Saturday, February 26th 2011 - 06:02 UTC

Brazilian judge blocks plans to build world’s third largest dam in the Amazon

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.

The Belo Monte should provide electricity to 23 million homes

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 dam will threaten the survival of a number of indigenous groups and could make some 50,000 people homeless, as 500 sq km of land would be flooded.

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1 GeoffWard (#) Feb 26th, 2011 - 10:29 am Report abuse
Judge Desrerro said ...... '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.'

This is power-politics designed to cut Dilma down to size.

Of course a hydroelectric dam disrupts the flow of a river - that's what it is designed to do!
Diversion, impoundment and controlled release are what hydroelectric dams do.

This is a tactic to screw even more concessions out of the federal budget to travel through the pockets of local politicians and leaders, with some of it actually reaching the individuals whose life and lifestyle will change as services reach these outlying communities.
2 Duglas (#) Feb 26th, 2011 - 10:29 am Report abuse
My God. Run this guy for president.
The first honest, intelligent judge in the history of Latin America !
He'd better watch out tho....Dilm'as might put on her old fatigues and go stalking ! ;-)~
3 Forgetit87 (#) Feb 26th, 2011 - 10:34 am Report abuse
He should be elected president because he doesn't understand that there's a need to expand energy production capacity and because he puts questionable environmental concerns above people's need for income and jobs?
4 Duglas (#) Feb 26th, 2011 - 02:14 pm Report abuse
I suppose he knows about the newly built windmill farm and it's relative success and can see that it's a viable solution. They also make new tidal driven turbines that are another option. There are also micro systems that are far more efficient than anything out there that are a viable alternative that negate, or drastically minimise, the need of giant damming.. I'm working on a little 4 inch rig right now that'll do 150 KW and handle about 40 Costa Rican style houses and have zero effect on my river. Yeah. I understand millions of homes but I also understand the damage done from damming a river.There are other ways.
My guess is that the fatcats are speculating real estate on the edges of the new lake just like the clowns here in CR and their new Reventazon project.
5 rylang23 (#) Feb 26th, 2011 - 06:07 pm Report abuse
Forgetit87... what part of the huge environmental damage that large dams inflict are you not aware of? The documentation of such damage is beyond question. Douglas is correct. Decentralized, small wind, solar, and micro-hydro systems are the only way to go. The large dam projects create huge profits for the construction company owners and stockholders, while wreaking damage, chaos and destruction on the local communities. Please, Forgetit87, do some research on this before you advocate for another economic and environmental disaster.
6 Fido Dido (#) Feb 26th, 2011 - 07:51 pm Report abuse
Ignore those hypocrite left wing tree hugger's, mainly from the USA. Geotward is typical clown like that. They go foreign countries, really believe they know it all (while their education is banana), and act like experts. If they don't build the Belo Monte (what they should do), Brazil should build more nuclear plants.
7 Forgetit87 (#) Feb 26th, 2011 - 08:23 pm Report abuse

Of this matter - of how different kinds of energy production methods compare in economic and environmental efficiency - I admit that I have little knowledge or interest. So I'm not going to do research about that - and this is in part because I know that not all one finds on the internet and other sources about the subject is true: I know that there's misinformation and distorted data about the matter, and this not only by energy corporations but also by the NGOs that fight them.

What I do know is that Brazil already has a restrictive environmental legislation - restrictive enough so as to put pressure on economic dynamism. Costs of production are high in here, and this not only because of an extensive bureaucracy - an issue everyone talks about - but also in part because of environmental restrictions - an issue nobody mentions.

Some of your objections to the project I find hard to understand. That construction firms would benefit from the deal is not a reason to block it. From the construction of wind mill farms, wouldn't there be corporate lucre, too? If Belo Monte dam is to be built - and that this will happen I have no doubt - at least national players will be the ones to benefit: Eletrobrás (a state-owned energy company) and local firms. If one opted for wind energy (to give an example), production would have to be outsourced to foreign private enterprises, and they would be the ones to benefit from the deal.

And of course, those evil constructors won't be the only ones that would profit from the deal. It's not their board of directors who will build the project - job will be offered and workers will be contracted for that: people for whom there's no better perspective to increase their incomes for the short-term but to work in this kind of job. And to operate the dam more jobs will have to be offered.
8 rylang23 (#) Feb 26th, 2011 - 09:50 pm Report abuse
Fido & Forget... The point we “tree huggers” are trying to make for you is that the damage done by ANY mega project is NEVER worth the initial cost nor the stated benefits. The “real” costs will grow slowly over time to become fiscal and environmental disasters. These mega projects have short term political and economic benefits, but are just ticking time bombs for the countries who build them.

The Belo Monte dam is projected (read minimum) to cost $17B US. That would allow every home of the 23M homes it is projected to serve with $740 for their own systems. With the economies of scale of this amount of money, it is very doable to provide adequate solar electricity and solar hot water. AND... wait for it... NO FUTURE ELECTRICITY BILLS!!!!! Do you get that! No environmental damage! No people displaced! No future bills! Please explain to us tree huggers the problems with this approach.

Mega projects favor mega companies, when what is needed to truly help local economies is local small businesses selling and installing the energy systems; and to fund such an endeavor on a nation wide basis. This kind of action seeds the decentralization of energy as well as jobs. I mean... if you think about it, this is a no brainer.

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