Saturday, November 3, 2012

Dam it: Brazil's Belo Monte stirs controversy - Features - Al Jazeera English

Dam it: Brazil's Belo Monte stirs controversy - Features - Al Jazeera English:

'via Blog this'

Twice a day, dynamite is used to blow up hard rock under the earth to make way for the dam.

A 'small city' is being built inside the work area to accommodate some of the 20,000 labourers and engineers who will be working here by November 2013.

When completed, Belo Monte will be the world's third largest hydroelectric dam and the latest cost estimate is $14bn.

The construction scene is all the more remarkable given that until a few months ago, Belo Monte's future still seemed in doubt, as the project faced a wave of judicial injunctions, and opposition from indigenous groups and environmental organisations both in Brazil and abroad.
Belo Monte Dam:
Estimated Cost: $14bn USD

Workers: 5,000 now, 20,000 by November 2013

Schedule: First turbine to start generating electricity in February 2015, final completion of project by
January 2019.

Size: Will be the world's third largest dam, behind China's Three Gorges and Brazil-Paraguay Itaipu. It's
currently the largest construction project in Brazil, and one of the largest in all of Latin America.

Who: Norte Energia, a consortium of over 10 of the largest construction, engineering, and mining firms in the world, mostly Brazilian. Norte Energia is a private ('special use') company set up especially for the Belo Monte Dam.

Location: Belo Monte is located on the Amazon's Xingu River. The nearest town is the city of Altamira (pop 98,750), roughly 50 kilometres from the construction site. It's in the Brazilian state of Para (pop 7.6 million). There are 11 cities in the area of influence of Belo Monte.

About the Xingu River:  The Xingu River flows from the tropical savanna of central Mato Grosso state,
Brazil northward to the Amazon for 1,979 km (1,230 miles). According to NGO International Rivers, some 25,000 indigenous people from 18 distinct ethnic groups live along the Xingu. Norte Energia says only 2,200 indigenous people are in the Belo Monte area of influence.

History of Belo Monte project: The idea of building a dam on the Xingu River was first proposed in the 1970s, during the time of the military dictatorship in Brazil. The idea was for several Dams on the Xingu, but it never went forward and the plans were just put on hold.

In 1989, an international mobilisation (called the Encontro do Xingu) led by the Kayapo Indians stopped state-owned electric company Eletronorte's plans to construct a six-dam complex on the Xingu.
During the 1990s there was more of a focus put on energy and plans for Belo Monte were again renewed. Former President Lula da Silva agreed to the Belo Monte Dam project.

With the project coming closer to reality, yet still working it's way through the legal and environmental and government bodies, in May of 2008 there was a second Encontro do Xingu gathering and it was the largest indigenous gathering ever in the Brazilian Amazon.
Thousands of indigenous people protested against Belo Monte. But at the same time there were a series of high profile energy blackouts in major Brazilian cities, that talk of needing more energy was again renewed.

In April 2010 the Consortium Norte Energia was formed, made up of 11 companies, and won the rights to build the dam. Ibama, the environmental regulatory agency, signed off on the project. July 23, 2011 construction officially began, but ramped up in January 2012.
The judicial injunctions were primarily imposed by the federal prosecutors office in the state of Para where Belo Monte is located and they questioned the builders processes of environmental licensing, contracting bids and the rights of effected indigenous populations.
Renewable energy worth social cost?

Those regional injunctions were either thrown out by higher courts or appealed, which has allowed builders to proceed forward and project and air of confidence.
"In this moment Belo Monte has the perspective to fulfill absolutely all its timetables," Joao Pimentel, the director of institutional relations for Norte Energia, told Al Jazeera. "We haven't had any delays by any judicial action or for any other reason, and we never had any lost days of work. That's why Belo Monte is going to continue within the 

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