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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: Brazil is in dire straits right now to compete on aninternational level with the other developed nations of the world. They need to generate revenue for their goals, and unfortunately mining appears to be a good answer to their problems. The massive amount of raw iron, copper and aluminum materials available in their country allows them to be one of the bigger competitors in these markets and supply the rest of the world. They also will provide Brazil with some of the greatest amount of renewable energy. However, this is obviously not going to be a permanent solution. We can’t dam everything up and so new research into solar and air power need to be investigated. These kinds of energy sources could be a solution, but not now. They need reliable energy, and unfortunately only coal and hydro are current proven providers for what the country requires. This incident is sad to examine because of the reality of what will happen. The Belo Monte Dam is going to be built, but that doesn’t mean that we have to let the dam destroy everything. The Belo Monte Dam is a large stepping-stone towards huge amount of biological diversity loss. The surrounding area’s endemic species will go extinct as well as many more unless something is done to preserve them. We may not be able to save the ecosystem that they came from, but we can examine the idea of a relocation campaign. Saving as many species as we can while the “occupy” movement is delaying construction. Future solutions for renewable energy need to be researched now and designed with a logical plan. Unfortunately due to the well laid out plans for the dam, it will happen. However, a plan for using air along the coast or solar panels using these raw materials they are mining could stop future ecosystem destruction. There are solutions and they can change how we look at energy needs, but its far too under developed for implementation in areas with such massive population and energy needs.

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