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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: I definitely believe that the construction of the Belo Monte dam project will do much more harm than good for the Amazon River Basin. It was already stated earlier how energy inefficient the dam would be, but in order for this dam to provide a year round water supply, multiple other dams upstream of Belo Monte would have to be constructed. One of the other sad facts about this project is that a lot of the energy produced by this dam will be going straight to mining. Another by product of the Brazilian governments need to produce more hydroelectric power for their mining needs is the amount of deforestation that is currently occurring. The Brazilian research institute IMAZON conducted a study in 2010 stating that the amount of indirect deforestation stemming from the Belo Monte is over 5000 km2. Not only would this decrease biodiversity and possibly threaten multiple species, but it will also cause the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere to rise. This number is also expected to rise from the large amount of people migrating to the area to find work with the project, who will settle in forested areas potentially causing widespread deforestation by illegal logging and cattle ranching. Another issue caused by the increased migration to the project area is the doubling of violent crime, such as murder, child prostitution, and drug use. The construction of these dams are not only affecting biodiversity of the area, but they are causing many human rights violations that are being ignored by the Brazilian government.


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