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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: As the video shows, the biodiversity in Amazon would be altered tremendously due to the environmental changes, and the impacts would be miserable as predicted.I think that the Brazilian government does not have a right to build a dam although they need to provide the demanding electricity to the country. They have another option that would be more eco-friendly and not disturb the beautiful rainforest. It is not only the Brazilian government including us as an individual. We as an organism live in this ecosystem with other organism, symbiotic. We share the earth with other species, but we think we are the higher organism who can do whatever we want, so sad.
    It is not the only problem in Brazil that there are many countries with a large dams. There is a paper which shows the impacts of dams on biodiversity.It reported that "about 60% of the world's river flow is regulated with more than 40,000 large dams and more than 100 dams with heights >150m. Reservoirs cover a total area in excess of 500,000 km^2 (1)." This led many fresh-water fish species extinction already and threats many species including terrestrial species. Robert Costanza's study also shows that the value of the world's ecosystem services and natural capital was estimated $16-54 trillion per year with an average of $33 trillion per year where the global gross national product total is around $18 trillion per year (2). However, this paper was published in 1997.
    (2) http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CDYQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.esd.ornl.gov%2Fbenefits_conference%2Fnature_paper.pdf&ei=JXySUbz8PIqniALgtIDoAw&usg=AFQjCNFNrZ6_QxiFR8fr5agQ2TNZKUfAOA&sig2=ZbxRm8Wodzs71SkLom1ePQ&bvm=bv.46471029,d.cGE

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