TED Conversations

Katrina Holcomb

student of biology, University of Oregon

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Will the Belo Monte Dam project on the Amazon River cause more harm to the environment or will it be a good source of energy for Brazil?

The Amazon rainforest is an internationally recognized epicenter of biodiversity. Countless campaigns to stop the cutting and burning these rainforests have fallen on deaf ears. Now the Brazilian government plans to build what would be the world's 3rd largest dam [1] on the beautiful and ancient Amazon River. The Belo Monte project would span the Xingu River with 3 different dams: 233MW Pimental, 233MW Bela Vista, and 11,000MW Belo Monte. In addition, two artificial canals must be built to divert the river, which together will span more area than the Panama Canal.

These dams will have a myriad of negative impacts on the local environment. Construction of the dam will cause about 400-640 sq km land upstream to become flooded for a reservoir - an area equal to the size of Chicago. The town of Altamira will be flooded as well as countless acres that house the region's tribal populations. The impact on biodiversity includes 6-8 species of fish endemic to the Amazon River that will likely go extinct as well as a 2% decrease in the total forested area of the Amazon rainforest.

Organisms endangered by the construction of Belo Monte cannot verbalize their traumatic destruction of their ecosystem, but the indigenous people of the Amazon can; they are currently protesting the construction of the Belo Monte project through an "occupy" movement.

Belo Monte project is the first of many dam projects planned for the Brazilian portion of the Amazon River. Do these indigenous people have a right to decide what happens to their ancestral homeland? Or is the Brazilian government in the right by providing power for the majority of their country? Will the Belo Monte become the Belo "Muerte" dam (aka dam of death)?

Here's a 10 minute video that covers the impact the Belo Monte dam on the Amazon:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-seAAIsJLQ [1]

Related articles:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/apr/03/brazil-dam-activists-war-military [2]

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    May 14 2013: Before this TEDconversation i had no idea that this was going on in Brazil, which is shocking since this is a huge issue. From the research i have done on my own about it i haven't found a benefit to putting the Belo Monte Dam into the Amazon. With the evidence that has been provided to the government about the hundreds of negative affects this dam will cause not only the ecosystem but the local human population its hard to believe that the government is doing this for any other reason then big money. The power from these hydro plants will go to support the mining operations which will only cause more destruction to the Amazon. At the end of the youtube video they discussed all the affective ways the government could decrease there energy use, increase there renewable energy and create tons of jobs to stimulate the economy. This dam is a serious problem that needs to be focused on. Losing endemic species and land that helps local indigenous tribes will have devastating affects, that will have irreversible consequences.
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      May 14 2013: In one documentary they talk about the business investments that are driving the construction of the dam. This includes Brazil signing large contracts with foreign business suppliers for materials to build the Belo Monte project. The video also suggests that the pressure from international interests are a driving factor of why Brazil chose to build the dam instead of investing in other energy options. This documentary has a lot of interviews with the indigenous people including Chief Raoni Metuktire and his successor Megaron Txucarramãe. It's a full length movie, but very interesting.

      Here's a link for it on youtube:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoRhavupkfw
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      May 14 2013: I feel the same way, I never knew this was going on or heard anything about the Belo Monte Dam project until this discussion. It is scary how much control the government can have. It seriously blows my mind that this type of thing can even be considered when so many thousands of people will be removed from their homes, and homeland flooded or dried up, as well as all the impacts it is going to have on the environment. Money really is the source of all evil :(

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