Monday, April 19, 2010
Belo Monte Dam Project
A recent article in the New York Times discusses an Amazon dam project and its threat to the indigenous people of the area. The project, or Belo Monte dam, is a struggle between the rights of the indigenous people and economic/environmental factors at play. Belo Monte is the intended future for Brazil’s hydroelectric power, which accounts for over 80 percent of their energy. Brazil’s energy supply depends on the Belo Monte dam, especially because without it, the country will continue using costly and dirty fossil fuels. Another alternative is to hasten renewable energy development, such as sugar cane. The latest ruling on the case has enabled Brazil to continue plans for building. The president of the regional federal court declared, “there is no imminent danger for the indigenous community”. The construction of Belo Monte would include two large channels to take water from the dam to the power plant, which would flood over 160 square miles and dry out 60 miles of the Xingu River. Research shows this would affect about 20,000 indigenous people as well as eliminate their transportation and main source of food, fish. Leaders from 13 tribes recently decided to band together and create a new tribe to live on the Belo Monte site and prevent construction. Additionally, some nongovernmental groups have done studies showing this plant would be inefficient and might later call for more dams. What alternatives do you see for the situation? What could be done to both honor the rights of the indigenous people and Brazil’s move towards cleaner energy?