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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 Clarissa said earlier "Save the rainforest" is a common phrase in the mainstream. So why do so few people know of the Belo Monte Dam project? The immediate loss of species in the river due to the restriction of access to breeding grounds and their natural range of habitat is a huge issue not to mention the loss of organism (plant, animal, fungus, bacteria, etc.) due to the flooding of the rainforest. Biodiversity is so dense in the Amazon that even 2% of its loss is detrimental to the surrounding area. With the new reservoir that will be filled in place of the forest the ecosystem will change. Areas around the new reservoir will also be dictated by a water environment. This will impact the type of plants and animals that can live in proximity to the reservoir. The high methane emissions of the reservoir will further this dictation. Organisms that are able to inhabit the area will have to be able to withstand the temperature increase, due to the release of methane, that will likely occur quickly in the immediate area.More and more we see humans making decisions at the detriment of other humans and the organisms they depend on.
    Currently there are many dams being proposed in the Mekong region of Southeast Asia. The region is susceptible to climate change which is impacting its agriculture and fishing (the Mekong River is the most productive freshwater fishery in the world). Dams would be a further stress on this region's ability to sustain people from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam which rely heavily on the river for their livelihoods.

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      May 14 2013: Paige, you bring up some great points. I think this is a case of people caring more about the money they're going to make off of the dam rather than the people and the area that are going to be affected.

      A similar issue is happening in china with there Three Gorges Dam. The building of this dam forced many people out of there homes, and threatened multiple plant and animal species. Currently the dam is causing landslides and endangering not only the people that live below but is also causing a decline in biodiversity.

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      May 15 2013: to answer your first question you bring up about why people haven't heard about this, people become desensitized to issues quite easily. This especially true when they don't see/recognize signs of the issue. Media further panders to what people want to see and when people have become desensitized, they stop/reduce the coverage of said topic. So, it follows that a subject like this would only spread in circles already well invested in the subject

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