. Rare fish species, which only live in the River Xingu, are threatened with distinction. Organisations from all over the world are called on to sign this petition and get the Brazilian government to reverse this decision.


The organisation International Rivers, which cooperates with Both ENDS and Friends of the Earth, did research into the financial risks of building the dam. According to the report "Mega-Project, Mega Risk: Analysis of Risks for Investors in the Belo Monte hydroelectric Complex", investors like the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDS), private banks and pension funds run an enormous risk with this project for a number of reasons. In the driest months of the year, insufficient water flows through the river to generate energy. There probably will be even less water in the future due to climate change. The eventual costs of the project are unclear, because of insufficient research. For the time being, the costs for the construction of the dam have been estimated at 12 to 20 billion dollars, to be paid for in part through Brazilian tax money. It remains to be seen how much the dam will yield the Brazilian people, if anything.


Antonia Melo, leader of and spokesperson for the Xingu Alive Forever Movement (MXVPS) says: "To us, the permit for the construction of the Belo Monte Dam is a sign that the government wants to assert and strengthen its authority. The national government passes over the federal legislation, and violates human rights. A large part of the Amazone area will be destroyed irredeemably."

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