Controversial Brazilian dam gets preliminary approval

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Xingu river.
Image: בן הטבע.

The government of Brazil has granted a licence allowing the controversial construction of what would be the third largest hydro-electric dam in the world, in the Amazon rainforest, which environmental groups say will threaten the survival of indigenous groups, as well as cause major devastation of a large area of rainforest.

The $17bn Belo Monte dam will, if a developer is found, be situated on the Xingu river, a tributary of the river Amazon, and has been surrounded in controversy since the 1990s, when the initial plan for the 11,000 megawatt dam was rejected amid global protests. The Brazilian government says that fears had been taken into account before approving the environmental licence. Whoever wins the bidding process will have to meet forty conditions, as well as pay $800m in order to protect the environment.

Critics state that diverting the flow of the river will damage fish stocks and part of the Amazon ecosystem, as 500 square kilometres of land would be flooded — as well as affecting forty thousand people, of which twelve thousand would be displaced. 48 of the 500 square kilometres already flood for half the year due to the rainy season.