TED Conversations

Katrina Holcomb

student of biology, University of Oregon

This conversation is closed.

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]


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    May 14 2013: Dams are not the where all and end all of renewable energy. All things being considered, burning natural gas would have a lessor impact on the environment then damming most any river. Consider water flow and effects on recharging aquifers, size of storage pools, effects on wildlife, but the biggest waste of all is that dams are not usually near the consumption of power. About half of the power is lost every 500 miles of transmission.. Brazil is screwing up. All they need to do is see what has happened here in the USA by dams.
    • thumb
      May 15 2013: I think the sheer stupidity of what the Brazilian government is doing by allowing this dam to be built is a red flag that there are other matters at play here. As Juliana Ferreira somewhat mentioned earlier, the ecological and economical ramifications for building this dam are unbelievable. They are, which is why it in turn is unbelievable that any sane government would approve this dam. I am of the opinion that the Brazilian government, much like a large portion of the American government, is controlled by lobbyists and big corporations, because they provide the money. True, there is a net loss for the building of the dam for Brazil, but the energy corporation who runs it makes big bucks, part of which goes to the politicians who allowed it to be built.

      The solution here is not to try to make the Brazilian government realize that what they are doing is wrong, because they are far too corrupt to care, but this issue needs to be brought to the attention of the world so it can become an international political conflict. Only then will the Brazilian government be forced to back down.
    • thumb
      May 15 2013: Definitely. Brazil is in a unique position in that they have many viable options for alternative energy. But rather than going a less intrusive route, or even making a serious attempt at investing in energy efficiency at a fraction of the 18 billion or whatever dollar price tag, they have chosen a path that does incalculable damage.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.