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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 15 2013: The indigenous people definitely have the right to decide what happens to their ancestral homeland. The Brazilian government has no right to destroy homes, lives and biodiversity by creating the Belo Monte. As good as it sounds, the Belo Monte will increase renewable energy but is it worth the loss of biodiversity and the people of Brazil's lives? There must be another way to utilize the dam's water source to create renewable energy. These indigenous people will be left with no source of water, transport and food. How can the government be ok with this devastating consequences? Just as the video says, "The river is the life and blood of these people".
    What further consequences will the creation of this Belo Monte dam have on the environment? Pollution?
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      May 15 2013: At this point it seems like an inevitability for the dam to be made. I wanna know more about what they are actually doing for these people. They obviously are going to need a lot of help to move and get reacquainted in their new environment. I know this isnt the first time something like this has happened to indigenous people and I wanna know how they deal with this problem. What kind of reparations are in order?
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      May 15 2013: I, along with most people commenting would agree that the indigenous people should have a say in this massive dam project which would significantly change their homeland. While the dam would produce much needed renewable energy, as the video explained, reducing the current energy consumption by using more efficient lights would free up more than enough energy for the mines, which unfortunately could be a whole other topic on pollution and land destruction from mining. It would be great if funds could be raised to supply the area with energy efficient lights and educate people on other forms of renewable energy which would be less devastating to the natural ecosystems. If they continue building damns to support land destroying and polluting mines without say from indigenous people, much of the natural ecosystem will be forever changed.
      • May 15 2013: Ryan, where I 100% agree with you, and most people commenting on this post, that the Belo Monte damn is a bad idea I do not feel as if the videos idea of the simple fix being "efficiency with their energy". I feel as if that task is more complicated than it seems, first of all it did not specify what measures should be taken, nor did it mention how the country could pull off the switch. Over all I don't agree with the damn but I don't see the alternatives clearly enough...

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