June 19, 2019

Brazil government approves giant Amazon dam

The Xingu River in Brazil. 500 sq km of land flooded and 50,000 people homeless is a high price to pay for 11,000 megawatts.

The Brazil Environment Agency, Ibama, has supported the construction of the Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River in the Amazon.

The planned hydro-electric, 11,000-megawatt dam will be the third largest in the world – after the Three Gorges in China and Itaipu, which is jointly run by Brazil and Paraguay.

The dam is strongly opposed by indigenous groups and environmentalists, who say it will harm the world’s largest tropical rainforest and displace thousands of people.

The government says the dam is important to meet rising demand for electricity in Brazil.

Ibama, said the Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River had been subjected to “robust analysis” of its impact on the environment.

In January, Ibama gave approval for initial work to begin on the site on the Xingu River, which is a tributary to the Amazon River.

With the latest approval the Norte Energia consortium can now start construction of the dam.

However, friction local indigenous communities is likely to increase now that a building licence has been granted.

Opponnents of the 6km wide dam say it will threaten the survival of a number of indigenous groups and could make up to 50,000 people homeless, after 500 sq km of land is flooded.

It is easy to understand what the locals are getting upset about. Losing your homeand having the natural environment damaged and altered is not a good thing.

As usual with these type of issues, the indigenous tribes and the environmentalists are probably not going to be strong enough to win against the government.

The cities want more electricity and the government is unlikely to want to turn the lights off on so many voters.


  1. The World Bank estimates that forcible “development-induced displacement and resettlement” now affects 10 million people per year. According to the World Bank an estimated 33 million people have been displaced by development projects such as dams, urban development and irrigation canals in India alone.

    India is well ahead in this respect. A country with as many as over 3600 large dams within its belt can never be the exceptional case regarding displacement. The number of development induced displacement is higher than the conflict induced displacement in India. According to Bogumil Terminski an estimated more than 10 million people have been displaced by development each year.

    Athough the exact number of development-induced displaced people (DIDPs) is difficult to know, estimates are that in the last decade 90–100 million people have been displaced by urban, irrigation and power projects alone, with the number of people displaced by urban development becoming greater than those displaced by large infrastructure projects (such as dams). DIDPs outnumber refugees, with the added problem that their plight is often more concealed.

    This is what experts have termed “development-induced displacement.” According to Michael Cernea, a World Bank analyst, the causes of development-induced displacement include water supply (dams, reservoirs, irrigation); urban infrastructure; transportation (roads, highways, canals); energy (mining, power plants, oil exploration and extraction, pipelines); agricultural expansion; parks and forest reserves; and population redistribution schemes.