Thursday, June 2, 2011

Brazil approves Amazon dam project

Members of the Caiapo indigenous group of the Amazon basin demonstrate against the construction of the planned Belo Monte hydroelectric dam.

Source: Press TV

The Brazilian environmental agency has approved the construction of a hydroelectric dam in the Amazon jungle state of Rondonia, despite the indigenous people's strong opposition to the project.

The Belo Monte hydroelectric plant would be built along the Xingu River in the Amazon rainforest, AFP reported on Wednesday.

Indigenous groups, environmentalists, and activists have protested against the project, saying a six-fold increase in the deforestation of the Amazon was detected in March and April.

Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said in a press conference last month that “our goal is to stifle deforestation… and we are going to do it by July.”

The enormous deforestation in the country has made Brazil one of the world's top greenhouse gas emitters.

While the construction of the dam will create some 18,000 new jobs, it will also displace some 16,000 people, according to government figures.

“This criminal project will lead to the destruction of a large area of the rainforest, and will affect tens of thousands of people,” said indigenous leader Antonio Melo.

“We will not back off our efforts to stop this dam,” he added.

The project has been halted on several occasions due to protests by environmentalists and the indigenous people of the region. In 2009, Kayapo Indians, armed with machetes and clubs, attacked one of the state electricity officials working on the project.

But the government refuses to back down from the project, saying that the Belo Monte plant is essential, given the country's desperate need for energy.

“Belo Monte will guarantee Brazil's energy security,” Energy Minister Edson Lobao said.

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