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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: This project seems very short sighted. It may be able to create some energy in the short term, but long term, usually the further it is removed from working with the natural environment, the less sustainable and more damaging it is. The Amazon is an area that is so precious to the global environment, that I feel as though it is something that should be very protected. There is so much in that forest that can be used, but we cannot get too greedy and shortsighted. I think that we should only take enough so that whatever we take can most likely be replenished in a reasonable amount of time. We must also be considerate of the indigenous people. It is their land and they know it in ways others cannot. They were raised on that land, it is their home. They probably know things that if we spoke with them and cooperated in a way that works for everyone, then we may be able to do a lot more good. We assume that we are right, that our way of life is better, but that seems presumptuous and ignorant of them.

    Just look at what has happened to other indigenous groups... such as the native americans and their home.

    We have to draw a line very soon and just say enough is enough. We have to live more sustainably and stop throwing away resources so selfishly. People say they are all for sustainability, but then they go ad drive SUVs that use finite forms of energy.

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