Controversy Continues on Amazon Dam Project

by Antonio Pasolini on February 24, 2011

Still from video of protest against Belo Monte in Brasilia

Belo Monte, the $10bn mega dam the Brazilian government wants to build in the Amazon, continues on its controversial path, including legal suits and protests against it.

The idea for Belo Monte goes back 30 years when the country was still under a military dictatorship, but local resistance so far has prevented it from materializing.

One of the latest events concerning the Belo Monte saga was Bertin group leaving the project last week. Government officials are now working behind closed doors to replace the group with another contractor, according to national media reports. The government wants Belo Monte ready by 2015.

Belo Monte is part of the government’s development program but it’s vehemently opposed by environmentalists and indigenous groups who say the project will destroy the region. A couple of weeks a group protesters gathered in Brasilia to protest against Belo Monte, attracting coverage in the national media.

Last week Maurício Tolmasquim, president of Brazil’s Energy Research Company, defended the project during a conference call with foreign and Brazilian journalists.

“No indigenous land surrounding the area of the project will be flooded. No indigenous community will be moved out of their land”, he said.

In relation to the criticism that the average generation of energy will be only 40 per cent, Mr. Tolmasquim said that in Europe the average is 35 per cent to 40 per cent while in Brazil the average is 55 per cent.

He said 70% of the energy from Belo Monte will go to utility companies, while the remaining 30% will go to various industries, which includes mining companies that operate in the Amazon state of Pará.

In relation to methane emissions, he said the plant doesn’t have a reservoir because it is a runoff river power plant and all vegetation will be removed from the reservoir canals.

Mr. Tolmasquim admitted that the judicial power will have the final word. The future of the Belo Monte project will depend on what the law will decide on the ongoing lawsuits from public prosecutors.

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