New Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff just approved the world’s 3rd largest dam to be built in the Amazonian rainforest. The Belo Monte dam will flood nearly 1,000,000 acres of rainforest, displace 40,000 native peoples, and cause animal and plant extinctions.
“The Belo Monte Dam complex (AHE Belo Monte) consists of three dams, numerous dykes and a series of canals in order to supply two different power stations with water.” – wikipedia.org
Construction of the dam was approved in January by Brazil’s Environmental Institute. The dam is estimated to cost $17+ Billion.
The contractors working on the dam have been approved to clear 588 acres of forest to begin surveying for the dam.
The Brazilian government claims it needs the dam, with its potential capacity of 11,000+ megawatts, to guarantee an energy supply for the growing Brazilian economy.
The Belo Monte dam is scheduled for completion in 2015. It will be Brazils 2nd largest dam behind the Tucurui dam as well as the world’s 3rd largest dam behind China’s 3 Gorges Dam.
The dam will be devastating to local wildlife as the flooded area “will not be capable of maintaining species diversity”, risking “extinction of hundreds of species.” – independent expert review of the costs of the dam
The Belo Monte hydroelectric dam is be located on the Xingu river in the state of Pará.
THE BELO MONTE DAM PROJECT:
– Flood nearly 1,000,000 acres of Amazon rainforest
– Displace 40,000 native Amazonian peoples
– Destroy many species of Amazon plants, animals, and insects
– Environmental effects:
- The loss of vegetation and natural spaces, with changes in fauna and flora
- Changes in the quality and path of the water supply, and fish migration routes
- Temporary disruption of the water supply in the Xingu riverbed for 7 months
– Petition to stop the dam signed by 600,000 people world wide (sign it here: stop belo monte)
Everything below is quoted directly from Wikipedia:
The dam complex is expected to cost upwards of $16 billion and the transmission lines $2.5 billion. The project is being developed by the state-owned power company Eletronorte, and would be funded largely by the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES). The project will also include substantial amounts of funding from Brazilian pension funds Petros, Previ, and Funcef. Private investors interested in the project include mining giants Alcoa and Vale, construction conglomerates Andrade Gutierrez, Votorantim, Grupo OAS, Queiroz Galvão,Odebrecht and Camargo Corrêa, and energy companies GDF Suez and Neoenergia.
In 2006, Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF) analyzed different cost-benefit scenarios for Belo Monte as an energy project, excluding environmental costs. Initial benefits appeared marginal. When simulating energy benefits using a modeling system it became obvious that Belo Monte would require additional upstream dams to provide water storage for dry season generation. CSF concluded that Belo Monte would not be sustainable without the proposed Altamira (Babaquara) dam which would have a reservoir more than 10 times the size of Belo Monte’s, flood 30 times the area submerged by Belo Monte, indigenous territories of the Araweté/Igarapé Ipixuna, Koatinemo, Arara, Kararaô, and Cachoeira Seca do Irirí natives.
Due to the project’s lack of economic viability and lack of interest from private investors, the government has had to rely on pension funds and lines of credit from BNDES that draw from the Workers’ Assistance Fund, oriented towards paying the public debt, to finance the project; up to one-third of the project’s official cost would be financed by incentives using public money.
WWF-Brazil released a report in 2007 stating that Brazil could cut its expected demand for electricity by 40% by 2020 by investing in energy efficiency. The power saved would be equivalent to 14 Belo Monte hydroelectric plants and would result in national electricity savings of up to R$33 billion (US$19 billion).
Ex-director of ANEEL Afonso Henriques Moreira Santos stated that large dams such as Belo Monte were not necessary to meet the government’s goal of 6% growth per year. Rather, he argued that Brazil could grow through increasing its installed capacity in wind power, currently only at 400 MW.
Incomplete environmental assessment
In February 2010, Brazilian environmental agency IBAMA granted an environmental license for the construction of the dam despite uproar from within the agency about incomplete information in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) written by Eletrobras, Odebrecht, Camargo Corrêa, and Andrade Gutierrez.Previously in October 2009, a panel composed of independent experts and specialists from Brazilian universities and research institutes issued a report on the EIA, finding “various omissions and methodological inconsistencies in the EIA…” Among the problems cited within the EIA were the project’s uncertain cost, deforestation, generation capacity, greenhouse gas emissions and in particular the omission of consideration for those affected by the river being mostly diverted in the 100 km (62 mi) long “Big Bed” (Volta Grande).
Two senior officials at IBAMA, Leozildo Tabajara da Silva Benjamin and Sebastião Custódio Pires, resigned their posts in 2009 citing high-level political pressure to approve the project. In January 2011, IBAMA president Abelardo Azevedo also resigned his post. The previous president Roberto Messias had also stepped down, citing in April 2010 that is was because of pressure from both the government and environmental organizations.
140 organizations and movements from Brazil and across the globe decried the decision-making process in granting the environmental license for the dams in a letter to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in 2010.
Loss of biodiversity
The fish fauna of the Xingu river is extremely rich with an estimated 600 fish species and with a high degree of endemism, with many species found nowhere else in the world. The area either dried out or drowned by the dam spans the entire known world distribution of a number of species, e.g. the Zebra Pleco (Hypancistrus zebra), the Sunshine Pleco (Scobinancistrus aureatus), the Slender Dwarf Pike Cichlid (Teleocichla centisquama), the plant-eating piranha Ossubtus xinguense and the Xingu Dart-Poison frog (Allobates crombiei). An independent expert review of the costs of the dam concluded that the proposed flow through the Volta Grande meant the river “will not be capable of maintaining species diversity”, risking “extinction of hundreds of species.
Greenhouse gas budget
The National Amazon Research Institute (INPA) calculated that during its first 10 years, the Belo Monte-Babaquara dam complex would emit 112 million metric tons of Carbon dioxide equivalent, and an additional 0.783 million metric tons of CO2equivalent would be generated during construction and connection to the national energy grid.
Dams in Brazil emit high amounts of methane, due to the lush jungle covered by waters each year as the basin fills. Carbon is trapped by foliage, which then decays anaerobically with help from methanogens, converting the carbon to methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. As a result, carbon emissions are emitted from the dam each year it is in operation. A 1990 study of the Curuá-Una Dam, also in Brazil, have found that it pollutes 3.5 times more in carbon dioxide equivalent than an oil power plant would, but none of the non-CO2 atmospheric pollution associated with fossil fuel burning. Furthermore, the forest will be cleared before flooding of the area, so the CO2 and methane emissions calculated for the flooding of the forested area will be significantly undercut.
On the other hand, the energy generated by the dam for the next 50 years, at an average of 4419 MW, is 1.14 bboe (billion barrels of oil equivalent). This is approximately 9% of the proven oil reserves of Brazil (12.6 bbl), or 2% of the total oil reserves of Russia (60 bbl), or 5.5% of the proven oil reserves of the U.S (21 bbl).
Although strongly criticized by indigenous leaders, the president of Brazil’s EPE claims they have popular support for the dam. An April 20, 2010 Folha de Sao Paulo poll showed 52% in favor of the dam. The dam will directly displace over 20,000 people, mainly from the municipalities of Altamira and Vitória do Xingu. Two river diversion canals 500 metres (1,600 ft) wide by 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) long will be excavated. The canals would divert water from the main dam to the power plant. Belo Monte will flood a total area of 668 square kilometres (258 sq mi). Of the total, 400 square kilometres (150 sq mi) of flooded area will be forested land. The river diversion canals will reduce river flow by to 80% in the area known as the Volta Grande (“Big Bend”), where the territories of the indigenous Juruna and Arara people are located. While these tribes will not be directly impacted by reservoir flooding, and therefore will not be relocated, they may suffer involuntary displacement, as the river diversion negatively affects their fisheries, groundwater, ability to transport on the river and stagnant pools of water offer an environment for water-borne diseases, an issue that is criticized for not being addressed in the Environmental Impact Assessment.
Among the 20,000 to be directly displaced by reservoir flooding, resettlement programs have been identified by the government as necessary for mitigation. Norte Energia have failed to obtain free, prior, and informed consent from the Juruna and Arara indigenous tribes to be impacted by Belo Monte. The project would also attract an estimated 100,000 migrants to the area. An estimated 18,700 direct jobs would be created, and an additional 25,000 indirect jobs.
The IBAMA report
The IBAMA’s environmental impact assessment has listed the following possible impacts:
- The generation of expectations towards the future of the local population and indigenous people;
- An increase in population and uncontrolled land occupation;
- An increase in the needs of services and goods, as well as job demand;
- A loss of housing and economic activities due to the transfer of population;
- Improvements on the accessibility of the region;
- Changes in the landscape, caused by the installation of support and main structures for the construction of the dam;
- Damage to the archeological estates in the area;
- Permanent flooding of shelters in Gravura Assurini;