For the past thirty years, the Brazilian government and opposing organizations have gone head to head when it comes to the potential building of a massive dam. The project, called Belo Monte, has been unsuccessful in garnering support outside of the Brazilian government and numerous protests have led to delayed decisions regarding the dam.
However, Ibama, Brazil’s environment agency, recently gave the go-ahead for the Belo Monte project. The licenses approved will allow the beginning stages of the dam building, including clearing 600 acres of rainforest and building roads to the Xingu River, the location for the dam. The Xingu River is a tributary of the Amazon River.
If construction goes as planned, the dam will be 3.75 miles in length and will be the third largest of its kind in the world. The dam is expected to generate 11,000 megawatts of energy as well, a fact the Brazilian government hopes will sway people to support the project. The dam could be in operation by the year 2015 and will cost approximately $17 billion.
Major opposition to the dam includes dozens of environmental and conservation organizations and groups for the people who would be displaced by the dam. The dam will cause upwards of 40,000 individuals in the region of the dam building to be displaced.
In addition, the dam will cause a 62-mile stretch of the Xingu River to dry up partially. 100,000 acres of rainforest are expected to be flooded by the project, an area approximately three times the size of Washington, D.C.. Such flooding will do massive damage to the ecosystem and to the human and nonhuman inhabitants in the region.
A state prosecutor, Felicio Pontes, has put in an appeal to the Brazilian government in order to try and stop the dam. Pontes stated: “Due to decisions like this, we can say today, [Ibama] is the author of the worst offense against the environment in the Amazon.”
The Brazilian government has countered the opposition they are facing by pointing to their plans for spending regarding both displaced peoples and the environment. The government is expected to spend additional millions for such projects.