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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: Should government construct dam as the energy source of Brazil? It is a hard question to answer because it can be seen from different perspectives. Just concentrate on the Environmental perspective, Brazil actually need a large amount of energy to develop industry, so does dam hydroelectricity really make a worse effect on environment than other forms of energy? Not actually, at least it is more clean than fossil fuels. However, it actually cause some negative effects on environment. So mitigation of the effect caused by dam is important. Moving the location of dam or just stopping construction is actually not a good option.

    According to researches, the most common mitigation measures taken in the US is to release more water from the reservoir then would be the case of the dam were operated only to maximize power or water storage. Another way is to control the temperature of water being released to keep the down stream temperature of the water at the normal temperature for the current time of year.
    For the question of who have rights to decide the dam construct or not, both of their suggestions need to be considered. Indigenous people have rights to protect their homelands but sometimes their ideas are one-sided and cannot consider overall impact. And governments have power to build dam, but consideration of effect on environment before is necessary.
    Although dam could make negative effects on biodiversity and species habitats, if comparing with other forms of energy, it is less detrimental and more efficient, we should choose it.

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