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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: Usually, dam has multiple purposes such as storing water, generating energy, and preventing flood. However, this dam does not seem to have many other purposes but more likely only generating energy. In fact, the efficiency of electricity generation by dam is significantly low than other power source like thermal or nuclear. South Korea has built 15 multipurpose dam, but it only generates 1.7% total demand of electricity(In contrast, 17 thermal power plants generate more than 40% of electricity.) According to one government report in the South Korea, Building a dam is actually not a profit-making in long term perspective in terms of losing tourism and other possible uses of the nature.
    I think the better way is to build nuclear power plant(Well, green power generation like wind sounds wonderful, but the efficiency is not that good because of instability by seasonal and daily weather effects) by international fund + their own fund and conduct a research project how to develop this area to make better profit by tourism and other possible uses.
    Do not just say them " no dam, we save the amazon and indigenous people's homeland." It cannot convince the Brazil government.

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