The True Costs of Belo Monte Dam Emerge

Date: 
Monday, October 12, 2009

Map of Area Directly Impacted by Belo Monte Dam
Map of Area Directly Impacted by Belo Monte Dam
from Belo Monte EIA
What would be the true environmental, social, and economic costs of Belo Monte Dam? New studies by a group of independent experts have highlighted the serious consequences the dam would have for the region, its inhabitants, and ecosystems of the Amazon rainforest.

Belo Monte, which with an installed generating capacity of 11,231 MW would be the world's third largest dam, and its complex array of two powerhouses, artificial canals, huge dykes, two reservoirs, spillways, ports, roads, and work camps would devastate more than 1,500 sq km of the Xingu River region of the central Brazilian Amazon.

The vast mosaic of indigenous reserves and protected areas of the Xingu would be in harm's way, and according to the experts, more than double the official figure of 19,000 people would likely have to moved to make way for the dam. A 100 km stretch of what is known as the "Big Bend" of the Xingu (number one on the map) would dry up when most of the Xingu's flow is diverted to the power house (casa de força).

Opposition has been growing since the first Xingu indigenous gathering in Altamira in 1989 and the second protest in 2008, and recently activists and community leaders met with President Lula to voice their concerns. Lula promised to review the project.

But, a strong police presence at recent public hearings on Belo Monte, and the government's insistence on offering the concession for Belo Monte by year's end have made it clear that Brazil is determined to push forward with the dam no matter what the cost.

The Belo Monte experts panel was convened to respond to the uncertainties facing local communities in the Xingu region. 40 specialists in diverse fields analyzed the project feasibility and environmental impact studies. Their conclusions were delivered to licensing authorities and public attorneys, and will be made accessible to the people of the Xingu in a simplified text.

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