Brazil judge blocks Amazon Belo Monte dam

A Brazilian judge has blocked plans to build a huge hydro-electric dam in the Amazon rainforest because of environmental concerns.

Federal judge Ronaldo Desterro said environmental requirements to build the Belo Monte dam had not been met.

He also barred the national development bank, BNDES, from funding the project.

The dam is a cornerstone of President Dilma Rousseff’s plans to upgrade Brazil’s energy infrastructure.

But it has faced protests and challenges from environmentalists and local indigenous groups who say it will harm the world’s largest tropical rainforest and displace tens of thousands of people.

Judge Desterro said the Brazilian environmental agency, Ibama, had approved the project without ensuring that 29 environmental conditions had been met.

In particular, he said concerns that the dam would disrupt the flow of the Xingu river – one of the Amazon’s main tributaries – had not been met.

His ruling is the latest stage in a long legal battle over Belo Monte. Previous injunctions blocking construction have been overturned.

The government says the Belo Monte dam is crucial for development and will create jobs, as well as provide electricity to 23 million homes.

The 11,000-megawatt dam would be the biggest in the world after the Three Gorges in China and Itaipu, which is jointly run by Brazil and Paraguay.

It has long been a source of controversy, with bidding halted three times before the state-owned Companhia Hidro Eletrica do Sao Francisco was awarded the contract last year.

Celebrities such as the singer Sting and film director James Cameron have joined environmentalists in their campaign against the project.

They say the 6km (3.7 miles) dam will threaten the survival of a number of indigenous groups and could make some 50,000 people homeless, as 500 sq km (190 sq miles) of land would be flooded.

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2 Comments

  • Jennifer 5 years ago

    Excellent article about development induced displacement

    The World Bank estimates that forcible “development-induced displacement and resettlement” now affects 10 million people per year. According to the World Bank an estimated 33 million people have been displaced by development projects such as dams, urban development and irrigation canals in India alone.

    India is well ahead in this respect. A country with as many as over 3600 large dams within its belt can never be the exceptional case regarding displacement. The number of development induced displacement is higher than the conflict induced displacement in India. According to Bogumil Terminski an estimated more than 10 million people have been displaced by development each year.

    Athough the exact number of development-induced displaced people (DIDPs) is difficult to know, estimates are that in the last decade 90–100 million people have been displaced by urban, irrigation and power projects alone, with the number of people displaced by urban development becoming greater than those displaced by large infrastructure projects (such as dams). DIDPs outnumber refugees, with the added problem that their plight is often more concealed.

    This is what experts have termed “development-induced displacement.” According to Michael Cernea, a World Bank analyst, the causes of development-induced displacement include water supply (dams, reservoirs, irrigation); urban infrastructure; transportation (roads, highways, canals); energy (mining, power plants, oil exploration and extraction, pipelines); agricultural expansion; parks and forest reserves; and population redistribution schemes.

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